On June 6th, I attended the Kings Of The Mic Tour at the Mahaffey Theater in downtown St Petersburg, FL. Early on in the show, the DJ remarked they’re filming a documentary on the historic concert so be prepared for the added cameras. In the rafters of the theater, we noticed a giant bag of red and yellow balloons overhead. Alt-rappers, De La Soul, opened the show and had everyone singing Bob Marley’s “One Love” as the theme of the night. The two remaining members of the band put the crowd into a party mood. Even though it was a Thursday night they told us it feels like Saturday and busted into A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays and closed with their signature jam, Me Myself and I.
Less than 10 minutes of set-up time between each act, Public Enemy and their huge entourage came next. The Bomb Squad was in full effect as the bass was turned up to 11. Chuck D was dressed in a blue sleeveless shirt and Flavor Flav was in a purple outfit. Flavor F said after their recent induction to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, he retired the giant clock around his neck but his energy was vintage 1991. Flanked by a full rock band, PE played a best-of set including 911, Terrordome, Bring The Noise, a hardcore version of Shut Em Down, before closing with Fight The Power.
The highlight of the show for me was seeing Ice Cube in concert for the first time. Wow! On each side of the stage were giant inflatable hands forming the “W” for Westside. The giant video screen reminded us that we’re heading to West Coast for some old school gangsta rap. After opening with Natural Born Killaz, Cube and W.C. traded verses on Check Yo Self with a remix of “The Message” added. Not to disappoint, Ice Cube told us that it feels like 1989 and he’s back performing with the hardest rap band of all-time. After a chant of N.W.A. and a video montage of Eazy E, Dre, and a very young Ice Cube, the duo ripped in Straight Outta Compton and Gangsta Gangsta. Much to my surprise, during the set, Flavor Flav and his bandmates snuck into the Loge Seats next to me and watched the O.G.’s masterful set. A metal version of It Was A Good Day closed the set.
LL Cool J was the artist the majority of the audience came to see this evening. After a dynamic 10 minute turntable set by DJ Z-Trip including a hip hop version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, LL rose from the back of the stage in a tight red t-shirt. He opened with Jack The Ripper, I’m Bad, and a dismal duet with Chuck D on the new single, Whaddup. I’ve always been a fan of LL’s party songs and his old school classics but it’s really tough to come across hardcore after following the combination of Public Enemy and Ice Cube. Of course, LL didn’t disappoint and played all of his crossover hits but his set paled in comparison to his powerhouse peers. It was my girlfriend’s first rap concert in her life, what a treat to see a Mount Rushmore of Hip Hop Hall of Famers still going strong.