I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical about seeing Slum Village perform without fellow original members J Dilla and Baatin, but that doubt was quickly put to rest within the first 5 minutes of arriving at B.B. King’s in New York City’s Times Square. Scheduled to perform that night on May 23rd were City Of God, Bugnanas, Julayna, Holliewood, Skyzoo, Rapper Big Pooh and Slum Village, with a special DJ set by The Roots’ very own Questlove. Opening Dj set by kHz, who kept the crowd grooving in between acts.
If you’ve never been to a show at B.B. Kings then you’re missing out. It’s a great venue…from the acoustics and the open space to the staff. There is a large open space in front of the stage that is surrounded by tables and chairs for those who want to sit and relax and even grab a bite to eat during the show. At the rear of the building is a long bar with plenty of room for mingling. It’s hard to not enjoy yourself there.
Now, I’ve seen Skyzoo perform a bunch of times and I honestly have to say that his performances just keep getting better and better. He is truly growing as an artist and performer. Usually, he has his horn player, OJ in tow with him. Unfortunately, that night he did not. It didn’t matter though; Skyzoo and his DJ, Prince, held it down just fine. Starting his set off with “Complicated Rhythm” from his critically acclaimed project The Great Debater definitely set the tone for the rest of his show. The rest of his set included hits from The Great Debater as well as The Salvation. Such hits included “Written In The Drums”, “The Beautiful Decay”, “Langston’s Pen”, “Frisbees” and then ending with his hit song “Speakers On Blast”. The nice thing about Skyzoo’s set is he always breaks down a verse from one of his songs and explains it for the audience. That night, he did it with “Written In The Drums”, referring to a phone call that he had with 50 Cent.
“When you was watching me on 106 like how he get up there?
I was on a 20 minute call with a billionaire.
Boomeranging ideas on how to get my mil in here
Told me, get rich or die trying before you finished here
Got it Fif”
It was also nice to see producer, !llmind, who has worked largely with Skyzoo on his music, present in the crowd. One standout moment during his set was Skyzoo telling us about his upcoming album A Dream Deferred, due to drop in September. He told us that it would be “The best album of 2012”. We are all excited to hear what’s next from this talented emcee.
Next to the stage was Rapper Big Pooh. The one time member of the successful trio Little Brother proved he could hold his own without Phonte and 9th Wonder. Backed by Big Dho and his DJ Skills/Braxton/ Brax Boogie, this set was just endless comedy. I almost forgot I was at a hip hop show at some points. Between Pooh referring to his water breaks as “fat n***a interludes” and joking with the crew of large men in the front that looked like the offensive line on a football team, I couldn’t stop laughing. Blessing us with tracks from his 2011 release Dirty Pretty Things, as well as classic Little Brother joints like “Beautiful Morning”, “Slow It Down” and ending his set with the hit “Lovin’ It”. That was not the highlight though. Pooh came bearing GIFTS that night. Claiming the crowd wasn’t as excited as he would like them to be, he brought out Coney Island, Brooklyn emcee, Torae to do “Are You Ready”. These two have a chemistry that is unmatched. Their back and forth exchange is just effortless and fun for the audience to watch. Especially when Pooh joked with Torae saying he was on steroids and calling him the Barry Bonds of hip hop due to Torae’s buff stature. But…we still weren’t hyped enough for Pooh’s liking, so he left the stage again and out comes MC Craig G, who jumps into the crowd to liven us up. It worked…or so I thought. But nope…Pooh said we still weren’t at a level 10. Leaving the stage one more time, I had no idea what was going to follow. Little did I and the audience know that it was going to be hip hop legends, Lords Of The Underground!! The entire venue erupted with sheer excitement. Mr. Funke and DoItAll Dupré had the energy of 5 year olds after drinking soda and eating candy. They performed their hits “Chief Rocka” and “Funky Child” and it was blissful. Pooh returned to the stage and that’s when he graced us with his verses from the Little Brother songs mentioned previously. Such a dope set.
As if things couldn’t get any better, The Roots’ Questlove came to the stage to spin a special DJ set. Man, when I tell you what happened next, you wouldn’t believe me unless you were there to witness it. This was truly special because I got to see firsthand the reactions from T3, Illa J, Young RJ, !llmind, Skyzoo, Pooh, Torae, etc…Questlove is just a genius…period. That man took known J Dilla beats that we all know and love and REMIXED THEM! Nobody had heard any of these versions yet and we were all bugging out. Just straight instrumentals he played. I kept hearing !llmind say, “Man, I’m just a fan right now. This is too much. I need some air.” That was the feeling of most. We were all so moved. T3 yelled to Questlove from the side of the stage “Man, you’re f*****g with my whole head and set right now! You made my night!” To which Questlove replied, “Y’all made my life!”. It was such a sincere, pure and genuine compliment that we all feel about Dilla and Slum Village.
Once we all collected ourselves and Young RJ set up on the 1’s and 2’s, T3 and Illa J took the stage. Performing hits from their new mixtape, The Dirty Slums, which is hosted by Mick Boogie, as well as older Slum Village hits brought the audience to their feet. We clapped, 2 stepped, snapped our fingers and sang along to numerous hits like “Tainted”; “Selfish”, to which Young RJ stepped out and did Kanye West’s verse; “Fall In Love” (my personal favorite), “Players”, “Climax”, “Fuck The Police”, “The Look Of Love” and ending the night with “Raise It Up”. They brought all the acts out on stage for the finale. Illa J filled the roles of past members with ease and sounded fan-tas-tic. The entire night was filled with surpises, thrills and beautiful music. I’m sure this was all made possible with the blessing of J Dilla and Baatin, watching over us and ensuring the legacy of Slum Village lives on. And for that, we thank them.