Wednesday, August 17
Better than: Funkmaster Flex’s 2007 Fourth of July weekend ’90s marathon mix.
1993 was a very good year for hip-hop. Wu-Tang Clan, Souls of Mischief, Lords of the Underground, and the under-recognized Rumpletilskinz all made their debuts, while Cypress Hill, LONS, KRS-1, and A Tribe Called Quest furthered their already admirable reputations. One exceptional debut that year was Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage, a record that set the path for the Duck Down label (though the album was technically released by Nervous) and the entire Boot Camp Clik. Who knew that a skinny, short kid with “baggy black pants, knapsack, and a beeper” named Buckshot, an MC whose cadence recalls jazz improv at times (listen to “Buck ‘Em Down” to see what I mean), would go on to create something of an indie hip-hop empire. Heltah Skeltah, Smif-N-Wessun, OGC, and others all subsequently made their mark upon golden era hip-hop, and Duck Down is still going strong today. So why not add Enta Da Stage to the list of albums performed in their entirety, especially when a live band is handling musical duties?
Smif-N-Wessun took the stage first and made it clear they weren’t there to talk about their troubled Tammany Hall appearance in June. This was despite the incredible police presence outside on the street—I live in Park Slope, and I have never, ever seen so many cops posted along Fifth Avenue. Near the end of their set, they were joined by hip-hop’s Laurel and Hardy, Sean Price and Rock, who delivered 30 minutes of solo and Heltah Skeltah material to everyone’s enjoyment.
DJ Evil Dee then took position behind the turntables and gave a typically energetic set of old-school classics, consistently shouting himself out (“Evil Dee is on the mix, come on, kick it!”). When the band was ready to go, he began each song with a snippet of a sample contained within before the musicians joined in and took over. It wasn’t always a smooth transition, but the pieces always fell into place. This doesn’t always work in hip-hop; recreating sampled tracks with live instrumentation can sound cheesy and pale in comparison to the original. But the band did these tunes justice. Buckshot roamed the stage with the most intense look in his eyes, a spindly bundle of raw hip-hop energy. He is without a doubt still one of the most talented MCs in the game, a man whose wordplay and flow are vibrant, creative, and sinister all at the same time.
Buckshot and partner 5FT blazed through all the album’s classics, deftly trading off verses—although Buckshot, of course, bears the lion’s share. “Buck ‘Em Down,” “Son Get Wrec,” “Ack Like U Want It,” and “Niguz Talk Shit” all sounded as good as ever, although “How Many MCs…,” one of the best Black Moon songs, sadly lost some of its power onstage. The night ended with some great moments: what looked like the entire BCC onstage for “Who Da Man,” a throbbing, bonkers rendition of “Who Got The Props?” and a spirited performance of the remix of “I Gotcha Open.” Near the end of this last song, Buckshot introduced the band, allowing each member to play a short solo and show off his skills. He then thanked the adoring crowd for sharing in this “Black Moon moment.” This was perhaps a grandiose notion, but it felt just about right. After all, a hip-hop group almost two decades old had just put on one of the better performances of the year.
Critical bias: I love a good hip-hop show as much as the next guy, but as my companion pointed out, overzealous nerds who think they are the biggest fans in the room and have to turn around every minute to tell their boys how much they love this song are annoying as shit.
Overheard: Some choice observations onstage, such as Evil Dee responding to a lackluster moment in the crowd: “Ya’ll sound like a bad church!” and Rock reflecting upon partner Sean Price: “My man has a wonderful relationship with words.”
Random notebook dump: Southpaw smelled like stale blunts and detergent, especially down in the bathroom where shouts of “Bobbito!” and “’90s till I D-I-E!” made the pee-shy even shyer.
Niguz Talk Shit
Ack Like U Want It
Buck Em Down
Son Get Wrec
I Gotcha Open
Shit Iz Real
Enta Da Stage
How Many MCs…
U Da Man
Who Got The Props
I Gotcha Open (Remix)