WE ALL WE GOT.
Originally written in 2004.
WE ALL WE GOT.
Originally written in 2004.
A week ago, my son Ben mentioned to me that J-Kwon was appearing at the Pageant. This University City Loup venue is the scene of the Ludacris performance a several months ago. I knew he wanted to go. The Pageant is a venue designed to handle up-and-coming acts with open seating and a bar atmosphere. Except for those under age, you can run a tab if you want, while the performance is in progress. Those not of drinking age, are confined to the area in front of the stage and off to the right as you enter the place.
Rap (or should I say Hip-Hop) is a cultural phenomenon and I have to say that I enjoy a lot of things about it. For my generation “Sex, Drugs. and Rock-N-Roll” was the rally cry. For my son, it’s not too different…only louder, and blacker and with no interference from musical instruments (just pre-recorded sound and one or two DJ-MC types behind a big electronic console in the middle of the stage).
J-Kwon was to be the headline act of Hoodfest II. I didn’t understand, until attending the event, that Hoodfest was gonna be a string of local acts (including “wanna-be’s) leading up to the featured performers. And as St. Louis (The Lou) has become somewhat of a hub for Hip Hop, Murphy Lee and Ali were listed as hosts/presenters. And local hip-hop hero, Nelly even made an appearance on stage.
The local hip-hop and R&B radio station Q95.5 had a high profile throughout the evening with their MC Crystal on the mic between acts doing the introductions – usually something on the order of “Hey St. Louis, give it up for our next performers….”
I bought three tickets. This event was held on May 9, 2004, a Sunday Night. Ben and his friend Stephanie Paul were probably willing to tolerate me as chaperone because I made it easier for Ben’s mom (my wife Lynn) and Stephanie’s parents to allow this on a school night. (They are juniors at Parkway West High School.)
Stephanie, Ben and I arrived at the Pageant and hour before the scheduled start time. (What was I thinking? Of course Hoodfest wouldn’t start on time. There was no real benefit to arriving early except we got a pretty decent parking space. It was a beautiful night (Mother’s Day, in fact) and the sun was setting in the West as everything started to take on a golden color as sundown approached. To kill some time, we crossed Delmar and sat at a table on the sidewalk in front of Mirasol – a new restaurant (only open a few months). As the sun was going down, we felt a warm breeze that reminded me of being in Miami – South Beach or Coconut Grove. We watched the drama begin to unfold in front of the Pageant: Tricked out muscle cars with big spinning hubcaps, throwback jerseys, and a gathering crowd at the box office.
Hoodfest started at 8pm and lasted for a deafening 4 ½ hours. Almost every set was derivative of something you’d seen before. Some better than others. A rapper called Mysphit, kinda looked like a poor man’s Snoop Dawg, a trio that resembled an updated Run DMC only without the suits, even a white rapper in an oversized white tee shirt that almost resembled Eminem. But it became clear to me that the thing to do was to file in late for the real show, which didn’t start until after 10:30 with the Ally and Murphy Lee kicking off the frenzy.
Murphy Lee appeared in a fedora over a bandana and a collared shirt with the tails out and Ally was dressed in a kaki shirt and pants. Both had understated “bling” by Hip hop star standards. Murphy Lee and Ali are part of Nelly’s crew and clearly lent backup vocals to a number of these struggling acts. I noticed Murphy Lee was often providing the accompaniment from stage left and was never without a drink in his hand – hard to do when you are trying to keep your hat suitably cocked and control a hand held mic at all times.
Ali introduced the crowd to his little daughter (who couldn’t have been more than 5 or six). She stayed closed to dad most of the time – but at times just mingled with assortment of rappers and presumably body guards an the stage. (I couldn’t help wonder where her Mom was on Mother’s day, but at the same time admire Ali for clearly – in his way – taking responsibility for this kid. Hoodfest would not be the choice of a lot of parents for their little girl, but it seemed – in an odd way comfortable for her to be there – even though the event went until 12:30 at night.)
You can’t help but get caught up the frenzy as Nelly, Murphy Lee, Ali and maximum volume lead to this finale of Hoodfest. “Errrrrbody in the Club getting Tipsy” was performed and performed again as a “REMIX!”
I enjoyed the event but was happy to give my ears a rest as we were among the crowd exiting “da club.”
Here’s what the St. Louis Post Dispatch had to say about Hoodfest in the newspaper on Tuesday May 11, 2004
J-Kwon’s strong show
Deserves more fan support
By Kevin C. Johnson
Post-Dispatch Pop Music Critic
“Teen President” J-Kwon might need to campaign a little harder the next time he performs in St. Louis.
St. Louis’ newest rap sensation, dubbed the teen president by some, inexplicably and surprisingly failed to draw a crowd worthy of his newfound stature – a No. 1 rap single in “Tipsy,” a gold CD in “Hood Hop” – at Q95.5’s Hoodfest II concert at the Pageant Sunday night. The first Hoodfest in January with Murphy Lee was a sellout, the balcony was closed for this one.
Maybe hip-hop fans were too caught up in Mother’s Day. Maybe the Trak Starz-presented event at the Rum Jungle at the same time divided the crowd. Maybe the relatively late announcement of the concert hampered ticket sales. Or maybe the gunfire that broke out at J-Kwon’s recent video shoot scared people away.
And Maybe Nelly’s surprise guest appearance should’ve been promoted. Whatever the reasons, folks should’ve been packed into the Pageant to see a rapper big enough to serve as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” next weekend, when his audience will be in the millions.
J-Kwon came with attitude and was flanked by a supportive Nelly, Murphy Lee and Ali, who opened the set with “IC IC,” a track from “Hood Hop.” “Welcome to Tha Hood” and especially the personal “They Ask Me” were a pair of strong selections from J-Kwon. “Sow Your Ass” featured female rapper Eboni Eyes, who gave what was perhaps the nights breakthrough performance. She’s a new act backed by production duo the Trackboys, who are also behind J-Kwon. The Sho-Offs, J-Kwon’s group, also made an appearance.
The boisterous “Tipsy” was followed by the guest laden “Tipsy” remix. Here, it featured Murphy Lee, Nelly and Ali, the recording features J-Kwon with Chingy and Murphy Lee. It ended a too brief set.
During his time onstage, J-Kwon came off as confident, unapologetically raw and almost humorously potty-mouthed, making it interesting to see how he’ll fair on “SNL” compared to recent polished “SNL” guests such as Usher and Avril Lavigne.
Before J-Kwon’s appearance, a number of rising local talents performed more than two hours of brief sets that, to their credit, moved along with barely a break in between. Several of the acts were from Nelly’s Derrty Entertainment label.
Ruka Puff was a standout. Just imagine three Bone Crushers - complete with removal of shirts, exposing lots of excess flesh – and you get Ruka Puff, which performed its song “Angry.” Another standout was Jng Tru and Taylor Made of “Whirlwind” fame, whose set featured Nelly and other St. Lunatics.
Also good were Beano with “Skip to Da Lou” and “Act Bad,” the All Stars with “So Serious,” Xta-C with “So Heavy,” and Kin Jacob and Prentiss Church. Others who performed included Chocolate Thai featuring Z, Hard Knox, Potzie, 2 Cent, Mysphit, Arch Rivals, Ahmad, Lil Loui’s and the Young Boyz.
Critic Kevin C. Johnson