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Friday, December 3, 2010

Wu-Tang Clan Rocks A Cutely Dressed Mezzanine Crowd, Eventually

Posted By on Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 8:36 AM

click to enlarge RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
Wu-Tang Clan

Là the Darkman
Mean Doe Green
DJ M-Rock
Thursday, December 2, 2010
@ Mezzanine

Better than: Being packed into a hot, wobbly sweatbox for any other conceivable reason

RZA dropped out of the first night of the Wu-Tang Clan's Rebirth tour, and for all I know the rest of the tour too. This was fine in the grand scheme of things, because going to a Wu-Tang show to see RZA rap is like going to a big league baseball game to watch the pitcher at bat, but it still seemed last-minute. "He's making his movie over in China," Method Man explained later. That's presumably The Man With The Iron Fist, in which the Abbot stars as "a blacksmith in a village in feudal China," although it would have been equally hard to fault him if he just saw how slowly the line outside Mezzanine was moving and decided to bail.


click to enlarge Là the Darkman - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • Là the Darkman
Getting in was the hard part: the screening process to ensure everyone's compliance with the "no athletic wear, no sweats, no overly baggy clothing" dictum must have been TSA-caliber. (But still they let in the dude whose T-shirt bore a flashing glow-in-the-dark pair of Kanye shades? This country bewilders me sometimes.) It's not like there was any danger of Wu-Tang taking the stage before midnight, but the glacial triple-file line spanning from the origin of Jessie St. to seedy, seedy 6th St. was pretty barbaric. Your correspondent made it inside just in time to see the last few minutes of a refreshingly hypemanless set by Sacramento MC Mean Doe Green, a recent addition to Raekwon's Ice Water syndicate. Green (also Doey Rock -- you can't open for Wu-Tang and have only one moniker) rhymed deftly and throatily, talked up the single he released yesterday featuring Raekwon and Planet Asia, and signed off. "Mean Doe Green at Twitter dot com," he said, almost grudgingly. "Fuck with me."

click to enlarge Là the Darkman - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • Là the Darkman
Next, an entirely unexpected appearance from Michigan-via-Atlanta contender Là the Darkman (also the Notorious L.A.D.), a fixture in the Wu-affiliate galaxy and co-producer of DJ Drama's Gangsta Grillz mixtape series. Also sans hype man, he worked the crowd with effortless cool, tempered only by a raging snarl and the fact that he was rapping over his own tracks without the vocals removed, i.e. accompanying himself verbatim. Darkman is a consistently fine rapper who deserves to be much bigger; if he has a weakness, maybe it's that his flow is too adaptable for anything to stick. During last night's set his headier, rhythmically inventive songs (including "Heist of the Century," title track to his 1998 debut, whose references to techno-crime sound hilariously anachronistic, what with the world's economy being stored on CD-ROMs and whatnot) were reasonably dazzling, but they quickly gave way to less distinctive thuggery. "All the ladies in the house, I got some shit for ya," he bellowed late in the set. Some gun-clap noises followed, then a Cam'ron-style crime anthem that was in no way romantic. (He did come through a song or two later with a love jam, at least in the sense that "Big Poppa" is a love jam, but that one was introduced with "If your pussy clean, let me hear you scream!")

click to enlarge RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
Then a very long wait.

Interim DJ M-Rock didn't pander or patronize, happily, just played a light-handed stream of tracks covering a gamut from De La Soul to Young Money, all of which sounded great on earthquake-simulating subwoofers. Finally, around midnight, the Clan's go-to DJ Mathematics emerged, took over the turntables, replaced M-Rock's laptop with his own, and exhorted the crowd to put its Ws up -- the Wu-Tang W is similar but not identical to the Weezer W, the operative difference being what you do with your three outermost fingers. And then suddenly, so to speak, there was rap's most venerable posse up on stage, joyful and imposing and larger than life through a haze of weed smoke. A Diplomats reunion got nothing on even the sight of Wu-Tang.

click to enlarge RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
First impression: the stage at Mezzanine is too small to simultaneously and comfortably hold seven original clansmen (Method Man, GZA, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa) and at least two more: Cappadonna, the group's unofficial tenth member since Wu-Tang Forever, and Young Dirty Boy Jones, the first of ODB's thirteen children. This latter, a couple decades younger than everyone else, chews the scenery like crazy when on the mic, channeling his late father's unhinged roar, straitjacket lurch, and alien haircut; it's inspiring but also a little spooky, how easy it would be to be convinced that ODB is still alive, spraying bottle after bottle of water on you from the stage. 

click to enlarge RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
Second impression: Method Man is wearing a scarf. Ghostface is a fucking bison, Cappadonna an angry yak, Raekwon a low-built house in an adorable hat. GZA looks very adult contemporary this evening, Inspectah Deck looks like a black Kojak. Masta Killa and U-God are playing it cool, eager to rip through their verses when they have any, fading into the mist when they don't. Method Man is for all intents and purposes the MC on a stage filled to capacity with hype men, flashing his wicked, wicked smile each time he demands that noise be made, each time he sizes up the audience. "Looking at this club," he says about halfway through the set, introducing a meme for the evening, "I can tell this is some bougie shit. If you came to look cute, take your ass to the bar. If you came to party, fuck with us." (It was around this point that your correspondent purchased a $3 bottle of water, but surely not because he had come to look cute; it was because he wasn't close enough to be hydrated by Young Dirty Bastard.)

click to enlarge RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
For its first few songs, it was as if the Clan was about to do 36 Chambers straight through -- no such luck, though, no "Tearz" or "Can It All Be So Simple." Instead, the set caught its stride with a liberal sampling of selections from the Wu-Tang catalog and just as many from the members' respective solo albums, with an emphasis on the best ones: GZA's Liquid Swords, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Ghostface's Supreme Clientele. The hits, toward the end: "C.R.E.A.M.," a three-song run of ODB's unlikely hits, the epic posse cut "Triumph." Some cautious adulation of our city for its world-class baseball team (Ghostface: "San Francisco! These niggas got the championship, nigga!"), before Method Man settled things, solomonically: "Go Yankees." Some more talking, some peace signs in the air for the departed -- Michael Jackson, Aaliyah, Left Eye, Biggie, 2Pac, ODB, Mac Dre, Big Pun, Big L, and Guru -- and a Smokey the Bear-like speech from Raekwon about how only we can keep real hip-hop from its present peril. And then, abruptly as they came, the legends left the stage, ever unfuckwithable, leaving the rest of us to sort it out for ourselves.

click to enlarge RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
Critic's notebook:

Looking forward to banging the Durt Reynolds promo CD I found in the bathroom, which features, fittingly enough, a song called "Didderindashidder."

Inter-song banter: match the When I say with the You say:

1. San Fran 
2. Make money money
3. 4-1- 
4. Wu-Tang
5. Wu- 
6. Do that shit do that shit 
7. Wu Tang Clan ain't

a. Nothing to fuck with!
b. Tang!
c. Wu-Tang!
d. Do it!
e. Take money money money!
f. Cisco!
g. 5!

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Daniel Levin Becker

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