Live: The Stretch Armstrong And Bobbito Reunion Waxes Nostalgic At Le Poisson Rouge
Better Than: Standing around and listening to rap with a couple hundred ex-backpackers in any other setting.
"We would go up to the station to hang out with our friends," said Bobbito to the people crammed into Le Poisson Rouge late last night. "Then we'd go on-air and talk. Those days were about hanging out and having fun." The station he speaks of is, of course Columbia University's WKCR, home to his hip-hop show with Stretch Armstrong. What was then a safe haven for New York's underground rap scene and hip-hop nerds all over is now the most legendary rap show to ever exist (for us, at least). While things have certainly changed since back then, tonight's 20th Anniversary party took us back to those days in the studio. Tonight was about Stretch and Bobbito hanging out with a couple of their friends while a couple hundred people looked on.
We got there in the middle of things, right as Masta Ace and Buckshot rapped "Crooklyn" to a mob of grabby twentysomethings who rapped their lines right back at them. They were two of a seemingly never-ending line of guest appearances: Raekown, Artifacts, Nice and Smooth, Beatnuts, Masta Killa, Pain in Da Ass, and Natural Elements all took on rap duties at some point in the evening. DJ Spinna, DJ Riz, Premier, A-Trak, and countless others looked on. And they all had something to say about the duo, too. "This was the first radio station I ever went on," said Buckshot as Stretch scratched over Black Moon's "Buck Em Down."
The party was more of an open mic hang-out for the 30-some rappers and DJs onstage, though. It was the type of thing where it was cool for one of them to run up to the mixer and play with the knobs to fuck with their friend on the turntables. Where you see DJ Spinna look over Stretch's shoulder to get a peek at what he's playing before saying, "Oh man, I almost forgot about that track! This is dope!" Or where you hear Mobb Deep's rare "Paddy Shop" demo cut into something that you've never heard before, only to have the DJ next to you explain, "This part of a freestyle he did at their show back in 1994." (And it's true, because you checked.) It's the type of party where unreleased studio footage (including Souls of Mischief freestyles) plays on a huge screen behind the DJ, and people in the room remember who took the video. Where it's acceptable for someone to grab the mic from Lord Sear, tell him to lose a few pounds, and then shake his hand.
The triumph of the night, for us at least, came as Nice and Smooth took the stage for a Gang Starr tribute with DJ Premier. The trio rapped "DWYCK", letting us all scream "Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is" along with them. Greg Nice used his time on the mic to try to prove to us that he's still got it (which he does); his mini-tirades about the golden days of hip-hop were supplemented with an equal amount of beatboxing. (This is where we'll tell you that we saw Smooth B rap "Cake & Eat It Too" over top.) Amid memories and jokes came a dose of rap hustle: Juju of the Beatnuts encouraged everyone to buy his new album, and Greg Nice ended his set with a joke about how he's available to perform at weddings, birthday parties, or whatever, "just to keep the lights on." (We're not sure he's actually joking, though.) Somebody do us all a favor and book him.
Critical Bias: I throw hip-hop happy hours.
Overheard: "When we were in the '90s of hip-hop, our hours were from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m., and we'd still go to work at 9 a.m."
Random Notebook Dump: Ran into DJ Mike B from L.A. on my way out at almost 4. He flew across the country for one night only to be here because it "wouldn't feel right to miss it." That is real fandom.