Hip-hop is not only concerned with bling-bling, flossing, or how many women you have. It is not just rapping about these things over recycled Neptunes’ beats or over the beat of a well-known eighties’ song.
In fact, Real hip-hop, isn’t about any of these things, as was proven by Blackalicious, Dilated Peoples, and Public Enemy at the Ogden Theatre in Denver on Oct. 2.
Blackalicious got things jumpstarted with their brand of hip-hop that hearkens back to the funkier, jazzier, and more soulful days of the art.
The deft microphone prowess of Gift of Gab was in full force that night, as he breathlessly rhymed tracks from their new album “Blazing Arrow,” and their first album “Nia.” The highlight of the Blackilicious set was without a doubt “Alphabet Aerobics,” in which Gift of Gab makes use of a few words from each letter of the alphabet to create a whirlwind of alliteration and rhyming.
Dilated Peoples kept things live during their set with tight rhymes and even tighter DJ’ing by DJ Babu from the Beat Junkies. They slowed things down a bit from the frenetic pace established by Blackalicious with their laid back beats and rhymes, but this isn’t meant to imply their set was without energy. DJ Babu’s skillful work on the wheels of steel inspired just as many oooh’s and aaah’s as Gift of Gab’s rhyming. When Dilated performed such new classics as “The Platform” and “Worst Comes to Worst,” the crowd was still hyped.
Public Enemy, or P.E., closed the night out with a hip-hop history lesson. A full band consisting of guitar, bass, and drums supported Chuck D, and Professor Griff capably filled the void left by Flava’s absence. (Flava was M.I.A while dealing with traffic violations in New York.) P.E. ripped through such classics as “Bring the Noise,” “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Fight the Power” with their characteristic ferocity.
Matching the loudness of P.E.’s politics was the hard edge of the backing band’s music, and sometimes just plain noise. Their stage show was a little more involved than the others as two men in riot gear danced and performed martial arts to the music; and P.E. also had a man come out in a full George Bush costume as they expounded the ills of our current president.
It has always been about education through hip-hop for P.E. and this night was no different. As the music stopped during various points in the night Chuck D would give the crowd nuggets of wisdom ranging from the tripe MTV plays, to the fact that hip-hop has its origins in all types of music. P.E.’s music reiterated this last fact as they proceeded to rock out, get soulful, and get funky.
It has been said pop music is what hip-hop gets confused with. Each group was able to recall the days of hip-hop when the music wasn’t just about making gangster poses, but about education, social and political change and musical experimentation. Thus, there was no confusion this night as Blackalicious, Dilated Peoples, and Public Enemy was able to clearly and decisively show what hip-hop can and should be.