We called it
. Monday night wasn’t a lineup of great hip-hop artists at the NY State of Mind tour. It was a lineup of the greatest artists to ever rap.
On a stage lined with iconic symbols of New York hip-hop — the Statue of Liberty in front of a wall of graffiti, newsstands and park benches — legendary turntable artist DJ Scratch warmed up the crowd, “quarterbacking the whole shit” as he put it. He ribbed those who had “just got a hook up” on some tickets and had no idea what they were in for.
Looking at the people walking into the event, one had to recognize just how many Wu-Tang shirts there were — a rock concert faux pas, to be sure, but here, everyone wanted to be part of the Clan.
After some introductions, Scratch announced that once the songs started, there would be no breaks. This, he assured the audience, was “real New York shit.” And for three straight hours, one beat would flow into the next with MCs popping up at random.
Scratch first went into a selection of classics from the ‘80s, ‘90s, '00s from the likes of Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Rob and Li’l Kim, all the while shouting out the 35-and-up crowd who would appreciate it the most and calling out the over-40 crowd to see where they were at and what they remembered.
Scratch led the audience through a map of New York rap, chronologically and geographically, moving through the boroughs of the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island as the auditorium of Dos Equis Pavilion filled with smoke. And, when the energy was at its peak, Scratch welcomed to the stage RZA as three screens lit up full of Shaolin anime.
RZA introduced the audience to the Wu-Tang Shaolin style.
DJ Mathematics took over the 1s and 2s above a screen displaying the Wu-Tang Clan and its members’ many, many gold and platinum records.
After leading the crowd in a chant of “Wu-Tang Killa Bees, We on a swarm,” GZA, The Genius, joined RZA on stage, followed by Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, U-God, the Ol' Dirty Bastard's son Young Dirty Bastard, Masta Killa but, sadly, no appearance by M.E.T.H.O.D. Man. Not yet anyway.
Method Man and Mastah Killa just killed it.
Each doing his own most iconic verse to the visuals from the collective’s videos, the Wu-Tang Clan made each member's presence known, fully becoming a single unit. Just as soon as the eight members had joined together on stage, they exited to the visuals from the film The Warriors
That’s when Nas’ name appeared above the stage. The audience was hushed as the screens went black, but rose to a roar again when the Illmatic
artist's voice came through the darkness and the rapper appeared on the stage.
Inspectah Deck was one of the legendary lineup of MCs.
To his left stood Raekwon, and on his right, Ghostface Killah, who would go on to call Nas the greatest MC on the planet later as he exited the stage.
Nas proved this to be true when the first beats of “Hate Me Now” dropped. The audience lost it, with an avalanche of hand waving and body rocking. Throughout Nas’ set, he had the accompaniment of a live drummer, which just made the beats hit even harder. Even the drink vendor between sections 101 and 102 had to stop serving and get down.
Raekwon and Wu-Tang Clan took us to the East Coast on Monday.
A highlight from Nas' time on stage was the audience rapping every word from his part on "Phone Tap," the hit from Nas' mid-'90s supergroup The Firm.
Midway through his set, everyone in the audience could finally feel it — the New York state of mind — that moment when every single person in the audience is in the flow. That moment when we all rocked our heads to the exact same rhythm.
U-God really was a god.
Nas felt it, too. Then he passed the mic back to Ghostface Killah and exited. The mic passing got hard to follow at that point, honestly. Not because it was forgettable, but because it was so incredible. When you see over a dozen of the best rappers pass the mic back and forth, you can’t help but be mesmerized.
Cappadonna was nothing to fuck with.
Then it came. The chant everyone came to shout: “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothin to fuck with.”
Every seated butt in the audience arose, and Method Man finally appeared. Indeed, Wu-Tang Clan really isn’t something anyone should be messing with. This wasn’t an event the regular concertgoer would understand. There really were no breaks. You wouldn’t have wanted one. That would have broken the cypher. Dallas was definitely in New York.
Method Man emerged midway through the Monday night show.
Young Dirty Bastard stepped flawlessly into his father's very big shoes.
The Wu-Tang Clan went on to play every song we wanted, and it was just as good as we wanted it to be. How could we put into words which was better? When Method Man lead us into "C.R.E.A.M.," when the ODB’s son led the audience in a chant of “Shame on a nig—” or when Busta Rhymes entered the stage to the tune of “Ante Up”?
It was electric. It was explosive. It was chaos. It was freedom.
Ghostface Killah was one of the big names at Dos Equis Pavilion on Monday.
Teasing the audience to match his rhymes, Busta Rhymes made the crowd fall silent. Along with longtime hype-man Spliff Starr, Rhymes demonstrated that there is, without question, nobody who can match his voice control, often going quiet or loud with his voice like a saxophone, dropping the bars of “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See.”
That’s right, Busta Rhymes was the headliner of the Wu-Tang Clan and Nas show, and he absolutely stole it with a lyrical speed, flow and density that is still unmatched. Busta made sure everyone in the audience knew it, too.
The concert didn't end in the typical rock show fashion either. There were no big exits, with the DJs taking control of the show just as seamlessly as they had ceded it. The evening came to a close slowly as the crowd filed out, each one with just a little more rhythm in their footstep.
So many fans wore their Wu-Tang shirts.
Young Dirty Bastard honored his father.
Ghostface Killah brought us to life.
GZA, The Genius proved his legendary status.
Nas was a highlight of the show.