Monday, October 18, 2010


Fifteen years in the hip hop game is a nice stretch in this fickle musical environment, so it comes as no surprise that Duck Down Records is commemorating this notion.  The Duck Down 15 Year Anniversary Tour, featuring artists from the Boot Camp Clik and Pharoahe Monch, signaled a noteworthy achievement for an independent imprint that has seen its share of highs and lows.  This tour, starting October 11th in Tampa, Florida, is a celebration of the independent spirit that Duck Down brings to the industry.  With stops along the East Coast, I knew that I would have to partake in this celebration.

I arrived at Sonar, hoping to catch a glimpse of the energy and excitement surrounding this special tour.  There was a line outside Sonar, with approximately 40 or so fans waiting to enter the venue.  You could feel the anticipation in the air.  Pharoahe Monch came outside and left the venue for a few minutes while sound check was occurring inside.  I had the opportunity to see some like-minded individuals like local poet/emcee Slangston Hughes that were also waiting for the show to begin.

Unfortunately, once doors opened and individuals were allowed to enter the walls of Sonar, I didn't get the chance to immediately go inside.  Because of this, I didn't have the opportunity to see Skyzoo perform.  I was definitely looking forward to seeing this Brooklyn-bred emcee showcase his lyricism for the Baltimore contingent in the house at Sonar.  Skyzoo and Illmind have a recent project called Live From The Tape Deck that is very dope, and I wanted to hear Skyzoo unveil those songs to a hungry audience. 

Once I was able to enter the venue, I could hear that one of my all-time favorites, Pharoahe Monch, was on stage, so I hurried to the stage area.  The area was packed with throngs of fans absorbing the energy that Monch was delivering.  He was effortlessly flowing through "Desire", from the album of the same name.  His breathe control and flow are unparalleled in hip hop, and that was quite evident during his performance.  Once Monch finished this song, it was inevitable that he would close his set with the song that put him on the radar of many listeners:  "Simon Says".  When the first sign of those horns from the "Godzilla" sample started, the crowd erupted in unison.  The eruption reached a peak as soon as Monch launched into the spirited lyrics.  Can you say "hip hop pandemonium"? 

Next to bless the stage with their presence was Tek and Steele, also known as Smif N Wessun.  This being my first time seeing Smif N Wessun in person, I didn't know what to expect from them.  What I, and the packed house got, was group still hungry hip hop culture.  Tek and Steele were able to use their years of experience and comraderie in delivering song after song.  "Bucktown", "Let's Get It On", "Bucktown" and more obscure lyrics were performed to great effect for the Sonar crowd.  However, "Sound Boi Bureill" put everyone in attendance in a Boot Camp Clik zone, as the ambient track complimented the Smif N Wessun energy.  Sonar was ablaze with fire as Tek and Steele brought the heat.  This definitely was one of the many highlights of the evening. 

Sean Price was seen entering the performance area, only to join his Boot Camp brethren onstage.  Sean P, or Ruck, as he's also known as, brought a bravado and confidence in his sheer lyrical ability.  To me, he has always been a sometimes hidden gem within the Boot Camp collective, with the underground hip hop crowd recognizing his dopeness over the past few years.  Dropping lyrical gem after gem while onstage, Sean P captivated the audience with every word.  He breezed through his version of "Exhibit C" with ease, making sure to hit the crowd with punchlines and metaphors.  I'm a lyrical fanatic, so listening to him control the crowd with his every word was a joy and pleasure. 

Looking at Smif N Wessun and Sean Price brought back vivid memories of 90's New York hip hop before the glitz, glamour, and shiny suit era became the norm.  This was a time of backpacks, Timberlands, baggy jeans, and corner cyphers showcasing ill lyrical rantings.  Sometimes I miss that time, but I do realize that progression can only occur once you recognize the past, and improve upon it.  That is why seeing Buckshot hit stage center brought all of this full circle for me, and the countless others in the crowded Club Room at Sonar.  Even though this anniversary show wasn't held on the Main Stage, which can hold up to a thousand or so patrons, the Duck Down family was very deserving of prime treatment.  Buckshot commanded the stage with his diminutive stature yet strong microphone presence.  Song after song was recited word for word by the crowd.  Because this was indeed a family affair, everyone on the bill was on stage to share in the festivities.  With a background artist painting images of Buckshot and crew, hip hop touched on different facets.  Buckshot could do no wrong as he performed lyrics from a deep catalog.  " Hold It Down", a song off the collaborative effort with 9th Wonder, The Formula, was delivered with vigor.  A fever pitch was reached when the signature sounds of "Tidal Wave", the sampled song from Ronnie Laws, were heard in the venue.  This signaled "Who Got Da Props", the Black Moon song that introduced the world to the Brooklyn emcee known as Buckshot Shorty, as well as 5FT and DJ Evil Dee.  Unfortunately, the only true downside with the show was the absence of Evil Dee.  My prayers go out to his family, as news travelled that he was mourning the passing of his sister.  I'm sure the Duck Down family performed with that notion in their hearts.

Overall, I was thoroughly pleased with the entire show.  Hip hop was alive and well inside Sonar on that Sunday evening.  Youthful and more mature hip hop heads shared a common love for a collective celebrating more than a decade as an independent entity.  After the concert ended, most of the artists remained to show love for their fans.  I had the opportunity to talk to Skyzoo, Tek and Steele, and let them know that their artistry doesn't go unnoticed.  If you don't know what these dynamic artists are doing presently, go to for a full listing of the revamped roster. 

One love to producer Unheard Of and all in attendance to celebrate The Duck Down 15th Anniversary!


No comments:

Post a Comment