Allow me to preface this review by saying every Roots performance I've been to has been the best show I've ever seen. Last night's Hip Hop Honors tour kept the trend, but delivered a special dose of showmanship, because the Roots crew wasn’t there to play its own songs.
The group wasted no time jumping the show off with a cut from NWA. Skillz was on point for the assist as Black Thought led the rhyme fest. They bounced seamlessly from song to song through hip hop’s golden era. Between head nodding and hand waving to EMPD, Run DMC, Eric B & Rakim hits, there was barely a moment to catch a breath. The first highlight of the night was Questlove’s spitting a verse from UTFO’s “Roxanne” while still playing the drums.
Then, on the heels of Nice n’ Smooth’s “Funky 4 U,” MC Lyte slinked onto the stage like a panther rhyming “Cha Cha Cha.” The crowd exploded with excitement. The years were kind to her and in her Reggae-infused Adidas track jacket and shell-toes, she looks better now than she did in her hey day. She performed “Roughneck” and “Lyte as a Rock” among others. After pulling out the “Still D.R.E.” instrumental for the third verse of “Poor Georgie,” Lyte left the stage to deafening cheers.
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Skillz was up next. Despite being lesser-known than the headliners, he proved to be an artist worth a listen. The band blessed the bridge of “The Nod Factor” with a snip of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Superman Lover,” before Skillz rolled into the bluesy “Crazy World” with a hard-hollering hook. Soon it was back to the Black 'n’ Skillz tag team set, running through Nas’ “It Ain't Hard to Tell” and the Wu’s “Protect Ya Neck.”
Big Daddy Kane was next to “warm it up,” and brought along Scoob Lover for a quick dance break. Even after telling the audience he’d turned 39 last week, he went for all the moves and splits. Kane's set included a brief memorial for the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac.
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Following a few more individual sets, all of the artists took the stage to throw in their rendition of '90s hip hop gold including the Roots’ “Proceed.” Well after the house lights went on, the Roots and Skillz stuck around to slap hands with the devotees and Questlove autographed drumsticks before tossing them into the crowd. By the end of the night my abs were sore from yelling. That joint was better than New Year’s Eve in Times Square. -- Quia Querisma
Highlight of the show: Black Thought’s jaw-dropping rendition of Kool G. Rap’s “Men at Work.” Standing in place and rapping furiously, the entire house went wild at his show of what emceeing is really all about. I swear, he never took a breath.