Legendary artists such as Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh and more bring special show to House of Blues Saturday night
Along with hip-hop icons Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Boogie Down Productions, Newcleus, Run DMC and Afrika Bambaataa, only a few other artists are considered legitimate legends in this American music genre.
Doug E. Fresh, the first master of the human beat-box -- and still considered one of the greatest -- is certainly such a legend. In 1985, as one of the biggest hip-hop stars on the planet, he and MC Ricky D (a London native who moved to the Bronx and became involved in New York's burgeoning hip-hip scene, soon after to be known as Slick Rick), set the world on fire with their danceclub hit "The Show/La Di Da Di." The two had met a year prior at an MC contest in New York, hit it off and have been connected ever since.
That song is sure to be injected with a lot of fun while the pair do it in Atlantic City for what is being billed as the "Inaugural Legends of Hip-Hop Concert," scheduled to take place at the House of Blues at Showboat on Saturday, June 27. On the bill with Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick are Biz Markie ("Vapors," "Just a Friend"), Kool Moe Dee ("Go See The Doctor," "Wild Wild West") and Philly's own Schooly D ("Signifying Rapper").
Slick Rick -- whose 1989 breakthrough The Great Adventures of Slick Rick solidified his place in hip-hop history with tunes such as "Children's Story," "Teenage Love" and "Hey, Young World," among other raunchier yet cautious tales of drugs, sex and violence -- has been a favorite among MCs and hip-hop fans for decades.
But in today's hip-hop world, artists of yore have been swept aside by record companies, which, in conjunction with outlets such as MTV, have helped to create a stale modern version of hip-hop that's been tearing up the charts, yet not the hearts of old-school hip-hop fans.
According to Chill Will, agent for Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh (as well as long-time DJ in Doug's Get Fresh Crew), making records isn't as important to old-school rappers as live performances are because that's "what the fans want." According to Will, Saturday's concert in Atlantic City is the only one planned for the entire country due to routing conflicts stemming from all of the artists' still-busy performance schedules.
Although most of the artists on the bill haven't put out new material in years -- Slick Rick has been recording and plans to put out a new album in the future, according to Will -- it's all about the live performances that keep these artists going.
Doug E. Fresh, for example, "is the busiest of all the [artists on the bill]," according to Will. He still performs frequently and has appeared in Atlantic City several times in recent years.
"Doug is on the road [all the time]," says his DJ and agent. "We travel a lot. We perform at least three to four times a week." Doug and Will just recently made stops in New York, Philadelphia, Trenton and Chicago.
"I can't even remember the last record we put out; it's been a [long time]. But it's the show, it's not even the records, you know? We put a lot of time and effort into [our shows] because this is where we came from. We [were] performing before we even had records, so it just kind of stuck with us."
Like Doug E. Fresh and Schooly D. -- the latter of which was one of the first rappers to get censored for his songs about drug use and violence -- Slick Rick was a pioneer in his field. His songs included deft rhyming and a unique vocal style that showcased his extraordinary ability to tell a story -- many with caring advice for the younger generation. Check out the lyrics to "Hey, Young World" sometime.
One of the world's great singer-songwriters, Gil Scott-Heron, who many consider, along with The Last Poets, to be one of the progenitors of rap, sang a similar tune on his last studio album, the 1994 masterpiece Spirits. In the song "Message to the Messengers," Scott-Heron unleashes a heartfelt "message" to the rappers of the 1990s with such memorable lines as "We got respect for you rappers and the way they be free-weighin' / But if you're gon' be teachin' folks things, make sure you know what you're sayin'."
Rakim, Slick Rick, and Biz Markie, who will join Special Ed Friday, Aug. 24, at the House of Blues at Showboat in Atlantic City.
"It’s cool to get up with Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, you know, Doug E. Fresh, who leads the pack with the most shows each year, and everybody’s catching up. So it’s more than just a show, it’s kind of like checking who weathered the storm, who has stood the test of time, and it’s about a second coming coming back around because [hip-hop] music of today is not what it was yesterday."
The music world lost a great talent on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Born Dwight Myers, the rapper known as Heavy D., like his contemporaries Will Smith and Dana “Queen Latifah” Owens, used the art form of hip-hop videos as screen tests for future acting roles. Heavy went on to small-screen acting roles on the shows Roc and Boston Public, and to big-screen roles that include the new Tower Heist.
“I just want to get out there and do what I want to do. I love to go to the stage, that’s particularly so at Stubb’s. I feel very comfortable there. Some of the best and most knowledgeable fans are in Austin and that shows whenever I play there. It’s a great place to record. But I love to play anywhere. Just give me that opportunity and I’ll go.”
Plans were in the works to try to get Scott-Heron to perform in Atlantic City this summer, for one of the city=sponsored concerts at Gardner's Basin. I also suggested to the organizers of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan festival coming to Atlantic City June 24-26, to reach out to Gil to have him as one of the dozens of artists on the bill.
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