I really should have asked one of the hella people up front with a camera for a better shot, but you get the idea
When Eric B. famously set out to find an emcee in his home New York to rap over his handy scratchwork, and landed perhaps the best of all time, the game was forever changed. Rakim's rhymes broke ground for their mathematical complexity and fearless conveyance of street-level wisdom, and together they penned a quartet of classic albums. Last night was a celebration of this well of classic hip hop, and though he "ain't down with Eric B. no more" (a line he deferred to the audience), the God embraced every corner of his catalogue, paying heaviest tribute to that golden age.
It was more than a mere trip down memory lane though; the verses he blazed through with album precision sounded fresh off his tongue, confirming his lauded status rather than relying on its legend. Of course, there was a certain element of nostalgia, and the crowd full of thirty- and forty-somethings was there to capture it with a battalion's-worth of digital cameras. The onset of almost every song was met with a swell of enthusiastic responses like "I can't believe he's doing this one!" followed by the synchronized unholstering of image/video-capturing devices. People ate it up, and the prevailing vibe from the audience was that Rakim Allah had lived up to their expectations. Surprisingly, the place went especially pistachio when he dropped two of his newer verses: his song-ending nail-in-the-coffin from the Dr. Dre-produced Jay-Z cut "The Watcher 2", and the DJ Premier-laced "When I B On tha Mic." The latter set off a two-song encore which he was called back for before he even left the stage.
Other notes: The PA seemed a little quieter than normal (perhaps to accommodate the aging demographic, jk(?)) -- in fact, I got shushed for being a chatterbox by a guy behind me (who proceeded to illuminate our corner of the room with a super annoying video camera light) -- but you could hear Rak fine enough, so it wasn't an issue.
-Grynch played the second opening act (I missed opening openers Fearce & Bean like an idiot), and it was a strong set. His back-and-forth with long-time stage bud DJ Nphared is one of those warming things I look forward to when I see the dude's name on a bill. If they played it up even more, I would bring a lawn chair and popcorn, and be plenty entertained.
-At one point, Rak hopped behind the turntables and scratched for about fifteen seconds. He wasn't at all bad, but the shortness of it was pretty comical.