By Chuck Cox
Music nostalgia is a funny thing. It kind of sneaks up on you. One day you’re playing a new song you can’t get out of your head so many times you know it verbatim in a matter of hours, and the next thing you know that same song is “old school.”
“Old school” was definitely the key phrase to sum up Monday night’s Kings of the Mic Tour at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie. Rap royalty LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Public Enemy and De La Soul made up a package tour that had the first generation of rap fans dusting off their Adidas with no shoelaces, Kangol hats, gold chains, and breakdance moves.
And it was an absolute party.
Starting with DJ Chuck Chillout warming up the crowd for 40 minutes by spinning old-school jams, De La Soul took the stage at 7:50 p.m. for a tight, 30-minute set that included “Potholes in My Lawn” and “Me, Myself and I” from the band’s landmark 1989 debut album 3 Feet High and Rising. De La Soul was the only act on the bill I had never seen before, and I really dug its show a lot.
I was a little surprised to see recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Public Enemy was up next. I expected it to be the final act leading up to headliner LL Cool J. As always, Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Professor Griff put on a tremendous show. It was amazing how many hits Public Enemy squeezed into 30 minutes, rolling through classics like “911 Is a Joke,” “Rebel Without a Pause,” “Bring the Noise,” and the rap anthem “Fight the Power.” To me, Public Enemy is the greatest rap group of all time, with the perfect chemistry of Chuck D and hype man Flavor Flav playing off of one another. It was my third time seeing Public Enemy, and I’ll do my best to see the group again any time it comes to town.
Next up was Ice Cube. And the former member of NWA brought his “A” game. Cube probably had the tightest performance of the night, giving the crowd career-spanning hits that still had a nice edge to them. Even though he’s become more known for his movies and commercials these days, Ice Cube told the crowd he’s “always been a B-boy” and “always will be.” He joked about playing Vegas when he’s 80 years old while wearing a suit and still performing gangster rap. Ice Cube is definitely a showman at heart. And he owned the crowd for 45 minutes. And can you ever really hear “It Was a Good Day” too many times? No, you can’t.
Finally, it was time for James Todd Smith, better known as LL Cool J. Needless to say, the ladies were quite happy when he took the stage at 10:30. With DJ Z-Trip spinning, LL had the most fan interactive show of the night. He brought several fans up on stage several times. For a little more than an hour, LL took the audience back in time to when hip hop was fresh, new and just plain fun. And dude still looks like he’s about 30. Chuck D and Flavor Flav also came out to do a song each with the headliner. I liked his variation on “Big Ole Butt,” which he said was the beat he used when he used to perform the song before it was on his Walking With a Panther album. And, of course, “Goin’ Back to Cali” sounded amazing. He closed the show with the incredible “Rock the Bells.”
I still love some rap music that’s out there today, but the era of rap when I was growing up is so much better. It’s a lot of fun to hear great songs that you know like the back of your hand performed live. And this was one of the best package tours I’ve ever seen. It was very well put together. I’d love to see it become a yearly thing with rotating acts.