Photo by Manny Hernandez Special guest Stephen Marley joins Nas onstage at the Arsht Center.
The Arsht Center, Miami
Friday, February 5, 2010
Better Than: BET's SOS Haiti benefit concert that took place earlier the same night, right up the street at the American Airlines Arena.
Sure, Super Bowl week was chock full of celeb-infested, high-profile events promising "special appearances" by everyone and their mothers. But no event besides Friday's show at the Arsht Center could claim a full-scale performance from such a powerhouse name in the world of hip-hopas Nasir Jones, a.k.a. God's Son, Nas.
And sure, Jay-Z is indeed playing two weeks later at the Bank Atlantic Center up north, and that's something to be excited about. But us die-hard hip-hop heads know that Nas, lyrically, can butcher the Jigga any given day. If you disagree, listen to Nas' controversial single "Ether" off his 2001 hit record Stillmatic and get back to me.
The Arsht Center was definitely up late that Friday evening as the show was pushed back to a start time of 10:30 p.m. to accommodate the heavy-loaded BET Haiti benefit concert at the nearby AAA. Nevertheless, the crowd quickly staggered in and filled up the center's Knight Concert Hall, where they were greeted with a 20-minute opening set by local hip-hop supergroup MayDay. With an actual band set-up, Mayday truly gave a stellar performance as
Plex took his beat-making skills to the keyboards, and MC Wrekonize and
Bernie rhymed and sang their hearts out.
Immediately following Mayday's opening set, it was no surprise that clearly, a good portion of the audience came out just to see the next group in the flesh. Goodie Mob, the first hip-hop group to come out of Atlanta and to coin the phrase "Dirty South," has been in an unofficial hiatus for well over a decade. But finally, after much gossip and hip-hop pseudo-beef, this year marks the group's long-awaited reunion tour.
All four original members, Big Gipp, T-Mo, Khujo, and Cee-Lo Green (better known now as the other half of Gnarls Barkley) took the stage in full glory. The crowd went crazy as they performed an over-the-top, energy-filled 40-minute set filled with all their classics like "Soul Food," "Dirty South," "They Don't Dance No Mo", and of course, the era-specific 1995 hit "Cell Therapy." Laced throughout were also some entertaining segues like aTwo Live Crew tribute that got the crowd of more than a thousand screaming, "Heeeyyy, we want some pusssssy!" Cee-Lo also did an emotional a cappella version of his Top 40 single with Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy," that had everyone singing along.
With such an intense set by such a legendary group, everyone was curious as to see how Nas was going to top this one. As the audience chanted "We want Nas," the concert hall's lights went black, only to illuminate DJ Green Lantern as he dropped the first beat . In walked the legend himself, proclaiming "Hip-hop is dead," before launching into the song of the same name. The banging guitar riff from the Will.I.Am-produced track shook the floor as Nas recited the lines that he'll "roll into every station and wreck the DJ!"
The ultimate lyricist then went straight into his classic songs from his debut album, Illmatic. From "New York State of Mind," to "Life's a Bitch," to "The World is Yours," every hip-hop head was seen mouthing each syllable, word for word. Midway into the Illmatic set, as Nas finished up "One Love," in walks Mr. One Love himself, Damian "Junior Gong" Marley. It was no surprise as these two have been working heavily on their joint album, Distant Relatives, that's set to drop next month.
The audience was blessed to hear two new singles off the album, "As We Enter" and "Only the Strong," both evoking great chemistry onstage. As Nas took a short breather, Damian took over and invited his older brother and mentor, Stephen Marley, to the stage. They in turn did a quickie version of Damian's hit single "The Mission" as well as his bumboclout money-maker "Welcome to Jamrock."
Then the brothers acknowledged the time, literally -- several minutes past midnight, it was now February 6 and their father's birthday. As Bob Marley's song "One Love" filtered through the hall, everyone shot up their lighters and the scent of sensimillia was inescapable. The Damian-Nas combo ended with their song "Road to Zion" that had everyone singing along the chorus: "Got to keep on walking on the road to Zion."
Back to just Nas again, it was time for more hits: "If I Ruled the World," "I Can," "Made You Look," "Hate Me Now," you name it, he rapped it. It was clear that his fans were out in full force; the room looked like a lyric-reciting army. And just like that, he was off. He thanked the crowd, thanked Miami, thanked Damian for coming through, thanked Goodie Mob for reuniting and, as Jay-Z would say, he was "onto the next one."
It was obvious that there wasn't going to be an encore as everyone immediately exited to hit whatever Super Bowl after party that was going on. Well, it was fun while it lasted.
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Personal Bias: Goodie Mob killed it. In fact, they were the headliners of the night, if you ask me.
Random Detail: AutoTune hero, T-Pain, was in the house, as he jammed to Goodie Mob in the President's Box.
By The Way: Big Gipp of Goodie Mob was channeling his best Sho'Nuff of The Last Dragon -- he even had the red jumpsuit and big afro-poof! "Who's the baddest?!?" BIG GIPP!!!