Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Rock The Bells: Nas, EPMD, The Pharcyde & Supernatural Indigo o2 09/11/08

Supernatural:  Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08
Supernatural:  Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Supernatural:  Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 DJ Scratch: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Nas: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 The Pharcyde: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 The Pharcyde: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 The Pharcyde: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 The Pharcyde: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Crowd at London's Indigo o2 for 'Rock The Bells' 09/11/08 EPMD: Rock The Bells -  Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 EPMD: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Erik Sermon: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Nas: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Nas: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Nas: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Nas: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Nas: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Nas: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08 Nas: Rock The Bells - Indigo o2, London 09/11/08

Was I looking forward to this one or what? After the initial confusion over whether this concert was gonna be in Birmingham and Manchester only and then ending up in London –

Coupled with who was on the line up; Supernatural & DJ Scratch, The Pharcyde, EPMD, Mos Def, De La Soul & Nas as they had in Amsterdam or was there going to be other acts added??? The itinerary that I got just read Supernatural & DJ Scratch, The Pharcyde, EPMD, & Nas. Still, not a shoddy line up. The concert was billed to kick off for 19:00 so me and my guest, the infamous Graffiti writer and my ex-band mate from K.C.F. Productions Gem One, bowled up to the o2 in Greenwich for about 18:45.

We parked in the car park that might as well have been in bloody Streatham because believe me, it was one almighty trek from there to the venue. When we got there I was directed to the guest box office to collect my press passes. What I saw next no self respecting journalist should ever witness. A queue that went on and on and on and on – the queue was so long I saw the break of dawn peeping at me. And so we’re queuing and at 5’8”, I began to experience some short man rage as there was bare giants around me - all 6 ft’ers and then some. It was like I was the only one who didn’t get the growth hormones!!?? Even the women were taller than me – I couldn’t have sex with these gurls standing up even if I wanted to!! I couldn’t see anything except for people’s shoulders and backs. FINALLY we reach the box office for the guest list and we get in @ 20:15 just in time to MISS The Pharcyde. Just fu*%ing great!!! Me and Gem bounce upstairs and get dug in for the rest of the night. Pretty soon Erik Sermon and Parrish Smith a.k.a. EMPD get introduced and the Rap Phenomenon that is the Head of the Hit Squad enter the stage to rapturous applause.

I’m clocking the DJ who appears to be white or at least fair skinned – difficult to tell from where I was sitting – but it sure wasn’t DJ Scratch, K La Boss or that other doood Diamond Jay or whatever his name was. A bit disappointing as DJ Scratch had mad skills on the 1 & 2’s. This DJ seemed to be alright so I allowed it to pass. LOL... Erik Sermon bowls up front and centre to address the crowd. I must admit I was a bit sceptical because judging by the long arsed queue that I was forced to wait in for over an hour the average age was about 22 yrs – roughly the same age as EMPD’s career and I can remember “wiggling and jiggling like gelatine” about 22 yrs ago when they first burst on the scene so I’m not sure how they’d go down at this gig.

[cue dreamy reminiscence scene] You gotta give props to the man like Kurtis Mantronik who as well as being a top artist on Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records was also A&R at the time and was responsible for signing EPMD 22 years ago or so. [end dreamy reminiscence scene]

Back to the concert, the lights dim low and all I can hear is the spinning blades of a Helicopter and Marva Whitney’s vocal sampled stab 'It’s my thang!.' Then in time with the The Whole Darn Family’s infamous funk classic 'Seven Minutes of Funk' dropping in, the stage lights up and there before me are EPMD as though they’d never split up back in 1993. The EPMD set kicks off with a flying start – 'It’s My Thing' [bum bum-bum baaaaaaaaa]. I soon realise that more than a set this is going to be a history lesson as they whizz through the tracks that spanned their six yr career, or the golden years as many refer to it as. When you think about it these guys put out an album a year – granted it wasn’t exactly twelve months in between each one but if you consider that they also brought us Redman, K Solo, Keith Murrey & Das EFX then these boys were probably one of the busiest outfits going and certainly deserved the name and accolade of The Hit/Def Squad. I truly loved the whole vybe revolving around them and their themed album names; 'Strictly Business,' 'Unfinished Business,' 'Business As Usual,' 'Business Never Personal,' 'Back In Business & Out of Business' – all of which went gold with the exception of the final album. EPMD to me are Hip Hop Royalty so I was totally buzzing at this concert [at the same time I was still screwing about the whole missing of The Pharcyde thing too]. After 'It’s My Thang' the tracks just flowed, 'You Gots To Chill,' 'I Shot The Sheriff,' 'You’re A Customer,' followed by some Freestyling from the Green Eyed Bandit [Erik Sermon] where he was schooling us – although preaching to the converted he was – about how he was doing shows when T.I was swimming around in his daddies nut sack, he name checked all the Hip Hop chiefs from back in the day, Kool G Rap, Rakim, Doug E Fresh, Run DMC, KRS One & Scott La Rock and countless others. This was then closely followed by So What You Sayin’?, Please Listen To My Demo, then the Erik Sermon Solo track Just Like Music which samples the unreleased Marvin Gay song Turn On Some Music which is probably my favorite MG song EVER!

Next up was Crossover and they finished up their show with 'Headbanger!!' I did note that the DJ was using pure Vinyl on his SL’s no Serato, no CDJ’s just bare old skool tools – he was proper tight and I have to be honest it’s refreshing to see Hip Hop acts’ whose DJ’s are doing this cause let’s face it this is one of the 5 disciplines of being a true B-Boy/ Hip Hopper. What else did I expect? After all this was the EPMD set!!! The last word from the boys was Peace, do your thang, keep making hardcore underground Hip Hop, “don’t accept the watered down shit that the majors are putting out there under the guise of Hip Hop just because somebody be spitting on a track don’t make it Hip Hop right?” & finally perhaps more importantly, their new album comes out on December 9th [Ed you need to get me that ASAP!!!] I’ve had a few tracks from the album from my DJ Pool and it’s sounding good I gotta tell ya.

The Choice DJ that was hosting the gig comes back on and announces that they recognise that there were some queuing issues and because sooooo many people had missed them Scratch and Supernatural have agreed to come back on and do another set – which was nice. “WHAT ABOUT THE PHUCKING PHARCYDE!!!???” I yelled at the top of my lungs and then realised that most people in my immediate vicinity had turned around to look at me along with some twitching security staff - my mate Gem tried to style it out by regarding me in the same way as if to say “I ain’t with him!!”. Must have been funny though for them to see me - a 40 year old white bloke [going on 20 years old] who looks a bit like Ray Winston’s chubby brother getting all dark cause I missed The Pharcyde – did I mention I was screwing about that? LOL

Moving on, I didn’t really know that much about these two other than what I’d heard on various mix CD’s over the last few years so to see them live was going to be interesting. I know Supernatural has been on the scene for well over 10 years but to my knowledge he’s only ever dropped 2 albums none of which I’d heard. He’s famed for his legendary opening at a Wu concert where he almost outperformed the main act. With Scratch now I was confused to have EPMD at a gig and DJ Scratch playing with another artist. Is it the same DJ Scratch introduced to EPMD back in 1988 by Jam Master Jay from Run DMC? Could this be the same DJ Scratch from The Roots? I don’t or at least I didn’t know and I’m still none the wiser...

So there’s DJ Scratch in the middle of the stage with some kind of boom box contraption and he starts pumping a beat down the MiC. Me & and Gem both being old skool connoisseurs and remember the likes of Doug E Fresh & Biz Markie to name a few look at each other and nod knowingly as if to say, “Not bad”. Then Scratch starts making scratching noises but the beat’s still going and then I clock that he’s got a sampler up there. Oh but wait a minute, now he’s making a bass line with his mouth AND scratching still!! OMG!! He’s actually sampling his beatboxing, looping it and punching it in on the fly. Now I’m digging this kid big time. He actually had 4 sequenced samples running and he was doing more beatboxing live on top. Basically imagine anything that a beat juggler like - say my old mate Tony Vegas from the Scratch Perverts can do, this guy could do with his mouth!!! Very impressive and bloody amazing. Scratch whizzed through some Reggae B lines and added a Hip Hop vybe on top then came the one..… the lick that blew it up. He dropped Eric B & Rakims’ 'Paid In Full' with that phat Dennis Edwards B line et al. The crowd went nuts – they loved it. At this point Supernatural stepped up and started freestylin’. At first I was thinking, “I dunno what all the fuss is about, this is just another MC “Bring The Pharcyde back on!!!” – this time I kept that protested yell to myself and screamed it inside my head. Then, Supernatural asked for the music stop as he addressed the crowd. He challenged them to give him objects from about their person and he would build that into his freestyle rappin off the top of his head. Lawdavemercy pon mi soul!!! This boy ripped it up and this session lasted for close to ten minutes. Objects that he was given were; a set of keys, an underground map, a torch, packet of rizzla, an iPod, carrier bag [something that I take to every rap concert I go to – can’t be seen without one!!??? LOL], hand lotion, a spliff, baseball cap, a union jack flag and a Mix/Demo CD and…….well you see where I going with this. There was more a lot more but I can’t remember everything. I’m guessing the dummy that gave their iPod never realised that they inadvertently made themselves a target and no doubt they got jacked!!?? Typical runnings – although complete supposition on my part.

Finally on to the finale act Nas. DJ Green Lantern kicked it off by hyping the crowd up for about 20 – 25 mins playin all the Hip Hop bangers from the last 10 years or so. We got the first 30 seconds to a minute of each track and he must have touched well over 30 tracks. It worked!! The crowd were jumping. He was cutting up, back to backing and juggling from his MacBook Pro and I could see that like me he uses Serato Scratch LIVE!

By this point my pen had run out of ink or just stopped working out of protest due to my furious note taking and no bar staff had a spare pen to let me nab – f*#king liars!! So the tracks that Nas performed are going to get listed from a collation from my memory and from my friend Gem who after two very long phone calls we hooked up for a Nas session where we played all the albums and worked out what we remembered hearing. Until you do something like this you don’t actually realise how much output Nas has released. For his age and the amount of years in the game he’s pretty damn consistent. Not only has he made many albums BUT from those albums unusually for a Rap artist have come many single releases and Hip Hop anthems. Nas for me is one of the more intelligent and conscious MC’s out there. The thinking mans MC if you like and he has managed to solidify himself in Hip Hop culture as role model and the MC that others want to be like. So the tracks that I recall and agreed with Gem One on were, in order; 'N.I.G.G.E.R.,' 'Hip Hop Is Dead,' 'New York State Of Mind,' 'It Ain’t Hard To Tell, Represent,' 'The World Is Yours,' 'Life’s A Bitch,' 'Street Dreams,' 'Memory Lane,' 'If I Ruled The World,' 'I Want To Talk To You,' 'Ether, Half Time,' 'Black President,' 'Hero,' 'I Can,' 'Freestyle,' 'Live At The Barbeque,' 'Give It Up,' 'Thief’s Theme,' 'Murder Rap,' 'One Love,' 'Nastradamus,' 'Hate Me Now,' 'Got Yourself A Gun,' 'Shoot ‘Em Up,' 'I Made You Look' and finally 'One Mic.' There may be one or two that we left out, but there were several instances where Nas would drop out of a track go freestyle - then back into another track, so it was difficult to follow mentally.

Personally speaking I think Nas is now amongst my top 5 Rap/Hip Hop concerts EVER!! Believe me I’ve been to ‘em all – well as many as I could circumstance and money permitted. I know with Nas there is one of the great debates in Hip Hop that has raged on for years over who discovered Nas, and what track he was on first. Allow me to put that to bed for you. Nas was approached by my good friend MC Serch † out of 3rd Bass who signed him and became his manager. Serch got Nas a track on the Movie Soundtrack of Zebrahead [a direct bite of Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever] with the track Half Time where he was then billed as Nasty Nas. This WAS the first recorded and released track by Nas but as with the film the soundtrack was overlooked.

Then came the absolutely stand out show stealing performance on Main Source’s 'Live At The Barbeque.' This was closely followed by 'Back To the Grill Again,' a posse cut from 3rd Bass’s MC Serch which featured Nasty Nas, Chubb rock and KMD. This track was also the point where Showbizz sampled Nas’s lyric 'I’m waving automatic guns at nuns' from on the late Big L’s infamous Hip Hop banger Devils Son track – R.I.P.

Nas’s career has spanned from 1991 up until present and he is whether you like him or not one of the most influential MC’s out there. He has managed to maintain his contemporary foothold and not to get pigeon holed as an “old skool MC” unlike many of his peers. If Nas can continue with his output and deliver shows like this then there is no real reason why he won’t be around in another 5 years or more. Chuck D is pushing 50 and still manages to capture and hold the attention of Hip Hop lovers globally so why not Nas? I’m guessing EPMD are in their early 40’s too so keep on keeping on Mr Escobar... ** -NOTE- ** EMPD release their latest album on December the 9th entitled We Mean Business so if you’re a fan, make sure you grab a copy. My sources tell me that it features Mobb Deep, Redman, KRS-One, Raekwon, and M.O.P. In addition to that production is already underway for a follow up to this penciled in for a May 2009 release. AND finally, the rumored Hit Squad/Def Squad Double CD which has been held up with legal issues surrounding K Solo will be dropping in early 2009.

Overall one of the best Rap shows I’ve been too once I was in, if I were to overlook the shabby organisation of the venue and how it handles it’s guest list entry. That has to be said is a load of bollocks and they need to review it. How is somebody from the media supposed to review a show from outside? o2 sort your s*#t out - you gets no props!! (ed; This ain't the first time at the Indigo. Any other stories out there - feel free to let us know and we'll let them know)

I would recommend anyone to go see all of the acts on this bill, Scratch & Supernatural, The Pharcyde, EPMD & Nas. As bitterly disappointed I was not to see The Pharcyde I have seen them before and I know that they are a very energetic live act – this show would’ve been a 10/10 but because of the bullshux I gotta say 9/10.

† MC Serch can be found on my MySpace page where he has done me a drop for my radio show on Edge FM 107.5 every Thursday from 10pm thru til midnight – check it out he’s a funny cat and good friend of mine from back in the day.

All photos care of Romain Kedochim. For more visit ROMAIN PHOTOGRAPHY

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