Blast From the Past
Freddie Foxx has a Raekwon-worthy alter ego (“Bumpy Knuckles”), a game face you could break boards on, and a seismic live presence that trumps even his string of two-fisted vinyl appearances—think of Ving Rhames, doing his best Clarence Carter in Bringing Out the Dead. Last Thursday at the Roxy, opening for De La Soul, Bumpy sported Kevlar under his Pelle Pelle and muscled rhymes like an erudite drill sergeant (“The only thing you have to fall back on is your cranium!”), making midset cameos by MOP, Pete Rock, Guru, and a goon-masked DJ Premier feel downright superfluous. “I’m standing on this stage,” Foxx told us at one point, “and just the day before yesterday, I buried my brother.” That, along with Maseo’s announcement that “My man Posdnous had a baby boy tonight,” plus a memorial spin of the late Big Punisher’s “Still Not a Player,” gave the night the tragedy-to-triumph sweep of all great hip-hop, of life itself.
Also, like life, this thing was lo-o-ong. Bumpy relented around 10, but Pos’s blessed event (7 pounds, 4 ounces) kept De La from taking the stage until well after 1. The hours in between turned into an impromptu rap revue, with so many guest MCs dropping by it looked like “Stop the Violence” up there—Medina Green, Xzibit and the Alkaholiks (in for Big Pun’s funeral), Talib Kweli (doing Black Star’s “RE:Definition” with a tipsy DJ Hi-Tek), and newly transplanted Brooklynite Common rocking rhinestones and billowing velour like a B-boy warlock. And when De La finally materialized, they were something like a phenomenon, cerebral and spring-loaded, laughing off flubbed lines and nailing killer ones (Pos: “Salute this super MC for being clever, and never usin’ weed as a ghostwriter”). The old stuff, from the disco-droll “A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays” to the cool “Breakadawn” (like Mo’Wax shit, but with a pulse!) and a UTFO-style reworking of “Jenifa Taught Me,” came off way sharper than anything from the trio’s June-scheduled Artofficial Intelligence, but so what? This group’s spent so much time disavowing their past (the peace signs! the Day-Glo! the Monkees-ish mugging!) that seeing them bounce to their own track record was practically a relief. —Alex Pappademas
Triple Seis chokes back tears as a bewildered passerby asks him to comment on the larger-than-life mural Big Pun fans began painting on the side of an abandoned building on Westchester Avenue and 163rd Sreet within hours of the rapper’s death. “That’s the Pun that everybody know, but I know a different Pun,” says Seis, a founding member of the Terror Squad, the rap pack of boricuas who pioneered a Nuyorican style of rhymin’. Seis does not see, as the Post put it, a “mountain-sized musician,” who died on February 7 at age 28 of complications from extreme obesity, but rather the “skinny dude,” the teenage wannabe GQ model who kept fit by shooting hoops in the Soundview section of the Bronx where they grew up. Friends like Seis remember Christopher Rios, the platinum-selling rapper, as a prankster who used to “wild out” with his crazy “water games.” He says that was how Pun, then a brokeass dreamer with a mouthful of rhymes, took their minds off growing up poor in the Bronx. “Like if you fall asleep around Pun, he’s gonna wet you,” the rapper recalls. One day, Seis and the rapper, Cuba, slept over at Pun’s house. Pun, he chuckles, doused him with cold water. When Pun himself fell asleep Seis and Cuba almost drowned him. “It was the funniest thing when I seen him get up like that, naked.” Seis’s tribute to Pun encourages Barclay, a former street vendor, to step up. He tells stories about a ghetto philanthropist who proved that “everybody ain’t into that gangsta-thug-killin’ stuff.” Pun saved Barclay’s life. Pun fed his kids. “This guy right here was very, very good-hearted, especially to a guy like me,” Barclay says. “I was in the street. I used to walk around selling gloves and hats in the cold, in the snow—going to different clubs [where] I would see Big Pun. Big Pun would buy everything that I had whether he wanted it or not. He’d just buy it. Every night I seen Big Pun was an early night to go home.” —Peter Noel & Lisa Evers
Although he was billed as coheadliner with Lee “Scratch” Perry, Anthony B. was clearly the star draw of last Wednesday’s show at the Roxy. Following an intensely retro reggae set from Hot 97 jocks Jabba (pronounced Jah-bob) and Bobby Konders, Jamaica’s own One Drop Band got the real party started. A regal Anthony B. materialized only after two female backup singers and a guest MC whipped a spectacularly diverse crowd to a peak of tobacco- and alcohol-fueled anticipation.
A self-proclaimed disciple of Peter Tosh, Anthony sported a tall white turban and a short carved staff as a “rod of correction” with which to shepherd Jah children back to Zion. Opening with a Tosh quote from “Burning and Looting,” he spun seamlessly into “Storm Winds,” a hit from his Universal Struggle CD. Skanking, leaping, punching the air with superhuman energy, Anthony preached the virtues of ganja, righteous living, and King Selassie I, who he claims removed the “seven seals” that once blocked the perceptual orifices of the human body. His latest release, The Seven Seals, deals with this theme, but new material like “Free” and the magnificent “Mr. Heartless” didn’t prompt the audience to sing along as much as provocative favorites like “Fire Pon Rome,” “Universal Struggle,” and “Marley Memories.”
In emphatic contrast to the baptismal-white stagewear of Rasta-reggae revivalist Anthony B., the witchy studio wizard Lee “Scratch” Perry wore black—accessorized with an iridescent vest in the colors of the rainbow serpent Damballah-Wedo. There’s a reason Perry uses one of the devil’s nicknames. With his trio of bass, keyboards, and drums weaving a dubby web of rhythm around him, he paced the stage like a human candle holding a lit flame over his head, incanting darkly prophetic non sequiturs like a black Merlin remembering the African Avalon. His entire performance was richly symbolic and intentionally cryptic—only the most devoted or blunted fans stayed to hear him finish his set. —Carol Cooper