For all future hip hop shows in DC, can we start checking hip hop credentials at the door, please? First rule: No entry for anybody wearing those dumb azz hipster glasses. Second rule: No attempting to breakdance in the middle of the floor. Switch those around as you deem necessary.
P Vs P: Premier vs Pete Rock (The Ultimate DJ Battle) at the Howard Theatre on July 19, 2013 was a fun and compelling show… if you take their performance time of 1:30am to 3:30am, make it start at 11:30pm instead, and leave out the pre-show parade of irrelevance. Leave Kurtis Blow as the host, but give him something better to do than rustle together a dance-off if the audience must wait until 1:30am to experience the hip hop they paid for.
Doors opened at 11pm, and a long line had already formed down the block. A midnight start time would have been perfectly reasonable, except that the show started with some elements that took away from the majesty of this historic event. First, fans were shown a mini-documentary about the Geto Boys’ recent performance at the Howard Theatre. It was cool for them to show fans how the Howard does hip hop while showcasing the talent of one of DC’s finest artists, Demont Peekaso; but such a video should have been no longer than two minutes. The artist himself did his thing on stage during the P vs P battle, and as always, he was a magnificent addition to the show.
So, after we watched a freakin’ movie, Kurtis Blow came out, introduced himself as the host, and then announced a dance-off. For real, yo? For real, joe?
The two competing crews were the Beat Your Feet Kings [mild, supportive applause from locals] and the New York City Breakers. It could be an age thing, but then again, I’m younger than most people who grew up in the era of what folks who like REAL HIP HOP refer to as REAL HIP HOP, including Pete and Premo. It was just too much damn dancin’ and hoppin’ around. Had a sista thinking in Ice Cube lyrics. I don’t wanna see no dancin’/I’m sick o’dat shit… ‘Cause yo, if I see another brother /on a video tryna outdance each other…
Whether I’m too old or too gangsta, the movie and dance-off together lasted a whole HOUR.
Kurtis Blow asked the crowd to decide who won the battle, and of course, they chose the crew from NYC that could do flips n’ shit. But, about the crowd: when Kurtis did his host duty of checking which geographical regions were in the building, this crowd cheered more loudly for the Baltimore Ravens than for the Washington Racistassnames. Also, the VA representation responded more loudly than both DC’s and MD’s. Judging by all the people who didn’t answer the calls at all, there was likely way more than just the native DMV in the house. Still, Kurtis Blow was gracious enough to remind the crowd that they were in DC so they should show the Beat Your Feet Kings some love. Here is where I avoid eye contact with you.
Anyway, Kurtis did his job by stretching out the pre-show/post dance-off while Pete Rock and Premo prepared to perform. Arguably the longest 15 minutes in hip hop show history. Somewhere along the way, he started freestyling. Some young’uns near me shouted, “Get your old ass off the stage!”
In his defense, Kurtis was a victim of the unnecessary opening activities. It was 1:15am by this point!
Evidence of a toxic interaction between show timing and annoying audience behavior was also noticed by a real hip hop fan posted right up front by the stage. “I left a bit before 3[am],” said Filinegro, a PG County native. “I was around people that took up five feet of the floor when they danced. The three guys behind me booed Kurtis Blow.”
Speaking of the audience at the Premier vs. Pete Rock DC show, there were two pockets (no gogo) of persons who, for some reason believed: 1) that they should take up a large area of floor space to do some very poor, bastardized form of breakdancing, and 2) that the rest of us were smiling with them, instead of being flabbergasted at how badly they danced AND that they were *fingerquotes* breakdancing at all. We Black, Latino, Asian, and White hip hop fans can come together in a Martin Luther the King-type dream of not letting our brothers and sisters do this at hip hop shows. Yes, we can. – President Barack Obama
When asked his overall opinion on the show experience, Ant, a hip hop analyst from Charm City, also expressed disapproval of some audience members’ behaviors. “Proudly being a part of a culture which I believe has mostly been about delivering a message about the environment—a la ‘look at this’, many elements of the show displayed several examples of today’s portrayal of focus of bringing attention to oneself—a la ‘look at me’. In other words… it’s not about you! Stay in your lane and enjoy the show. I did.”
The actual show, the friendly battle between Pete Rock and Premier, was as splendid as it should have been. It was a dream just to see the interaction between the two legends. Three things gave a superficial impression that Pete Rock actually “won” the battle. First were Premier’s frequent exclamations of “You muthaf**ka!” when Pete Rock played certain songs. Next were Pete Rock’s numerous show off moments before letting a song play, which did a lot for suspense, but tested the patience of some. Finally, the two battled by doing each other’s music, so Pete Rock was playing some Premier bangers while Premier was playing things that sounded a bit light in comparison. Of course, the duo rocked us as well as we expected, and lingering fans were able to interact with them and take pics for a brief moment after the show.
Until next time… Here’s to sucka free hip hip show audiences!
Shamless shoutouts to DJ Soyo, Bootsy Vegas and other friendly faces in DC entertainment who prettied up the party.