Rock the Bells
Rakewon and Ghostface Killa
With Mobb Deep and ArtOfficial
Fillmore Miami Beach
September 13, 2011
Better Than: Album-length karaoke renditions of Ol' Dirty Bastard's Nigga Please. (Although ... Wu-Tang karaoke is a good idea. And someone should get that party going.)
And at no point did anyone involved let the audience forget who it was dealing with.
Aside from the eternal reminders -- from the evening's MC, the opening acts, and the featured performers themselves -- of the who/what/when/where of Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang's respective greatness, the evening's other key theme was swag. No, not in the Based God-slash-Odd Future-slash-Kreayshawn way. In the old-fashioned, "Hey, hip-hop demographic, here are products you may find relevant to your interests and lifestyle."
No matter how fly the long tees or sneakers were (or how deliciously plump the $6 hot dogs looked), everyone was ultimately at the Fillmore for music, which was ceremoniously initiated by local full-band rap ensemble ArtOfficial. They performed a technically unflappable blend of sunny, old-school-but-not-O.G., beat-music-derived production à la De La Soul, with the organic live touch of The Roots, and the triumphant, posi rhymes of Jurassic Five. While the act was a little corny for our tastes (particularly in light of the evenings dark and ribald headliners), ArtOfficial was absolutely on top of their game. We also appreciated the saxophone player's wireless mic which allowed him to pace back and forth like a third MC.
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After an incredibly long set-up time (especially since all there was to set up was a DJ booth), the evening's MC announced Raekwon and Ghostface were to take the stage.
Rae and Ghostface, joined by Killa Bee bench player Cappadonna, ripped right into an abridged run through of Only Built For Cuban Linx that included a detour through a medley of classic Wu -- like "C.R.E.A.M" -- and a few lines from O.D.B.
The long-cultivated, perpetually bangin' classic Wu-Tang flow was on full display courtesy of two of the collectives most renowned MCs, and we were grateful-slash-impressed that nobody had a vocal backing track. But the performance's mix -- not to mention the MCs' constant requests to have their mics turned up -- transformed every bit of the RZA's nuanced production into thunderous mud. So while Ghostface, Raekwon, and Cappadonna all had the body language of true performers and moved their lips like professional gangsta bards, their intricate stanzas were reduced to garbled shouts.
Mobb Deep was more or less exactly the same, the biggest differences being a slightly thinned out crowd and a more strict rendition of their own 1995 opus, The Infamous. And we admit to not being as into -- or well versed -- on Mobb Deep as we are The Wu. But it really would have made more sense for Wu-Tang to close the show.
Nevertheless, the everything-turned-up-all-the-way approach (that is more likely a product of hip-hop than it is The Fillmore) didn't really give us much to get acquainted with.
Personal Bias:While a big fan of Wu-Tang, we have low expectations for hip-hop concerts.
The Crowd: A one-to-ten ratio of bros to honies, very little ice, but lots of Ol' Dirty Bastard shirts.
Overheard In The Crowd: Not a single person using the word swag.
Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Cappadonna's Setlist
-"Striving For Perfection"
-"Glaciers of Ice"
-"State of Grace"
-"Heaven & Hell"
-"Can It Be All So Simple"
-"Shimmy Shimmy Ya" (Tribute to ODB)
-"Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit"
-"Superthug" (with cameo from N.O.R.E.)
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-"Rock 'n' Roll"