Hip-Hop is Bigger Than the Government: The Roots + Erykah Badu @ The Jacques Cartier Pier
I have strong feeling that the Roots Crew from Philly are some of the coolest cats around. On Tuesday night they played a solid opening set for Eyrkah Badu at the Jacques Cartier Pier in the Old Port. The venue is absolutely splendid, as it offers a view of both the waterfront, including Habitat 67, as well as the downtown skyline and the majestic palaces of Vieux Montreal.
Musically, I always prefer to see a hip-hop show where the group is actually performing. This is what the Legendary Roots Crew does, with absolutely no sonic aids of any sort. In fact, they donâ€™t even bring a DJ on tour with them. So they were actually playing everything you heard: a marvelous concept for a rap group. When I entered, I was welcomed to a medley of classic rap songs ranging from Biz Markie to Beastie Boys, and it all sounded really good. Later on, the Crew got a little bit jazzy and even took a very prog-rock jam style approach to a lengthy instrumental piece featuring the guitarist and the tuba-ist.
Thatâ€™s right, you read it right. The Roots Crew had a tuba player (kind of like my great grandfatherâ€™s Yugoslavian folk marching band). The only thing better than having a dude with a huge tuba in a rap group is having him throw down sick tuba bass lines and dubbing him â€˜Tuba Gooding Jr.â€™. In addition to the brass, the Roots boast the best drummer in the industry. If I could select my own all-star pop group right now, there is not doubt in my mind that Questlove would be my first pick for the crucial drum position.
Black Thought and Capt. Kirk were solid on vocals and guitar respectively, however, I missed the presence of a freaky beat-boxer or vocal turntable-ist like MCâ€™s Scratch and Rhazel. The new album on Def Jam Records, â€˜Rising Downâ€™, sounds like some solid jazzy hip-hop, and is definitely worth putting yours ears up to if thatâ€™s what youâ€™re into.
After a long Roots performance, the crowd had to settle for a very long wait. Apparently Eykah Baduâ€™s tour bus was lost in Sherbrooke. I donâ€™t buy that. I bet Ms. Badu was busy getting wasted and taking fully clothed dives into swimming pools, but thatâ€™s just my conspiracy theory. Although it started to get chilly, the wait was definitely worth it. Erykah strutted onto the stage like the Queen Diva she is and provided one of the most impressive vocal performances Iâ€™ve ever witnessed.
She played a good mix of the old and the new, but the fans were clearly more responsive to the former. â€˜Baduizmâ€™ album tracks like â€˜On and Onâ€™ and a fast-paced version of â€˜Appletreeâ€™ received a much better reaction from the crowd than material from â€˜New Amerykahâ€™. She also turned down requests for â€˜Bag Ladyâ€™ and teased us with just the opening verse of â€˜Next Lifetimeâ€™.
For some strange reason, Erykah felt the need to bring her laptop on stage with her. Iâ€™m not sure if she wanted to play DJ or had some important Facebook correspondence coming through, but the concept added little to the performance. I was much more impressed by the synchronized choreograpy and vocal harmonies that Erykah engaged in with her awesome backing vocalists. All in all, I have to label it a wicked show, however, Iâ€™d love to hear if the people who threw down $50 for it agree.
Photos from Flickr user Jazmin$Million