As hip-hop enters its second generation of oldies-package tours, the artists on hand for the Kings of the Mic tour, like so many other old(er) rappers, generally bring together those from the most disparate ends of the community — for reasons endlessly debated and still unknown — like no other form of popular music. Who knows, maybe someone 30 years older would say that Buffalo Springfield did the same for them.
In any case, a ticket mishap and AVA's astoundingly unaccommodating management had me listening to kings of hippie rap De La Soul while I was in line to be checked for firearms. From what I could hear, they were just as not-for-me as they were in 1989. But time heals many wounds, and De La's signature hit "Me, Myself and I" had the AVA metal detector guy and me nodding our heads.
Kings of rock critic rap (henceforth referred to as "RCR"), Public Enemy came on with little fanfare and no introduction, just like an indie-rock band, thus increasing their RCR points: a seemingly impossible task. As Chuck D's baritone blasted from the speakers, fighting with the noise Public Enemy passes off as beats, it was clear that the 20-plus years after they peaked have not diminished their live power by one iota. "Bring the Noise," and especially "By the Time I Get to Arizona," reached the LL Cool J fans and rocked the rock critics.
Ousted king of RCR Ice Cube turned up the professionalism from the bare bones production of PE (you're losing RCR points, Cube!) and his song selection was a little too "We Be Clubbin'" for this "Fuck tha Police" reporter. He smirked the whole time, and when he posed the proverbial question "Do I look like a motherfuckin' role model?" during "Gangsta Gangsta," it was more of a wisecrack than a threat. Ice Cube proved that you can direct Friday without destroying the memory of a few truly epochal records.
LL Cool J wants to stay relevant, and he did it by ignoring the fallout of "Accidental Racist." Also, performing classics "Goin' Back to Cali" and "Doin' It" with enough intensity to make us believe they were current was a nice trick, and it worked. Certainly, "I Can't Live Without My Radio" has a spot in the Knights Templar of RCR, and "Accidental Racist" aside, to paraphrase Chuck D, LL does as well.