Kings of the Mic Tour
WIth LL Cool J, Bone Thugs N Harmony and more
Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas
Friday, June 26, 2015
For a while on Friday night, it seemed that Mother Nature maybe didn't want the Kings of the Mic Tour to happen. Ominous clouds had been threatening throughout the classic hip-hop festival's stop in Dallas at Gexa Energy Pavilion, but during Doug E. Fresh's set all hell finally broke loose. The rain came down in sheets, blowing sideways in the wind that whipped the surrounding trees in Fair Park. Worse yet, there was lightning — lightning so epic you could have charged a cover for watching it.
Fortunately, it wasn't. After waiting out a delay of roughly a half hour, the Kings of the Mic got back underway and the fans — most of whom had stayed put inside the venue rather than seeking refuge in their cars during the storm — managed to get what they paid for.
Before the rains came, Gexa had seen performances from some legends of '80s hip hop, including the Sugar Hill Gang, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Whodini and Big Daddy Kane. After Doug E. Fresh's interrupted set, there were still two more to go, the headliners Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and LL Cool J. The Cleveland Ouija Board aficionados that made it acceptable for “thugs” to harmonize were all in attendance. I was serving double duty taking photos, and as we entered the photo pit "Est. 1999," one of my favorite Bone Thugs tracks, was already in progress. I catch myself from being distracted by mouthing along to the lyrics; being able to recite those lyrics as a kid was a pretty big deal.
The crew were as agile as ever, zig-zagging left to right, right to left or left to middle as they rapped in step. The veteran gangster rap quintet proved they still had it delivering the rapid fire lyrics that mad them famous with perfect precision. Bizzy Bone seemed to be the crowd favorite, his solos generating an additional burst in cheers from the audience on every song.
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Once Bone Thugs had wrapped up, the crowd was treated to an elaborate display of turntablism by DJ Z-Trip, which doubled as a primer for the man of the hour, the headliner LL Cool J. Soon enough elevated above the stage, amongst the bright video board lights and some impressive pyrotechnics the Ladies Love himself appeared. LL started his set with “Momma Said Knock You Out.” At age 47 his stage presence seemed just as energetic as a 19-year-old kid, draped in red from the “I’m BAD” video. He worked his way effortlessly through other signature hits, including the “Who Do You Love,” “Headsprung” and an explosive performance of “Radio.”
True to form, LL — his set filled with his trademark love songs — made sure to take some time out for his female fans. There was one interlude where he handed out roses and brought one of the fans on stage to dance with him while rose pedals cascaded on the video board. It was all a little tacky, but also to be expected; it would probably be considered cheating if he didn't include it the show at this stage in his career.
But eventually there some signs of fatigue on LL's part. As the show progressed, there was a tad bit too much rapping done crouched down in the “prison pose” or sitting on the speakers. However, when and if the crowd seemed like their attention was waning he found a way to resuscitate them with creative hip hop medleys or standard crowd participation chants, which proved to be effective.
All in all, LL spared no effort in trying to put on a great show, and at the end of the night it was hard to complain — soggy clothes and all. It was a night to celebrate some of favorite rappers from yesteryear and to the most part they proved they could all still do it. The fans, too, deserved applause for toughing it out in the weather (except perhaps for the woman who repeatedly yelled at LL to "take your shirt off"). It was just a minor miracle that it all happened in the first place.