May 3, 2008 @ the Fox Theater, Detroit, was the “Pioneers of Hip-Hop” concert, running from 8 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. The first act was the Sugarhill Gang—at least, the current ‘official’ lineup- four guys and a DJ spinning the discs: The only original member remaining is Big Bank Hank, with others filling in for the original Master G and Wonder Mike (according to Melle Mel’s website, the pair are currently touring as a duo, “The Original Sugarhill Gang”). The group warmed up the crowd spinning excerpts from recent hip-hop hits, then going into “8th Wonder”, “Apache”, and eventually “Rapper’s Delight” (and an encore of the latter closed the set).

The next act was Kurtis Blow. First doing some call & response ad-libs over the “Christmas Rappin” instrumental (via DAT or CD), he then performed “AJ Scratch”, “If I Ruled the World”, “Basketball” and “The Breaks”. He peppered his set with some b-boy moves, and announced that 2008 was his 25th anniversary as an MC.

The following act was the sole female performer, MC Lyte, whose voice can currently be heard in a Tide detergent (!) commercial. Lyte, backed up by DJ K-Rock and a drummer/bass combo, performed “Stop Look Listen”, her verse from “Self Destruction”, “Paper Thin”, “Ruffneck”, “Poor Georgie”.

Next up (“I believe that’s me”) was Big Daddy Kane. Wearing a tangerine shirt, jeans and white fedora hat, Kane went through a set of abbreviated renditions of “Nuff Respect Due”, “Warm it Up”, his verse from “Symphony”, “I Get the Job Done” “Ain’t No Half Steppin”, and “Raw”. Toward the end of his set, Skoob Lover came on stage and he and Kane revisited some of their old dance routines to the crowd’s enjoyment.

“Six minutes, Doug E. Fresh, you’re on…” Doug and the get fresh crew (Chill Will & Barry B on the turntables) largely kept the crowd rapt with excerpts from assorted 70’s and 80’s soul and funk jams, even TV theme songs (thousands of black people singing the “Cheers” theme- priceless). He book-ended his set with “Keep Rising to the Top”, “The Show” and “La-Di-Da-Di” (with a throng of concertgoers onstage).

“Now that Whodini’s inside the joint..” Jalil, Grandmaster Dee, Ecstacy were up next (along with Ja’s brother Dr. Ice from UTFO), and they performed several signature songs, starting off with “I’m a Ho”, then going into “One Love”, “Five Minutes of Funk”, “Freaks Come Out at Night”, and “Friends”. Jalil poured out hennessy and champagne to people in the front row, announcing that 2008 was the 25th anniversary of Whodini.

Last but not least, the teacher finally took the stage. BET Hip-Hop Awards I Am Hip Hop honoree KRS-One was joined by a DJ and a young crew of breakdancers; his standards performed included one-or-two-verse renditions of “Sound of Da Police” (dedicated to Sean Bell), “Love’s Gonna Getcha”, “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know”, “My Philosophy”, "Criminal Minded remix 2008", “Hip Hop vs. Rap (a capella)”, and “Step Into a World”, but the Teacher seemed to mostly focus on freestyles and poetry interludes over instrumentals such as “Above the Clouds”, “All About the Benjamins”, and “Shook Ones pt. 2”. Sound problems seemed to happen about midway through the Blastmaster’s set, but he soldiered on. Clearly he could have gone longer, but the promoters started turning on the house lights at 12:30… ah well.. Still, an excellent show overall, I hope they come back soon, especially KRS-One.


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