The Lyricist Lounge Tour
featuring Mos Def, Punch And Words, The Outsidaz, Master Fu’ol, Nature, Ali Vegas, and MC Spontaneous
The House of Blues, Orlando, FL • September 23, 2000
The Lyricist Lounge Tour is a show designed to bring exposure to lesser-known MCs, and show the world some of the sick talent that’s out there. In order to do that, a few fellows have created a double-CD compilation out on Rawkus Records that spawned a show on MTV, and now, this tour.
There’s something of a resurgence of socially conscious hip-hop, but you probably couldn’t tell by going to this show. With the exception of Mos Def, the focus here was definitely on the rhyming and bravado. Sometimes this show reminded me of a basketball game with all of the shouting and testosterone. But in the same way, there were some mad skills displayed that night. MC Spontaneous came out first with drummer Swiss Chris to warm up the crowd. He did a sort of rhyming comedy routine, with some dancing and jamming. The founders of the CD/show/tour came out next, and gave their spiel on how important this tour was. Then they invited some MCs from the crowd on stage to freestyle. After a good bit of this “extended” introduction, Ali Vegas came on. He’s an 18-year old MC from Queens, and although the audience gave him a lukewarm response, he played a solid set.
Next was Nature, who the crowd went nuts over. Energetic and livid, they got the crowd bouncing. It was around here that I got lost amid the logorrhea. I can tell the physical difference between Master Fu’ol, the Outsidaz, and Punch And Words, but the lyrical content got blurred. Master Fu’ol and the Outsidaz were really rowdy, pouring water all over themselves and the audience. The same girls came on stage to dance over and over, bumpin’ and grindin’ their little “hearts” out. My friend describes Punch And Words as having the best hook voices, which I’ve got to agree with. They were loose and tight in all the right spots. After all this, we waited through a long sound check for the arrival of the mighty Mos Def.
Mos Def’s show was something totally revelatory. The best way to describe it would be as a funk-soul-hip-hop extravaganza. Mos Def used his newfound popularity to assemble one of the illest touring bands I’ve ever seen. Dr. Know of the Bad Brains, Jack Johnson and Doug Winbrush of Living Colour, a jazz drummer who’s played with Wayne Shorter, a synth player who’s name I also didn’t catch, and.. Bernie Worell. Yes, that Bernie Worell, keys to the funk gods Parliament. I almost dissolved into fanboy drooldom when I heard him introduced. He looks old, but my god! Can he still rock! And that was the big difference between Mos Def and the other rappers. He’s not afraid to totally rock out. Check the last minutes of the song “Rock N’ Roll” on his Black on Both Sides album. Off that album, he played “Love,” “Hip-Hop,” “Umi Says,” and “Ms. Fat Booty,” which turned into an extended medley/remix after he started singing the Gregory Isaacs song he quotes on the album. His speech before “Love” was touching; the tough guy next to me who had spent the entire show with his arms crossed and nodding his head was sobbing into his friend’s chest. It was powerful. For the encore, Mos Def played a new song that’s not released yet called “Ghetto.” There was not an ounce of hip-hop in this song. The crowd stood stunned, and I nodded my head in pleasure. It was total emotive, message-driven rock. That set was all about the power of shared experience, musicsmanship and raw charisma. I was awestruck.