One of the most invigorating hip-hop shows of 2009 occurred at Carrboro, NC’s Cat’s Cradle on December 12th, 2009. A chilly, drizzly Saturday night stood in contrast to the heat that was generated by the many fine performances as part of a Salute to DJ Premier and Pete Rock. It’s no exaggeration to say that without trailblazers like Premier and Pete, hip-hop would have never achieved its current status as a legitimate form of music and art.
9th Wonder – the prolific Durham producer responsible for some of modern hip-hop’s most recognizable tracks – was largely responsible for the putting the show together and keeping the festivities moving, and it’s clear that he was born for such tasks. Along with 6 other like-minded souls, he founded the True School Corporation as a means of celebrating the culture, music, and lifestyle of the late 1980’s and 1990’s. This was one of their most high-profile shows yet, and the entire evening was a celebration of those heady days and the unforgettable music that served as their soundtrack.
The highly skilled band, which featured members of the revolutionary, now-defunct Chapel Hill band Sankofa – did an amazing job recreating the biting drums, monster bass, and effervescent jazz samples that define Premier and Pete Rock’s style. Even more impressive were the rappers, who tackled the equally imposing lyrical challenges with respect and energy.
There was palpable energy generated by the presence of Premier and Pete. Stationed on chairs on each side of the stage, the two legends offered thoughts throughout the night but mostly soaked in the proceedings. They saw a cavalcade of rappers such as Cesar Comanche, Tyler Woods, Actual Proof, and Jozeemo come to the stage and work through classics like Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “I Got to Know,” Nas’ “The World Is Yours” and “Nas Is Like,” D’Angelo’s “Devil’s Pie,” Jeru the Damaja’s “Come Clean,” Notorious BIG’s “Kick in the Door, “Juicy,” and “Ten Crack Commandments,” and Gang Starr’s “Mass Appeal.” 9th Wonder served as the voice of Premier and Pete’s turntables, vocally adding crucial elements like the “Mass Appeal” hook and completing the musical picture.
The timeless music, stellar performances, and artistic inspiration of this show, combined with a huge dose of humility on the part of everyone involved, helped produce a truly unforgettable night. It was amazingly refreshing to hear such a bevy of classic tracks performed with the vigor only a live setting can provide, and even more so to hear live hip-hop that doesn’t focus on cars, drugs, and guns. The supremely talented live band and nonstop procession of focused rappers elevated the concert to the highest level of live hip-hop, and many would do well to take a lesson from 9th Wonder and the rest of the involved artists.
A video from the DJ Premier Blog courtesy of 102Jamz: