Hip Hop Hooray! Eric B & Rakim reunite + Fortress Festival w/ RZA & De La Soul & more (May/2018)

Great month for Hip Hop as some of the greatest of all-time where coming through town left & right including one legendary show I thought I'd never see:

Erik B & Rakim - April 25th - The Bomb Factory - Dallas, TX

Touring for the first time in 25 years, Eric B & Rakim brought a little mic-to-mouth resuscitation, some rhythm with radiation to the masses once again. 

Let me illustrate why Eric B. & Rakim remain one of the genre’s greatest acts:
Rakim exploded previous conceptions of what it meant to be a rapper with an arsenal of verbal hand grenades. It’s hard to overstate his influence on the form as one of the greatest MCs and lyricists ever. In terms of sheer delivery, Rakim was a game changer, one of the genre’s first true technicians. 

Rakim brought a jazzy presence to hip-hop with his unbounded, free-form approach to the music, deviating from the straightforward rhyme patterns favored previously. Moreover, he just sounded different. Steely yet laid-back on the mic, Rakim rapped deliberately, with poise and command, eschewing the let’s-get-the-party-started energy levels of so many of his fellow MCs — we’d call ’em peers, but really, Rakim had few. 

Now on to Eric B. - I personally am a DJ today because of Eric B.he has much impact on what it meant to be a DJ and producer as his partner did on MCing. Like Rakim, Eric B. possessed prodigious technical skills — dig his robo-wristed scratching on any of the three instrumentals on their 1987 debut Paid in Full. But it’s as a producer where Eric B.’s influence is most deeply felt. 

For starters, he played a significant role in popularizing sampling in hip-hop. About those samples: Eric B. favored old-school soul sounds, a then-novel approach that would quickly be absorbed by everyone from A Tribe Called Quest to the Wu-Tang Clan. 

In both sound and content, Eric B. & Rakim moved the genre forward, influencing a broad swath of descendants, from future indie backpack rappers who marveled at the duo’s musical progressiveness to the next wave of gritty New York City rappers who found stardom the following decade. All these years later, the music remains resonant. 

Setlist - 

Don't Sweat the Technique 
Guess Who's Back 
I Know You Got Soul 
My Melody 
In the Ghetto 
I Got It Made (Special Ed cover) 
One for the Money (Horace Brown cover) 
Hip Hop Junkies (Nice & Smooth cover) 
Move the Crowd 
As the Rhyme Goes On 
Microphone Fiend 
The R 
Eric B. Is President 
I Ain't No Joke 
Paid In Full


Fortress Festival - April 28th-29th - Kimball Art Museum - Fort Worth, TX

Man the lineup for this year's Fortress Festival was stacked, especially if your a fan of Hip-Hop & R&B.
I was very excited to see some of my all-time faves on the roster for a perfect weekend in the sun. This fest was so chill & easy - think about that - When you think of multi-day festivals your excited to see so many acts but you think about what a complete pain in the ass most festival experiences are. Not here, parking was easy, staff was friendly, there was only two stages to nagivate & they even had a sampler bar area. Good times.

Day 1 brought the noise hard with of 2 the GOAT in Hip-Hop

The RZA (Wu-Tang Clan)


Shabazz Palaces - 745pm  

De La Soul - 830pm  


Day 2 brought an artist that I have longed to see: Lee Fields & The Expressions -

His eyes shielded with dark sunglasses and decked out in a shimmering, silver shark-skin suit, Fields strolled on stage like a dazzling faith healer. Stocky and energetic, sizzling with charisma and charm, his mini-Afro patted neatly, perfectly, Fields got the room swaying with his smoky social commentary, "My World." As he sang this preamble, Fields unbuttoned his jacket, peeled his shades, extended his arms and lead us into the groove. 


Running through material from their fine albums, My World (2009) and Faithful Man (2012), Fields and his six-piece band revived soul. On songs like "Still Hanging On," "Fought For Survival," and "I Still Got It" they delivered the blessed touch through rump-tumbling bass lines, chicken-grease guitar licks, that organ-pumped, on-the-one rhythm and blues, and the trumpet/tenor-sax horn section punctuating Fields' wailed verses.  

Like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings or Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, Fields and the Expressions can channel multiple classic soul modes -- Muscle Shoals, Stax, Philadelphia International. But on numbers like "Money I$ King," where Fields shrieked James Brown-like over the band's grits, greens, and pass-the-peas funk, you could hear why early in his career he was sometimes called, "Lil' JB."



A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop w/ Wylclef Jean - May 2nd - Winspear Opera House - Dallas, TX

Full disclosure: My fiance' was on hand playing violin with the Dallas Pops & that's what got me in the building to check this out.
Secondly I say that to admit full bias but at the same time, you should know that previous to this event, I wasn't exactly a fan of Wyclef Jean. Sure I own a copy of the Fugees' The Score but it's not my go-to for Hip-Hop, not to mention every interview with Jean I read/see he doesn't come off very well for my liking. Next, I too actually did a gig with him way back in 2011 when the Super Bowl came to Dallas & I DJ'd a party for Maxim that we headlined. His show sucked & every performance I've seen on TV hasn't faired much better.

Naturally I didn't tell my girl all this cause I wanted her going into this hoping for the best. She's not the Hip-Hop afficiando that I am but she does like it when I play it & we have fun dancing when we go out. Let me cut to the chase & say that Jean eased my fears almost immediately & put on one of the most unique, engaging & memorable shows I've seen this year.


Jean also brought along his own electric trio and backup singer, introducing conductor Scott O’Neill with a rapper moniker, “Scott O.” 
The orchestra did a fine job filling out Jean’s songbook, culled from his time as a founding member of the Fugees, his solo career and role as a producer and songwriter. the raps were fluid and swinging, addressing a broad range of subject matter.
At one point, in spite of this being an opera house, he stormed the aisle leading a faux conga line like it was Spring Break.
Good times.


Photos - 

Roy Turner
Fortress Festival Staff


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