“What does ‘live from the Other Side’ mean?”
That was the question on the collective mind as hundreds of eager Super Villain fans gathered anxiously around III Points' Main Frame stage. Everyone was eagerly anticipating some kind of Ghostface Killah/MF Doom
The story goes like this: Doom hasn’t stepped on U.S. soil since the non-citizen was refused re-entry after a 2012 European tour. He officially denounced our country and hasn’t made an attempt to perform here since (not that he’s big on performing in the first place).
Waiting for the set to start, my mind went wild with the possibilities. Was Ghostface to play backup MC while Doom telecasted some kind of Skype session? Were we about to get the world’s first Facetime’d headliner? Was he just gonna sit there in his silver mask while he spun around on his office chair? What if the connection was bad? Would he buffer or be interrupted by a pop-up ad?
I was nervous, and the minutes passed fast with no sign of a performer in the physical, holographic, or total imaginary form. Finally, there was a spark of life on the giant screen behind the stage. The unmistakable Metal Face of MF Doom appeared, larger than life, rockin’ a New York Islanders jersey and a bright orange do rag.
“Yo, waddup Miami,” he said. Then he didn’t rap at all. Instead, he spent a few minutes DJing tropical vibes from what looked like a studio set with palm trees peeking from behind. “How you doing, you enjoying yourselves?” He asked, and the crowd responded with bemused cheers. It was all a lot to take in. No one was still quite sure what exactly was going on or what would happen next. It was also unclear if what we were seeing was a live feed, or a pre-recorded video.
Still, Doom vibed, continuing to spin some tracks but still not rapping. Some confused audience members snaked their way toward other stages, but most were content to stay put and find out what would happen next. Doom called us to put our hands up, claiming he could see us, though I was skeptical. Doom never really said anything that proved he actually could see us. There was no, "Hey, you in the blue shirt, lemme see those fuckin' hands!"
If we're taking bets, our money's on pre-recorded.
The sound quality was stellar as well as the video feed, although the whole stream took on a cartoonish quality with sporadic FX scenes of abstract geometric breakdown.
Doom kept a steady rotation of joints and blunts burning on his end, while the smell of marijuana wafted through ours. After about 20 minutes or so, a shot of his mask took over the screen, and when he returned, he was beatboxin', finally poised to attack the mic. He opened with “Hoe Cakes” as the crowd came to life, singing along. His mad wordplay came through crystal clear as he worked through “Kon Queso.” I noted that, ironically, his vocals rang clearer “from the Other Side” than they probably would have on stage.
His bizarre post-Internet performance had hardcore fans loving the scene and the rest of the place scratching their heads. Outside the doors of the Main Frame stage, there was no shortage of conversations that started with "What the fuck was that?"
When he dropped “One Beer,” a track sampled by younger bizarro hip-hopper Tyler, the Creator, it dawned on me that this dude is king of this strange generation. He’s mysterious and quirky. Of course he gave some mind-fuck telescreen performance at a dark, Illuminati-themed festival in Miami’s Art District. He’s a master troll level 9000.
He worked through a few more favorites, including “Gazzilion Ear” and “Ballskin,” and when it was time for him to take his leave, it happened as ceremoniously and enigmatically as he appeared. Suddenly, hard rap music blared from the stage, and in a few moments, Ghostface Killah appeared. There would be no mixing it up between the MCs, no back and forth between the Wu-Tang man and masked miscreant. There was, however, “Ice Cream.”
Ghostface commanded the stage like someone having a religious experience. When he asked if we all fucked with the Wu, he gave us a speech about how the Shaolin rap crew saved his life. Rap took him from the ghetto to main stages around the world. Surely, that’s not the sort of thing one just gets over, and Ghostface is super happy to keep riding that high. And we, of course, were all just as happy to sing along to “Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit.”
He gave fans a bunch of material from his Supreme Clientele LP before finishing off with the big Clan hits. When it was over, I reflected on what was most definitely the most unique concert experience of my life so far. The crowd was decidedly torn. Some people loved it, some people hated it, but all of us went on one helluva weird musical ride. Though, I’ve got to say, any day you get to smoke weed, dance with friends, sing along to Wu-Tang, and get a visit from a trans-dimensional Super Villain is a day you’ve got to mark in the “dope” column.
It certainly was something different.