Kings of the Mic with LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, De La Soul
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Better than: Most rap shows.
The rappers on stage at Shoreline on Saturday night's King of the Mic tour ranged from 43 to 54 years old, and they all exuded much more energy onstage than many MCs half their age. Over the past quarter century, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, and De La Soul have all appeared on tours together before, and all have honed their live shows beyond the often-disaffected performances that are considered standard in today's market.
Anchored by the talented turntablist DJ Z-Trip, headliner LL Cool J made great use of the large stage, running across it and doing jumping twirls in the air that revealed how much fun he allows himself to have while he performs. He licked his lips (a lot), grabbed his crotch (also quite a bit), and teased the ladies with long-stemmed roses that he kept just out of their reach. Despite one weird EDM-pandering moment from his new album, he smartly stuck largely to his past catalog, performing "Jack the Ripper," "Love You Better," "Mama Said Knock You Out," and the closing "Rock the Bells." (He also avoided "Accidental Racist," his ill-received duet with Brad Paisley.)"I love coming to the Bay," proclaimed Ice Cube. "It's my second home!" Assisted by DJ Crazy Toons and his more-than-a-hype-man WC, Cube led the audience in a pledge of allegiance to the Westside. He too focused on the lighter side of his career hits. As he got people shouting along to cuts such as "Today Was a Good Day" (with the rejiggered line, "No one got killed in the Bay"), "You Know How We Do It," and "You Can Do It," a pair of giant inflatable hands twisted into the Westside "W" symbol rose up on either side of the stage. A video screen showed montages of his music videos and acting career side by side, interspersing club scenes with gravity-defying action shots and comedic moments. He paid tribute to Nate Dogg with a call-and-response of the late singer's most famous line, "Smoke weed every day." The crowd responded with flurries of exhaled smoke in its own version of smell-o-vision. "Trust me," he said, "if he was here, he'd love this!" Flavor Flav was almost unrecognizable as he took to the stage with Public Enemy, with grown-out dreadlocks and no clock. He explained that he never took the clock off on stage until the group was recently honored with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and then put a small clock back around his neck. The oldest performer of the show at 54, he showed an insane amount of energy as he took flying leaps across the stage and ran up into the audience twice. A super-buff Chuck D commanded without gimmickry in a casual black tank and grey cap, cutting a youthful figure through bombastic riffs on classics like "Don't Believe the Hype," "Shut Em Down," "Black Steel," and "Bring the Noise." The military-style dancing crew known as the S1Ws and the suited security on the stage added to the feeling of watching hip-hop royalty. It's not the daisy age, and when De La Soul opened the show with a set that included classics like "Potholes in My Lawn," "Saturday," and a guest appearance from Phife of A Tribe Called Quest for "Check the Rhime," they wasted no time calling out people who were in their seats. "That's how we do it these days?" yelled Posdnuous. "You too old to stand up?" This definitely got more people on their feet, though there was a slight undertone of booing that moment as his little jab was absorbed. His informal survey of the crowd placed the majority of concertgoers over 35 years old. But that moment was definitely the last time anyone had to tell the crowd to stand up and go crazy for the Kings of the Mic. Critic's Notebook Personal bias: My first rap show ever was headlined by Public Enemy at Shoreline in 1990, so this show evoked an extra special nostalgia for me. Random detail: There was a lot of cool merchandise for sale, but nothing was cooler than Ice Cube's "Gangster Rap Made Me Do It" onesie for (big) babies. By the way: Look for Ice Cube as a co-star in Ride Along, an action comedy he's also producing, in early 2014.