“This new hip-hop is making our kids dumber,” declared EMPD during the Chicago area stop of The Art Of Rap Festival at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, and while it was a shame more folks weren’t on hand to hear that truth or a massive bill featuring many of the genre’s architects, those who did populate the pavilion agreed with a roar. It was just one of the countless observations presented that also included an emphasis on the importance of all lives from Public Enemy, a plea for peace on the streets from Ice-T and the assurance from The Furious Five guys that nobody would get shot, stabbed, go to jail or disparage women throughout this marathon throwback to the golden age of the event’s namesake.
However, the real show stealers outside of the headliners were fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio (both key players from The Furious Five), whose super set comprised of classics “The Message,” “White Lines” and many others read like a literal history lesson.
Leading the charge was Public Enemy, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers led by Chuck D and Flavor Flav, who alongside DJ Lord, a live band and unity-promoting troupe cranked through an influential career that dates back to the late 1980s. The group’s politically-charged concerns were just as timely as ever, through rather than pushing any divisive hot buttons, the group championed and uplifted the exceptionally diverse audience with anthems such as “Don’t Believe The Hype” and “Fight The Power.”
Rapper, sometimes leader of the heavy metal band Body Count and long time star of “Law & Order” Ice-T couldn’t quite engage to the same degree, even though his legendary status and stake in the 2012 documentary “Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap” is undeniable. His slower, more methodical delivery served in stark contrast to much of the night’s super-charged electricity, though “Colors” in particular did incite a hearty sing-a-long (plus the entire place lit up as his actress/model wife Coco Austin paid a visit with their youngest child in tow).
Indeed, The Art Of Rap Festival was a family affair, with just as many grown folks in the audience as their kids, though there was rarely a generation gap, especially as Naughty By Nature nailed smashes such as “O.P.P” and “Hip-Hop Hooray.” Chicago’s Crucial Conflict earned a warm homecoming, Mobb Deep injected some East Coast flavors into the mix, EPMD kicked it old school style, while Kurtis Blow brought it all the way back to the days of breakdancing.
However, the real show stealers outside of the headliners were fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio (both key players from The Furious Five), whose super set comprised of classics “The Message,” “White Lines” and many others read like a master class. The pair was also joined by surviving members of The Sugarhill Gang, who further brought the study full circle with an extended throwdown of “Rapper’s Delight,” a tune so omnipresent throughout the ages that it’s arguably just as popular now as when it practically invented the entire scene.
Click here for more Art Of Rap Festival photos from Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre.
Upcoming concert highlights at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre include Gwen Stefani (Aug. 6); Rascal Flatts (Aug. 7); Toby Keith (Aug. 12); Journey and The Doobie Brothers with Dave Mason (Aug. 13); Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa (Aug. 16); Darius Rucker (Aug. 20); Oddball Comedy Fest (Sept. 2); Prophets Of Rage (Sept. 3); Black Sabbath (Sept. 4); Blink 182 (Sept. 9); Brad Paisley (Sept. 10) and Florida Georgia Line (Sept. 17). For additional details, visit LiveNation.com.