RAP NOSTALGIA AKA VH1 HIP-HOP HONORS
putting the big in big daddy kane
Though the production values for this awards show (now in its second year) are painfully underwhelming, I simply cannot be that mad at the concept and spirit of the show in celebrating the icons of hip-hop and giving aging rapfanatics like myself some geeked-out reason to enjoy seeing the music of our youth warmed up again, sometimes with positive results, sometimes...not so much.
- When I heard Nelly was going to do his homage to LL Cool J by rhyming "I'm Bad," I cringed but much to my surprise...he was actually pretty good. I mean, Mr. Band-Aid had the entire look and swagger down. It was rather mind-blowing. Ciara coming out to "Jingling Baby," was sick too (shout to Marley) and while "Doin' It Well" isn't exactly my favorite LL song, she and Nelly did a decent cover.
As for LL himself, my wife leaned over and remarked, "damn, he's finer than when he first started," while I'm just struck at nearly 30 years after he first started, LL is still a relevant (humor me) figure in the pop culture world even if he hasn't had a notable album in a minute. I'm just glad to see that he and Queen Latifah, for example, are still thriving as artists.
- Ice T was never, to me, that great a rapper but I'm glad to see he can still convincingly knock out his own songs with some fierceness and fury. Snoop was passable in joining him on-stage though I think Xzibit might have been more appropriate.
- The Grandmaster Flash + Jazzy Jeff + Kid Capri collabo was a nice dedication to hip-hop's DJ heritage, especially after last year's Jam Master Jay tribute put together by Mixmaster Mike. The carousel was kind of hot, even if the point might have been lost on some folks.
As for the Furious Five - hey, Fat Joe performed last year, did they really need him to sit in for the late Cowboy? No one was available? Also, Melle Mel needs to go easy on the weight-lifting. Dude makes Barry look skinny by comparison. The rest of the 5 needed some better outfits. Even some Village People-type outfits would have had more spark.
- While the performances were uneven during Big Daddy Kane's set, the dancing was off the chain. Seriously, f--- the "Lean Back." They need to bring back hyperactive, hip-house body pyrotechnics. That bit at the end with Kane joined with Scoob (where's Scrap at?) was arguably the best moment of the entire evening. (And big up to the Roots for playing back-up band to full effect. Ahmir Thompson has not a bad life. Oh no.)
- Did anyone really need En Vogue to come back to pay homage to Salt N' Pepa? Was Destiny's Child not around? Salt still sounded good, Pepa is even more Amazonian than I remember and damn, was Spinderella always that fine?
- The Boyz N' The Hood tribute was ok though as others have already noted, this film isn't as good as anyone wants to remember it is and Singleton's career has been even less laudable since. Hell, if they really wanted to be real about it, they should have paid tribute to Scarface considering how many rappers have crafted entire personas around that film.
- Black Thought did fine during the Kane tribute set with "Can't Hold It Back," but I can't say the same about either T.I. (doing "Smooth Operator") or Common trying to rip "Raw." T.I. simply doesn't have the, um, smoothness to invoke Kane while Com can't fast rap (sorry dude. Liked the windmills though). Where's Percee P when you need him? Or even Edan.
Also, what's up with relegating Biz to the turntables? No human beat box for his old Juice Crew pal? What gives?
- Russell Simmons and Rev Run's hosting was so stilted and awkward I thanked god for Tivo's ability to skip ahead by 30 second increments.
- Not like I hate Kanye or "Gold Digger," but c'mon, VH1 needed to get off dude's jock and make him perform someone else's song (oh wait, he did that with "Hypnotize" and I really wish he didn't. I can understand why VH1 wanted Kanye's participation but it seemed odd that he'd be the only one who got to perform a new song and his contribution to Biggie's catalog was nothing to write home about either.
- The Biggie tribute didn't work on any level. Like with Kane, the guest MCs they had simply couldn't fit the bill (where was Jay?) and the whole thing felt more like a schmaltz-fest than actual entertainment. Maybe it wasn't as bad as Diddy's VMA homage but this comes close.