D.M.C. said it best. “People always ask who’s the best MC—Biggie or Tupac?” He paused: “Nah, man. Chuck D.” Indeed D.M.C.’s brief performance minus Run and Jam master Jay (R.I.P.), ending with—what else?—”Walk This Way,” and Public Enemy‘s vicious set at Webster Hall last Wednesday for Spin‘s 20th anniversary party made me wonder why one bothers at all with hip- hop after 1990.
Lady Sovereign may be one reason to bother with hip-hop post-1990. I am not the biggest fan, but after seeing her blink-and-you’ll-miss-it set, I had newfound respect. Her delivery and her songs are as tough and compact as she is. She was originally slated earlier in the night; rumor had it she was pushed back so “Jay”—as in Jay-Z—could catch her. The other rumor was that Jigga had signed her that day. (Of course, similar notions were floating around about M.I.A., but that never came to pass.) The Lady looks like a hardened Fiona Apple in an Adidas tracksuit (very Run-D.M.C.—what’d I tell you?), and, if possible, sports a bigger scowl. She’s so punk, after she was done, she simply dropped the mic with a thud and stalked off the stage. If I were a rapper, I’d totally be the five-foot Lady Sovereign (I’m already almost the same height—just gotta work on my skillz and my scowl).
The mag’s anniversary bash (note: I occasionally write for Spin, and its EIC Sia Michel is a pal) had Stroke Fabrizio Moretti strolling around the VIP room, which led me and Edmond Hallas and Vivian Sarratt of Mommy and Daddy to whine about the absence of his paramour: “Where’s Drew!” Afrika Bambaataa quite possibly had a bigger posse than PE, actress Leelee Sobieski was hanging out, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner watched Public Enemy’s set from the balcony.
It’s not really a party unless Andrew Andrew are there to make you see double double. They were dressed in prep school attire, as were Adam Dugas and Casey Spooner (who was supposed to introduce LCD Soundsystem, but didn’t), which I pointed out to the Andrews, who replied: “Yeah, but Casey’s like the headmaster; we’re just the students.” Spooner and Dugas and I peeped the LCD set from the front of the stage. When they played “Tribulations,” I noted how much it sounded like Fischerspooner. Casey: “No wonder I like it so much.”
Downstairs Tommie Sunshine, who played for three hours, including one all-punk-rock set, watched as audience members got their hair done by Garnier Fructis hair people. I asked him if he was gonna have his tresses touched up, and he tossed his long, blond locks, and said, “I don’t need any help.” The Andrews were hyperventilating about Hurra Torpedo, a band that uses household appliances—like stoves—instead of drums. I think the Andrews just like Hurra Torpedo because they’ve found their soul mates. You see, Hurra Torpedo wear matching tracksuits.
Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis turned up for a surprise acoustic set, and if I had a dollar for every time I heard someone talk about how emcee
Juliette Lewis had the hottest legs in the world and would I please take a picture of them (I did, it’ll cost you), I would be rich enough to buy a New York City apartment.
After five hours, five hours and who knows how many drinks, the crowd started chanting, “ Flavor Flav! Flavor Flav!” because they could see the rapper up in the balcony watching D.M.C. Finally, PE. After the first song, the stage fully loaded with Professor Griff, and the PE army detail, Chuck D addressed the crowd. “If this is your first Public Enemy show, or your last, welcome to the terrordome!” and then launched into the classic. Even the stone-faced, surly bouncer cracked a smile. Wicked.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 27, 2005