There’s been a lot of debate over the health of hip-hop, but on Wednesday at the Hot 97/Pepsi Superstar DJ semi-finals (hosted by DJ Enuff) at S.O.B.’s, even the most vehement doomsayers were transported back to a time when, like Ms. Jenkins, no one had better not say anying bad about hip-hop. Imagine Talib Kweli (pictured, right), Mos Def (left), Common, Kanye West and Q-Tip on stage giving it to you so good that you remember why you fell in love with hip-hop in the first place. The poster children of conscious rap/alt-hop may not have breathed new life into the music, but for at least 30 minutes, they resuscitated it.
Talib, Mos, and Common even aptly performed “Respiration,” and the energy was incredible. “Escuchela, la ciudad respirando.” They all fed off one another, getting more amped with each guest appearance. There were Swizz Beatz, Saigon, Rah Digga, Consequence, Drag-on, and even Queen Latifah. Yes, you heard me, Dana Owens even performed a few bars of “U.N.I.T.Y”. But what really set the crowd ablaze wasn’t Kanye’s performance of his latest single “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’,” although it did receive appropriate hype from the crowd. No, it was Q-Tip’s rendering of “Award Tour.” Kanye looked more excited during the former Tribe member’s song than any hardcore hip-hop head in the place — and there were many.
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With no air conditioning, sweat dripping, heads bobbing, the audienceeagerly anticipated what each (pictured, left to right: Swizz Beatz, DJ Enuff, Saigon, Rene McLean, Common, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, and Mos Def) was going to offer to the cipher. Andwith each hit performed and the greatness of each veteran artist takenin, I really did believe that hip-hop was in fact alive and well. Butwhen it was time for the young ones to step to the mic, Saigon, Drag-on(where have you been?!) made me remember why Nas said Hip-Hop Is Dead.Rhymes about gun toting, gun clapppin’, bitches, and money are deadtired, but that’s all these newcomers seem to know. They apparentlythink that making large sums of money is the reason why hip-hop isstill kicking, but is that why anyone ever started making the music, orwhy we listen? Maybe I’m being a purist or just an old fart, but Iappreciated being taken back to the place when hip-hop was not onlygood music but also had something to say.