Here we are, weed smoke creeping up our noses, trying to work out the beanie to snap-back ratio at the Forum, when it’s announced that there’s a last minute change to the Rap City line-up – DOOM is now on first, before the support act. It being a hip hop show, we’re just impressed everyone turned up, but you can imagine some tardy DOOM fans aren’t going to be happy.
The masked villain ambles on stage, his metallic visage gleaming, beer-gut protruding. He delivers the entire set solo, no hypeman, no DJ. He waddles back and forth across the stage while shuffling casually through his extensive back catalogue, dipping into Take me To Your Leader, Born Like this and Vaudeville Villain. It’s a good thing he has a loyal army of minions, because DOOM makes little effort to impress first-timers, rapping downwards into the mic rather than really out to the crowd. But that’s just his style – he’s not a performer. He is what he is – a bald, lazy, big-bellied man in his 40s – but still selling out shows around the world.
‘Rhymes Like Dimes’ from Operation: Doomsday goes down easy with the crowd, the bouncy track standing out from a playlist of similar sounding downbeats, due mainly to a poor mix with overpowering bass. Another favourite was the crowd-shaking “Benzie Box” (which used to be my ringtone, so it felt like the whole Forum was set to vibrate). After Madvillainy’s ‘Rhinestone Cowboy,’ DOOM calls it a night and exits the stage, after reminding us to “take care of each other and love one another.”
So the guy I’ve never heard of follows the established rap legend – sure, makes perfect sense.
Beginning with an offstage rap of ‘Never’ while his hypeman and DJ rile up the crowd, the Khal Drogo of rap muscles his way into the spotlight. Okay, sorry for the nerdy Game of Thrones reference, but Chino XL is just a ridiculously large man. He lets us know straight up that he’s a rapper with feelings, dropping a tribute early in the set with ‘Don’t Say a Word’ calling for ‘one finger in the air for J Dilla.’ He then proceeds to tell us he is literally a lyrical godsend with ‘Messiah’, and that we should pretty much burn our copies of Hemingway and Joyce and the rest because we just never knew shit about language until this moment right now. But it’s easy to pick on the beefcake who managed to discover alliteration. He’s got an arsenal of zinging one-liners, his delivery is crystal-clear and perfect, and he’s quickly revived the energy slump after DOOM’s mellow set.
Ghostface’s DJ stirs up the crowd by asking what city he’s found himself in, and by 11:30 the crowd has been addressed incorrectly so many times by now even they are chanting ‘Mel-bornnn.’ When the crowd has sufficiently proven their earnestness by screaming loudly at the gig they paid to see, Ghostface Killah and his crew emerge and launch straight into Raekwon’s ‘Criminology’.
It’s like the half-baked Wiggles – each rocking a green, purple, yellow, red, and black sweater. The red one is the most questionable Wiggle, struggling to stand up and dance, and finally settles for sitting down on a chair and smoking next to the DJ. The next two hits, ‘Ice Cream’ and ‘Be Easy’ go down sweetly, each track ending with the DJ pressing the ‘explosion’ button in his console. Throughout the show we find he really, really likes that button.
Ghostface plays the required quota of solo tracks like ‘Celebrate’, ‘Street Bullies’ off the new Apollo Kids, but the most anticipated tracks are the other Wu bangers, and he knows it. By the second half of the show that’s mostly what we get – ‘Liquid Swords’, ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya,’ and ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ lifting the roof off. The show is a fun party, but overall feels a little stale and loose. There’s way too much talking about nothing, and it all really starts to fall apart with ‘Protect Your Neck’.
Ghost decides to invite some hardcore fans onstage to rap Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s verses, so after a bit of confusion they find two girls having clambered beside them. There’s more standing around, then the girls get shepherded backstage. Two new guys replace them, one breezing through ODB’s section and earning the loudest cheers of the night, the other stumbling over the words. After this, the drunk white girl parade fills the stage, and we just watch them get grinded on by creepy hypemen in their 40s. Eww.
- Tacey Rychter