The late comedian George Carlin once told a joke that went: ‘I never did a 10, but one night I did 5 two’s’ . This is crude, but how I feel about my concert calendar this year. Maybe it was inflation in the beginning that stopped me, but I could not afford seats up front. yet, it allowed me ,in the end, to but cheap seats to 5 shows.
- *June 3, 2022 Knotfest – Slipknot and Cypress Hill, Grand Rapids, MI, Van Andel Arena
2. June 25th, 2022 – Dead and Company, Chicago, IL, Wrigley Field
3.July 15, 2022 – Norah Jones, Chicago, IL , Huntington Bank Pavilion
4.July 18th, 2022 – David Gray, Chicago, IL, Huntington Bank Pavilion
5. July 23, 2022 – Christ Stapleton, Chicago, IL, Huntington Bank Pavilion
First came a great thirty minute show by D.J. Law, in which he mixed down artists as diverse as Black Sabbath, Metallica, and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. This was a Bronx kids’ dream. Afterwards, and from a cloud of smoke, some from machines and some from the audience who were sparking up, Louis Freese, A.K.A. B-Real appeared live!
First off, happy birthday B-Real. To celebrate this event my life partner Spicey Girl Mel B and yours truly 1520, bought nose bleeds for Knotfest, Slipknot and Cypress Hill a week before the show. So on a Thursday night in Grand rapids, MI we drove into town. Not known as a traditional music town like Boston, Grand Rapids has proved a reliable location for high quality shows, with good restaurants and cheap parking.
Growing up, my dad preferred Frank Sinatra’s appeal. When most of the manufacturing jobs left New York City and major highways were built through it, things changed. Heroes were different for me, (Think Al Pacino from a certain 80’s gangster movie), and Frank never took a slug to the chest in a gang fight, called police f$&@ing pigs (not all of them, according to The Hill), nor walked on stage puffing a blunt the girth of his microphone.
Can you feel too old seeing a rapper older than yourself bringing the roof down? Not really.
Louis Freese is a big man, and wearing a shiny black jacket and caps, began his set immediately with a lyrical assault known as – I Wanna Get High. Next followed Insane in the Brain, Hand on the Pump, and When the S$&@ Goes Down. Lyrics, as usual, issued from his mouth fast like slugs from a 9mm. But the elephant in the room was ’where is Sen Dogg?’ Hospitalized before the tour, B-real assured the audience he was making strides from his medical setback. He also led us in a dog howl which comforted those of us who missed ‘The Dog’ badly.
So a little bit of background on Cypress Hill’s discography. In the world of deferred compensation, the highest three years of salary are often used in the formula for pension calculation. Like best three salaries are used in that formula, I am going to use the best three albums to describe Cypress Hill’s musical achievements. Given their marijuana use maybe highest’ does work well here. In any case, here we go. (Note, not every great album or song is included, no disrespect intended).
Cypress Hill Eponymous
I first heard the needle drop on Cypress Hill Eponymous around 1991. I was visiting a friend, and things were not going well for me. In other words, I was angry, yet I could not have discovered The Hill at a better time. There was trouble for me with openly duplicitous girlfriends, school grades deflated by privileged professors, and a lack of lucrative work. All of it was bugging me so bad I thought I’d snap. The song I heard was Hand on The Pump and it opened a new dimension in my soul. If it had been my own record and not a friends, I know I would have grabbed the needle and started to scratch. There were lyrics that hit home like ‘some say life is a bitch, ask that pump who dug his own ditch‘. This resonated with the urban wisdom I learned as a kid and had almost forgotten as pampered undergrad.
I did not need to pack a piece to understand it either. B-Real and Sen Dogg would never be mistaken for Shakespeare or Chaucer, but they got the job done for me then. I eventually bought the cassette and played side A all summer long. It took years for me to get to side B. Switching cassette or LP sides is no longer an issue, but it used to be.
“Gonna’ mush it up in your face fool!” – Sen Dogg quote
If alcohol is courage in a bottle, this album was manhood digitized in my book. As far as tracks go, if Insane in the Brain was the chart topper, When the S&*t Goes Down was the head chopper. Listening to this album, it took great self control for me not to pull out my gat when things got thick!
Temples of Boom
‘Fool just take cover now it’s all over/when I break you off a chunk of this mutha f$&@er‘ –Stone Raiders track.
‘You ain’t never caught a rabbit so you ain’t no friend of mine/it’s a habit f$&@ing up your tree with my nine,’ Cock the hammer track.
The above quotes are slang for…I don’t exactly know, but they sound cool. I got as far as figuring ‘my nine’ could mean my buddy, or my weapon, and ‘trees’ either marijuana or, actual trees being shot at. That was the thing with Temples of Boom, and The Hills rhythmic war on sense, its morally amorphous tracks often contain words from a different language, closely resembling a sort of Old English for Angelinos and Mexicanos. A truly vicious album as well, T.O.B. is home to the nefarious Boom Biddy Bye Bye that puts a chill in any hardened urbanites ear. Whether one is the perpetrator or victim is neither understood nor cared about once the tune lets it’s thuggish vibe loose.
This concert with The Hill begged two questions: first off, are there enough people around of for a late 20th century real rap show? I mean, this is a show everyone (like me) has dreamed of: Wu-Tang, Eminem, Run D.M.C., Public Enemy, Cube, and Dre. If I understood the internet better, and maybe how to do one of those ‘##’ things, I’d do it. So anyone reading this who likes this idea, feel free to start the movement. Looking around at the show I quickly found there was one person wearing Adidas, me. So Second question, are we 80’s and early 90’s hip hoppers irrelevant? That depends on what you think of iTunes.
Late to the game, I spent a large majority of my life collecting CD’s. This wasn’t a bad approach to music, expensive and costly for space, the had the allure of old LP’s in you for the entire artists work. This included sleeper tracks; good music that wasn’t a hit, but was still good listening. Tapes were also great, but required knowing someone who what all the music and could record the different track, pause the recording and get a knew one. The cassette would get passed around a group of friends until it landed on someone who kept it. Unlike D.J. s who spin vinyl, anyone with an iTunes account can make a play list and entertain. With pioneers electronic turntable, anyone can D.J. I had heard Cypress Hill from the get-go, and Hand on the Pump ushered in a new generation of aggressive and improbably goofy, Latin music based hip-hop. Yet this was a long time ago, so it was vinyl. A good friend made me a tape from the first album. I heard the rest on the radio. But it wasn’t till Pandora Radio and iTunes that I began my collection. Anyway, B-Real thank you Brother for playing on your birthday. May you have many more.
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