Thursday, February 17, 2011


February 11, 2011 (or should I say February 12th), was the date for the reclusive L Boogie to make an appearance in Baltimore.  The venue, Rams Head Live, was abuzz with energy and anticipation, even if it wasn't filled to its normal capacity for someone of the caliber of Ms. Hill.  I arrived a little after 10:00 PM, and I was a little surprised that I didn't have to wait in a long, winding line outside this downtown  establishment.  The atmosphere was one of excitement and apprehension, at least from what I could gather from the eclectic crowd.  All ages, sexes, and nationalities were represented, so that was a good sign.  After perusing the interior of Rams Head Live for any signs of Ms. Hill, I decided to relax and absorb the positive energy in the house. 

DJ Rampage warming up the crowd

Around 11:20 PM, DJ Rampage hit the stage, warming up the crowd for what seemed like a good hour or so.  He started off with an ode to Bob Marley, and with the smell of ganja in the air, it was quite appropriate for the Marley tribute of sorts.  The crowd in attendance at the time was feeling the music, at least for a little while.  Before long, DJ Rampage segued into other joints (no pun intended) like "I'm Still In Love With You" by Sean Paul and "You Don't Love Me (No No No)" by Dawn Penn.  Listening to these cuts definitely set a vibe in the venue, at least for a good while.  Eventually, the crowd grew weary of this, and you could start to feel a little tension.  I know I was antsy and anxious for the show to actually begin, because Lauryn Hill's track record over the past few years has been anything but stellar.  Making matters even more tense was an announcement over sound system that Ms. Hill was under the weather, but she planned on still performing.  Go figure!  At that point all I could do was wait like the rest of the growing crowd.  DJ Rampage managed to sway the crowd's relatively short attention span again once he delved into his hip hop catalog for guaranteed staples like "Hip Hop Hooray", "Top Billin'", "T.R.O.Y.", "Electric Relaxation", "Scenario", and numerous other "Golden Age" classics.  The energy could really be felt once DJ Rampage played Nas and L Boogie on "If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)".  Trust me, I was one of the energetic characters inside Rams Head at that point.  Soon after, the rest of her band appeared onstage, with "Hypnotize" playing in the background, intent on holding down the instrumental side of the evening's performance.  Three background vocalists, three keyboardists, three guitarists, and a drummer rounded out her musical entourage.

Ms. Hill entering the stage

Midnight struck, and still no Lauryn Hill!  You could cut the tension with a knife at that point.  Minute after minute passed, until 12:10AM, when the lights dimmed, and the female silhouette of the one and only Lauryn Noel Hill entered stage right!  A deafening roar reverberated throughout the mostly packed venue, threatening permanent hearing loss, but at that distinct moment, all my reservations and doubts went out the window.  Dressed in a flowing orange outfit, with a short jacket and dark-colored scarf, the star of the evening was understated compared to previous sightings.  The somewhat disheveled afro was still intact, yet there was something cool about having this icon on stage, fashion aside.  Lauryn Hill has been an enigma for the better part of a decade, but her loyal legion of fans (me included) always, ALWAYS hold out hope that she will return either doper than ever or never missing a beat lyrically.  She started off with a Bob Marley song, of course, paying homage to the most obvious of influences on her musically.  Once she crooned to the packed house, the band commenced to play a sped-up version of "Lost Ones".  Her background singers definitely came prepared to belt out accompanying vocals for the evening.  "When It Hurts So Bad" was next on the agenda, but her voice was not quite up to par, at least for the moment.  However, once she dove into "Everything Is Everything", the crowd showed its appreciation, and she delivered a spirited rendition of this fan favorite.  Of course, with the majority of the fans being of the female persuasion, her next selection "Ex Factor" really struck a chord.  Every word of that touching song was sung by every woman I could see in the crowd.  The song then segued into a mellower version, with sparse drums accompanying Ms. Hill's every word.  "Words have to line up with actions", she preached to the female contingent at Rams Head, with vocal approval coming from all directions in the house.  Her obligatory tribute to her first born, "To Zion", was next on the song list.  I love the song, but I wonder what her other children may think anytime that song is played?  While her band continued in the key of "To Zion", Ms. Hill exited for a brief moment, only to return reinvigorated and energized.  She asked the Rams Head audience if there were any fans of The Fugees in the house.  Of course everyone in attendance yelled "YES"!  To satisfy that Fugees hunger, she launched into "How Many Mics", one of my favorite joints from The Refugee Camp.  She launched into most of the songs from The Score, the multiple platinum best-seller from The Fugees.  "Fu-Gee-La"  was a definite crowd pleaser, as most in the venue jumped and pumped their fists, while Lauryn handled the lyrics with a vengeance.  The Rams Head audience were puppets in her hand at that point, and once she touched "Ready Or Not", everyone in attendance showed their love for this lady that was willing to put a flourishing career on hold to do her bidding, known as motherhood.  Lighters and cell phones were lifted high to illuminate the darkness surrounding everyone.  This set the stage for "Killing Me Softly", her rendition of the very popular and classic Roberta Flack gem.  Ms. Hill ended the show with "Doo Wop (That Thing)", giving a spirited and energized performance. 

Lauryn Hill and company

More Lauryn

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome of her show.  I believe that preconceived notions about her unreliable nature and eclectic (bordering on lunatic) way of thinking may have influenced my somewhat negative perspective.  Seeing Lauryn Hill perform solidified in my psyche why she is one of the dopest lyricists the hip hop world has ever seen.  Her rhyming is still flawless, and that fact alone is reason for her to drop another album before I turn forty-five!  Her performance, stage presence, interaction with the crowd, and energy earned Lauryn Hill a solid B-.  Now I can mark this performance off of my "Wisdom's Bucket List"!

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