"D. Public Enemy #1!"
Chuck D and Public Enemy close out Smokin` Grooves.
Hip-hop/rap music tours are as rare as a boxing match without Don King`s involvement. Sure, it happens but those times are far and in between.Thank heavens or more accurately thank the House of Blues restaurant/club/bar chain. In its third year the organizers of the House of Blues Smokin` Grooves tour have putting together, arguably, the hottest tour this season. This year`s line-up, in the words of Chuck D featured “old-school, new school and next school.”Sunday`s Smokin` Grooves show at Polaris Amphitheater included Black Eyed Peas, Mya, GangStarr, Busta Rhymes, Wyclef Jean and the Refugee Camp All-Stars, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy.After missing the two opening sets by Black Eyed Peas and Mya next up was GangStarr. Guru and DJ Premier have no gimmicks, only two turntables and a microphone. They ran through their catalog, including past hits “Manifest” to their current single “Royalty.” With guess appearances by M.O.P (Mash Out Posse) GangStarr turned in a solid performance but failed to move the crowd.The low point of the day was that the crowd couldn`t maintain the energy level throughout. Maybe it was prolonged MTV viewing that has dulled the crowd`s participatory genes.Next up was the man who took the music back to it`s party roots and tore the roof off the mutha. Busta Rhymes and his Flipmode Squad would easily win the MVP awards of Smokin` Grooves. The only way to describe Busta Rhymes is to imagine a cartoon in human form.Busta and his sidekick Spliff Star made faces like Bill Cosby, danced like drunk sailors on Jell-O and worked the crowd like Sinatra in Vegas. Pulling hit after hit from his two albums, including “Dangerous, “Wooo-Haa (Got You All In Check.)” Busta stopped at nothing to please the crowd including dropping his trousers. Busta raised the energy level of Polaris like megaton bomb.For all the talk about Puff Daddy, it seems that people have missed the fact that Wyclef Jean, of Fugees fame, is currently on 50 percent of all recorded music. This isn`t a joke. Jean and his Refugee Camp All-Stars have a stranglehold on the charts. Camp member John Forte started the set with his current hit “Ninety-Nine (Flash The Message).” He alternated between hardcore raps and reggae style crooning. This set up “Ghetto Supastar” featuring Pras and a reappearance of Mya. By this point the crowd was primed for the appearance of Jean. Then he appeared and left. And appeared again. Finally Jean kicked out the jams. Then he stopped again. The frustrating part of his set that when the momentum would build, Jean would stop the proceedings. Still the highlights were many. Inspired reworkings of “Gone Till November,” a powerful version of “Fugee-La” and a impromptu versions of “Wu-Tang (Ain`t Nothing To F#*k Wit).” The best part of set was when a local fellow battle danced against on of the Refugee Camp crew. The defining moment was when the hometown boy, mock dog urinated on Jean`s dancer. Hands down our local boy made the show. By the time the All-Stars and Canibus hit “Second Round Knockout,” after all the starts and stops the energy had left the set.Cypress Hill was Cypress Hill. You seen them once you know the routine. Lots of songs about pot and guns. Energetic but not that mind-blowing.Closing the show was the legendary Public Enemy (P.E.) This tour marks the reunion of P.E. and their return to the concert stage. Mind-blowing. Chuck D., Terminator X, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and the S1W`s tied Busta Rhymes for energy. As far as rap is concerned P.E. are the Rolling Stones. Veterans who know how to give the crowd what they want. They pulled from the vault and made classic songs sound as relevant as if they were recorded yesterday. Brilliant.Overall the House of Blues Smokin` Grooves tour continues to silence critics who believe that hip-hop can`t cut it live.