Filed under: Scene Around Town | Tags: 808s and Heartbreak, C.R.E.A.M., DJ Afar, dj premier, Ghostface Killah, hip-hop, just blaze, M.O.P., Michael Jackson, Myles P, Nas, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Scene Around Town, Skyzoo, The ODB, Westcott Theater, Wu-Tang Clan
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Hip-hop shows always seem to be hit or miss. Either the performer’s on point and the crowd’s loving it, or it’s a gaudy free-for-all onstage and the music just doesn’t live up to how it sounds on record. Last night’s Ghostface Killah show at The Westcott was a little bit of both, with late appearances, brutal performances and a considerable amount of trash-talk. But what would you expect from a Wu-Tang member anyway?
The show started with a string of local openers, beginning with Myles P, whose jagged flow and attempts at 808s and Heartbreak R&B vocals made me walk out on his set, regardless of his mystifyingly dedicated fanbase, who rocked with him for the whole show. A strangely captivating but ultimately questionable local group followed, whose name I couldn’t catch and who didn’t appear on any showbills. They made a lot of noise about local hip-hop, but it was hard to buy.
Skyzoo followed. His brand of beat-heavy, flow-centric rhyming was incredibly potent, winning fans over with Just Blaze and DJ Premier beats, interspersed with a few cover raps of Nas and M.O.P., paying homage to his forebears. The crowd ate it up, bobbing heads and throwing up signs, and by the end of his set, Skyzoo had stomped the local kids before him flat.
What followed was perhaps the most bewildering set of hip-hop music I’ve experienced in a long time. For starters, Ghostface didn’t even show on stage until 45 minutes after Skyzoo had left. DJ Afar covered beat duties while everyone waited. The result was a string of wannabes and one guy from Ghost’s crew who was booed so much he could barely finish a song. Things were getting really ugly when Ghostface, with his crew in tow, finally emerged from the smoke.
After such a delay, one would expect the show to be nothing short of spectacular. Instead, the Wu-Tang Clan member blasted through a couple stellar solo numbers before breaking into a 15-minute rant about microphone volume. After finally getting the volume the way he wanted, Ghost kicked off another 20 minutes of music dedicated solely to Wu-Tang tributes.
Numbers like “C.R.E.A.M.” knocked the crowd out, as did tracks in memoriam to Michael Jackson and The ODB. A lot of it could have been excellent, but each song was limited to maybe a verse or two, and Ghost didn’t even touch the mic for half of them, leaving the rappers on either side of him to fill in the blanks. It was great when he did step up to the mic on tracks like “Da Mystery of Chess Boxin’,” but these moments of excellence were dulled by his frequent absence, and complaints about the quality of the fans in the crowd.
Ghostface ended his show with a few slow jams off his new album, which were awe-inspiring in their predictability and lacking in any sort of signature Ghostface fire. As the show wound up, he started pulling girls up from the crowd to dance with the crew onstage, but it was obvious a lot of people weren’t feeling it. The show could have been an statement for hip-hop, a message that among the shoddy rap albums coming out today, there’s still virility and power in the aging rap form. Instead, we saw a blend of poor showmanship and flash. We saw an indifference to quality that meant maybe the “real hip-hop” every artist references is farther gone than anyone’s willing to admit.
— Story by Dan Creahan
— Photos by Carly Piersol