Written by: WISDOM
For one night, 12 N. Eutaw Street in downtown Baltimore was the location for hip hop royalty. The Hippodrome Theater was transformed into an old school mecca for what can be considered the "Golden Era" of hip hop. Aptly named "Fat Laces and Fades", this concert event represented a who's who of those artists that molded my musical upbringing in the 1980's: Special Ed, Dana Dane, Whodini, MC Lyte, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, and Big Daddy Kane. I was looking forward to seeing these icons in the game rip the Hippodrome stage. Did they deliver?
Unfortunately, I arrived around 9PM or so, approximately an hour or so after show commencement. When I made my way through the elegant hallway to the seating area, I could tell that Lana Moorer, known to the musical world as MC Lyte, was onstage. Her long-time dj, K-Rock, was spinning some old school tunes such as "Before I Let Go" to get the crowd energized. The venue, at least from the lower level vantage point I had, was about 70% full, and they showed enthusiasm for the trip down memory lane with Lyte. For at least five to ten minutes, call and response was the technique employed by MC Lyte. I wanted to hear lyrics, lyrics, and more lyrics from her, but either I arrived too late or she was enveloping the crowd within a nostalgic journey. Lyte teased the crowd with her verse from "Self Destruction", letting the Baltimore contingent know that she was "funky fresh dressed to impress, ready to party". "Ruffneck", another staple in her lyrical arsenal, was performed. K-Rock kept the party vibe alive by complimenting her behind the wheels of steel. Truthfully, I was a little disappointed in Lyte's performance; I've seen her give a stellar performance at Pier Six Pavilion maybe two years ago at the most. I don't want to speculate, but I know that MC Lyte is a pure performer, full of witty lyricism. She is capable of delivering a top-notch performance, and I didn't witness that at the Hippodrome.
Reggie Reg, who served as cohost for the show, announced a ten minute intermission for the hip hop hungry fans throughout the venue. DJ Titan handled the turntable spins during this brief respite from the scheduled performances. A fitting tribute for Gang Starr emcee Guru included familiar joints such as "Just To Get A Rep", "Mass Appeal", and "Don't Take It Personal". More obscure cuts such as "The ? Remains" rounded out the tribute to a fitting and underrated emcee. It was cool vibing to this music, because Gang Starr is part of my hip hop DNA, which caused me to get Mass Appeal: The Best Of Gang Starr.
After intermission, the wheels of steel were occupied by a green-eyed deejay, Grandmaster Dee. The somewhat subdued crowd in the Hippodrome warmed up once the drums from the instrumental "The Champ Is Here" reverberated throughout the spacious building. Grandmaster Dee then hit the Charm City crowd with some vintage music from The Isley Brothers, DeBarge, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, The Staples Singers, Rick James, The Commodores, and Parliament. Once "Hollywood Swinging'" from Kool & The Gang blasted from Dee's Technics 1200 turntable onstage, the seminal group Whodini emerged. Jalil and Ecstasy received a nice ovation once they hit the stage. Jalil had to prompt the sound crew at the Hippodrome to adjust the microphones and monitors. Once the sound was to his liking, Jalil was satisfied that the Whodini show could go on. Onstage with Whodini were two dancers: Wiz, a New York transplant now residing here in Baltimore, and Doctor Ice, who many may remember from another influential hip hop crew, UTFO. They showed much fluidity dancing, while fan favorites such as "Five Minutes Of Funk" and "Friends" were performed. Those songs brought back memories of my youth, when the music was innocent yet edgy. It was a hip hop family affair when Dana Dane joined Whodini, as "Freaks Come Out At Night" pumped up the audience. A nice touch to the performance was Doctor Ice resurrecting his verse from "Roxanne Roxanne"over the C-Murder track "Down For My N's". For whatever reason throughout their set, Jalil was much more animated and energetic, while Ecstasy, with his trademark Zorro-style hat, didn't quite have enthusiasm behind his lyrical delivery. Doctor Ice and Wiz continued to deliver the goods from a dancing standpoint, however. Their seemingly choreographed dance routines were the highlight of the Whodini performance. Whodini hit the crowd with "I'm A Ho" before leaving the stage to the New Edition tune "Is This The End". The performance was cool from a nostalgia sense, but was a little underwhelming from a performance standpoint. Maybe I'm a tad bit jaded because I can remember Whodini bringing the raw hip hop energy at the Civic Center for the Fresh Festival back in 1985, but I expected more.
DJ Kenny K was on the wheels of steel with a tribute to another fallen hip hop icon, Jam Master Jay. Songs from the deep Run-DMC catalog filled the venue, putting everyone in attendance in an old school state of mind. Reggie Reg then prompted DJ Kenny K to take the crowd back to the days of Odell's, the club most closely associated with Baltimore party life. Once the tribute and memory lane trip was complete by DJ Kenny K, it was now time for "The World's Greatest Entertainer". Chill Will and Barry Bee, The Get Fresh Crew, warmed up the anticipating Hippodrome crowd before Doug E. Fresh made his way to the stage. A loud roar met one of the most versatile hip hop artists as he was front and center. "Keep Rising To The Top" was the first order of operation for "The World's Greatest Entertainer". Chill Will and Barry Bee then played memorable songs from bygone years, such as "ABC" by the Jackson Five and "Before I Let Go" by Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly. Doug E. Fresh also joined in on the festivities by taking the crowd down a nostalgic trip through 1970's television. "Sanford and Son" and "The Jeffersons" were just a few of the memorable show themes that put the Hippodrome crowd in a joyous mood. However, everyone in attendance was anticipating the most fashionable and best storyteller hip hop has ever witnessed: Slick Rick. Once the horns from "The Show" blasted through the speakers, MC Ricky D emerged on the stage, looking dope and dapper as usual. He rocked a tan velour jogging jacket, platinum eyepatch, and an insanely ridiculous amount of truck jewelry adorning his neck. Of course, no Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick performance is complete without the ultimate song, "La-Di-Da-Di". Doug E. Fresh brought the high energy beat box, while Slick Rick captivated the crowd in attendance. Every word from this song was rhymed in unison by the hip hop audience, and it was a beautiful moment during the evening. "Children's Story" followed, as Slick Rick went through the hip hop favorite with ease. Doug E. Fresh gave the mostly mature hip hop audience something to smile about with an impromptu rhyme that I've never heard before over the new school song of the moment and appropriately titled "Teach Me How To Dougie". The most touching part of the evening was Doug E. Fresh bringing his mother onstage to dance with him. This brought a thunderous cheer from the audience, as "Momma Fresh" boogied with her son. Doug E. Fresh then prompted The Get Fresh Crew to slow down the pace with an Isley Brothers tune. I was definitely touched by this moment, but it signaled the close of the show.
As the 80's-inspired hip hop crowd exited the venue, I could only sit back and reminisce about a bygone era that I am proud to have experienced firsthand. Truthfully, I was disappointed that I didn't see Big Daddy Kane, Special Ed, or Dana Dane perform. Also, the performances were somewhat lackluster in nature. One thing I always state in my description about so-called "old school hip hop" is that a show is given to the crowd. There were moments of showmanship during this evening at the Hippodrome, but I noticed the artists leaning too heavily on other artists music instead of their own catalog, which to me was a mistake. I wanted to see each and every performer give the fans their all, but I didn't get that sense. Even though I am making this observation, the fact remains that I will ALWAYS have a special place in my mind and heart for all of the artists on the bill, and I look forward to seeing them, along with countless other hip hop artists from that "Golden Era", perform again here in Baltimore. All in all, it was a good night, especially at the afterparty, where MC Lyte and Dana Dane made appearances, but it could have been better. A special shout-out goes to Headline Beauty Salon and DTLR for sponsoring this event, and I hope that Baltimore will continue to be a place where true hip hop can be enjoyed.