The next day got off to a slow start. I was a little jet lagged and slightly twisted after a night on the town with, The Epecurean.
While I was at dinner and the bar, I knocked back a few straight Stoli Orange shots and a few martinis. It’s an early indicator of what the west coast swing is about to cause.
Rena and I played the picnic table in her backyard and caught up. We hadn’t seen each other since she moved to LA.
She left New York in ’06, deferred medical school permanantly and moved to Hollywood to get it poppin. She’d done a bit of modeling in her hometown and wanted to expand her empire. She’s brave.
I enjoyed a Cuban, the LA sunshine, her sharp mind, and sexy but serious manner. It’s hotter than normal and the temperature is kindda high too.
Earlier, she’d gotten up and offered me breakfast. Scrambled eggs and grits. Honey is an ivy league grad and tutors potentially exceptional kids with bad study habits, in order to suplement her income.
The grits are right. The eggs are perfect. I feel like I’m living some sort of Esquire type fantasy. As friends go, she’s top shelf. The cigar is adding a heady and relaxed feeling to the day.
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
Karuna is driving and she’s been slowed by the previous night’s events. She’s feeling the effects of the Bar Marmont’s beer menu. She was also coming in from the valley and sticking to a starter rock star’s schedule. Which means no real movement before noon.
When Karuna arrives, she’s rocking a mini dress with a burnt orange print. It appears to be really big balls of what could be called fire. Short sleeved with a scooped neck. She’s also wearing brown boots. She’s been made aware of the appealing appearance of her legs some time ago.
Rena and I hadn’t changed yet. We go ’80’s style. I’m wearing a classic black Adidas hoodie and shell toes. I look like I’m just coming from Nell’s and hanging with, Davey DMX and my old friend, Jam Master Jay. Rena decides to give us period break dancer and rocks a pair of jeans and suede Pumas. I expect her to start spinning around on the top of her head at any minute.
We go buy a few gallons of water for the trip to San Bernadino. It’s getting late but the LA sun is blazing by now.
We all pile into Karuna’s car and I plug in one of the hot i-pods and begin to fill her request for all ol skool hip hop. I forego all of the playlists and begin to lace her manually. I’m serving a steady diet of, Mobb Deep, Biggie, Jigga, Slick Rick, The Beasties, L Boogie, Crooklyn Dodgers and such. When Biggie’s, I Got A Story To Tell plays she squeals, “That’s my shit”. Karuna is expressive.
The distance is long but the trip is short. The company is pleasant and the music is hot. The water provides a nice balance and rehydrates me for another night of Rock The Bells.
When we pull up to the parking lot at the building, I begin to take in the setting. It’s a state park with rolling hill sides, a lake, mad grass and trees. Past the lake and up a winding pathway lies the venue. It’s breath taking.
As we’re nearing the summit, I hear the crowd responding to what sounds like a set from Zulu King, Afrika Bambatta. When Bam released, Planet Rock in ’82, I wonder if he knew how prophetic he was being.
Rena is concerned about my lack of a cell phone and gives me an extra one that she has in case we get seperated. She’s definitely holding a brother down.
We call, The Epecurian, Jackson because our tx aren’t where we thought they’d be. He tells us that we need to go to a vip window that’s halfway down the hill in the opposite direction. I’m less than enthusiastic.
A golf cart appears that has room for seven plus the driver. The deal is this: it’s a shuttle between where we are and the vip window.
The girls get on and I take the back seat that’s facing in the opposite direction. A young player jumps on with us, sits next to me and is kicking it with his homie about the price of admission on his celly.
Smoothly, he tells his boy that he wants in but, “he’s not trying to pay $150 for two right now.” I’m reminded of the way, Goldie addressd Pretty Tony in The Mack. I get the feeling that I’ll be seeing him, later on, inside.
We get to our destination and The Epecurean meets us. He brings three especially colored wrist bands that grant access to the backstage area. He then escorts us to a tent/lounge with; wood floors, a fully stocked open bar, finger food, disco styled couch seating, dim lighting and tv monitors for watching the show. The Epecurean loves to host.
Rena and Karuna make their way to the bar and I post up on a couch. They bring me a rum and coke.
Sans Fergie, the Black Eyed Peas are on the mic. The sound is low on the monitor and I begin to survey the room. It’s been set up for the clients and friends of corporate sponsor San Disk to meet the artists on the show.
Some eager young kid comes over and asks if I’d like to meet Raekwon. I tell him that we’ve already met.
The Pharcyde takes the stage next. I eat a couple of sliders and spring rolls. I do a couple of rounds and express disappointment over the lack of chicken fingers.
It’s time to go in. RTB is an all day festival that features two stages. I guide the girls toward the developing stage. The place where the fresh new begin to incubate their styles. Spank Rock is about to do his thing.
He’s phrenetic and wildly charismatic. Most of his shit is about pussy. He’s got some scantily clad dancer/back up singer chics in perverted drum majorette gear. He’s aided in this debauchery by, Amanda Blank. She too has a seriously nasty mouth. There’s a lot of ass shaking going on. I’m enthralled.
The hot internet buzz story from the LA set is centered around another artist, who is scheduled to rhyme on the developing stage. Incognito performance artist and mc, MF Doom.
The second white rap act signed to Def Jam was, 3rd Bass. A duo that featured, Pete Nice and hip hop utility player, MC Serch. Their hit, The Gas Face featured a stirring guest soloist performance from Strong Island born, Zeb Luv X.
X spit hard enough to make it stick and was rewarded with a deal at the then newly hip hop directed, Elektra Records. He was signed by their fresh faced A & R exec, Dante Ross.
X was about to release a highly anticipated solo project and was then derailed by corporate politics. The artwork for his cd cover depicted a black man being lynched.
In a move that foreshadowed their dropping Ice-T, in the wake of the controversy surrounding his phsyco killer anthem, Cop Killer. The Warner Music Group dropped X and he never recorded for a major label again.
Instead, he reinvented himself as the mysterious, independently distributed, MF Doom and is never seen in public without his mask on.
THE FACE OF DOOM
Doom was due to come to the developing stage. Ardent fans waited and waited. They grew restless. An hour passed or more. Suddenly, Doom appeared and started to rock the mic.
After his set began, a few fans noticed a slight difference in his voice. Then someone noticed that he was a little bigger than the last time they caught one of his shows. First a buzz and then the realization spread through the audience that it wasn’t Doom after all, it was an imposter.
Debris was thrown. Insults were hurled. Boos soon folllowed. The imposter was driven from the stage. The audience let it be known that when it comes to Doom, they’ll accept no substitutes and that only the rebranded X will do.
RTB don, Josh Boumel’s wife Jonelle is in the area. She seems pleased to see me again. She’s elected to wear a bit more than she did at the NY show. She introduces me to quite a few people, none of whom I remember right now. She’s distracting.
During Spank’s set, Rena excused herself in order to speak to a cousin doing AIDS awareness volunteering for the afternoon. Karuna and I caught more of the show.
Rena returns, Karuna excuses herself to find a restroom and we don’t see her again until it’s time to go.
Rena and I go over to the main stage to see what’s what. Once again, Red and Meth are displaying their absolute performance mastery. It’s obvious that there’s a hunger in the audiences that I’ve witnessed for a new cd from them.
The Mos Def most special one. Actor, rapper, singer, mc extrordinaire and all purpose art nigga is flowing too.
I’ve know Mos since his hype man days with, De La. He’s always had artistic integrity. Lately, the price of maintaining it has been a bit high.
Mos has a decade in the game. His first release – along with Talib Kweli – the eponymously named, backpack masterpiece Black Star showed promise. His solo debut, Black On Both Sides contained the street come on anthem, Miss Fat Booty and the classic afro-centric ode to his mother, Umi Says.
His subsequent releases have increasingly dwindled in sales. They haven’t delivered on the promise of the first two. They seem to lack focus and his music career has lagged behind his acting work.
At his invitation, I caught his Broadway debut opposite Jeffrey Wright in Suzan Lori Parks’ Pulitzer prize winning play, Top Dog Under Dog. Mos was magnetic. I wish he could capture that spirit in his music again.
TOP DOG UNDERDOG PLAYWRIGHT SUZAN LORI-PARKS
We go to the backstage area. There I run into old friends and new ones. Josh Boumel expresses pleasure in seeing me on this side of the country with the tour.
On fire, west coast producer, DJ Khalil introduces me to, “The Chosen One” Jay Electronica.
Long time, NY character actor, Michael Rappaport sees me after many years and greets me warmly. He’s financing a self produced and directed documentary on Tribe and asks if I’d appear in it. He’s recently read of my exploits with, D’Angelo at Spin.com and comments on how wild the piece is. I tell him that I’d be honored to be interviewd for the film.
I’m back in the house in time to catch Nas. Like the pro he is, he bodys ’em.
Tribe comes through again and delivers what I thought was not only their best performance that I’d seen on the tour. But the best received.
LA in it’s way is the second home of hip hop. Especially ol skool. As you moved around the country in the ’80’s and ’90’s it was difficult to find access and exposure for rap records and artists. Black owned FM radio stations that played mostly R & B didn’t want to play the music.
LA was different. KDAY-AM located at 1340 on the dial was rap friendly. On a percentage basis, it played the most rap music of any station in the country at the time. Long time rap fans in LA know the history of the music. Not just the singles.
With this as a background, Tribe crushed ’em. The crowd went crazy. LA was ready for their game.
Rena commented that, Tribe’s The Low End Theory was her first rap album ever. She’d forgotten how many hits they’d had.
After the show was over, we reconnected with Karuna. She’d been hanging out all day with, The Epecurean.
We found the car and I suggested a late night meal at bohemian cafe, 101. Neither of my friends had been there before. It was a pleasure to introduce them to it.
After more eggs and toast, I called it a night. The next day, my adopted family, the Hazzards threw a barbecue for me at their home. I needed to rest. When Jaleesa Hazzard throws a party it’s real.
to be continued…
shouts to Coach Walt Hazzard, Steve and Candi McKeever, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Cool Kids, Laura Checkoway and…The Wirk