14 Thoughts on Def Jam’s 30th Anniversary Concert: More DMX, Less Peter Gunz
(1) Can a Def Jam anniversary concert without LL Cool J and Public Enemy be legit? Depends on what decade the doctor smacked your ass and welcomed you into this cruel world. Seventies babies were utterly violated. While Sandra, a 22-year-old Brooklyn native, shrugged then proceeded to create her own dance space when DJ Kid Capri played Bobby Schmurda’s “Hot Nigga.”
(2) Def Jam did manage to corral a handful of iconic and semi-iconic stars inside the Downtown Brooklyn house that Jay Z built. (By the way, did we mention that Jay Z wasn’t there? Yeah, he wasn’t.) But the impressive history that Def Jam has laid could’ve been amplified with some creative pairings. Make that shit fluid. Let’s see a Def Squad reunion for Keith Murray’s “Yeah Yeah Yeah U Know It.” Bring 2 Chainz out with Big Sean for “All Me.” Unleash the dog DMX alongside Method Man and Redman for LL’s “4, 3, 2, 1” (LL. Cool. J. Wasn’t. There. Unreal.).
(3) Warren G’s G’d up sound was incredibly meek. To be fair there were several factors going against the west coast legend. (1) He was on the east coast. (2) In 2014. (3) In Brooklyn. (4) Rapping to a half-empty arena. Salute to the people who two-stepped to “Regulate” though. The effort was appreciated.
(4) Onyx’s “Slam” will never gray. Ever. Decades from now, when Fredro Starr is wearing Depends and Sticky Fingaz is plucking vitamins from those 7-day dividers, their biggest record will retain that same amped energy. The boys will be boys forever.
(5) Foxy Brown always had flow and solid breath control but she looked rusty and winded during her scattered set. “Take You Home” was short. And “Rock With You” is a cool song for Foxy stans but it didn’t connect with the casuals. Props to her for bringing Spragga out though. The Barclays massive was there for that. Unfortunately, she didn’t perform “Hot Spot” or her breakout verse on “I Shot Ya (Remix)” by this LL Cool J guy I keep hearing about.
(6) There were several takeaways from Method Man and Redman’s set. Notoriously tardy for interviews, Method Man was on time for this concert. One of the acts was late and got scolded for it because the chronic duo got pushed up as a result. Other lessons: Meth will be heated if you sit during his and Redman’s set. He’ll take a sip of bottled water and douse you with the rest for lying idle. And you’ll take it sitting down, apparently. Perhaps the best takeaway (Outside of watching Redman do “Tonight’s Da Night”): They’re working on Blackout 3 and How High 2. This might not move the Sandras of the world.
(7) Erick Sermon and Parish Smith needed to put their accomplishments in perspective so they created a new song comparing their lifestyle and accomplishments to more current MCs (Erick needs credit for the fisherman hat/Timbaland combo, FYI). The set was one of the better deliverables: “Crossover”, “So What Cha Sayin”, “Just Like Music” and “Rampage”. What’s that? LL Cool J has the best verse on that record. Yeah. Stop asking.
(8) Are Ja Rule and Ashanti the hip-hop Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell? Probably. Ja Rule’s solo hits and duets felt good, especially the hometown pride of “New York” and DMX-lite aggression of “Holla Holla.” But you quickly remember how big of a star Ashanti was once Ja exits stage right and lets her cook. The whole crowd was swept up by the brilliant redundancy of “Baby.” Love-tested women and emo tough guys sang along to “Foolish.” And “Only U” is one hell of an arena anthem. She kilt it like a Scottish skirt.
(9) Breaking News: Big Sean’s line “My girlfriend’s on Glee and shit/Probably making more money than me and shit” has been modified. He replaced “more” with “less”. Cue “I Don’t Fuck With You (IDFWU)”
(10) Peter Gunz stopped by and did “Déjà Vu (Uptown Baby)” minus Lord Tariq. This was quickly overshadowed by his exit statement: “Keep watching my bullshit. It gets worse. A nigga gotta eat.”
(11) Fabolous must’ve had a memory lapse when he did a roll call for his day ones and then kicked off “Breathe,” his classic record from album number three, Real Talk,. The actual early hits (“If They Want It,” “Young’n (Holla Back),” “Keepin It Gangsta”) were skipped in favor of contemporary material (“Make Me Better”) and mixtape classics. The Brooklyn boy is obviously a phenomenal rapper, but his live performance is as laid-back as his flows. That Opening Ceremony 3/4 jacket-trench hybrid spoke volumes though.
(12) You’re either an arena artist or…not. No slight to anyone on the bill but Dark Man X has the charisma, comedic timing and alpha-dog personality to wrestle a crowd into submission. We gather that he was only supposed to do three songs but X doesn’t follow rules. “Get at me Dog” didn’t make the set list but his Good For You monologue (“You got a Bentley? Good for you. You getting money? Good for you. But my dogs are hungry”) and prayer to the Lord were nice add-ons. Next time they extend X an invite someone should remember that he scored two number one albums in one year.
(13) One of the most disappointing no-shows of the night was Jhene Aiko who said via Twitter that she and her band were told to “get the fuck out” by a Barclays employee. Jeremih also didn’t perform.
(14) Apparently Rick Ross closed out the show and brought out some modest surprises in Stalley (whose impressive new album Ohio is out next week) and Khloe Kardashian’s former bae, French Montana. We wouldn’t know because we was too busy channeling our inner Boomer, growling and barking like DMX throughout the Barclays halls and BK subways. Because after X, things could really only go in one direction, and it ain’t north Still, check out some highlights from the MMG boss’ set here. I’m sure “Fuck With Me You Know I Got It” rang off, albeit without the song’s creator, Shawn Car… ah, nevermind.