The Senator gets a taste of South Central
Excited as we were to see the brothers from Virginia, the Clipse, we hurried (rap nerd style) down in time to get our head nod on to now-classic material like “When’s the Last Time” and “Cot Damn” from their 2002 debut Lord Willin’. Sweltering in the heat from the already impressive crowd (or maybe it was the $300 hoodies and Bape jeans they were rocking), Malice and Pusha T, joined by Re-Up Gang affiliates Sandman and Ab-liva, then launched into material from the newer We Got it for 4 Cheap mixtape.
The Clipse are renowned for being the originators of the burgeoning cocaine rap trend (the topic of most of their songs) that has somehow infiltrated mainstream rap radio. We half expected them to come out throwing powder into the audience while sporting Nosferatu nails, nose bleeds and mirror necklaces. Fortunately, the reality wasn’t reflected in the group’s lyrics. The Clipse rocked a straightforward set that revealed the hunger they have to reconnect with their fan base after a couple years of record label woes.
The rhymes were spot-on and suffered only a bit from ghost vocals present on the songs that featured guests who weren’t at the Senator. The Clipse took full advantage of the loud sound system to unleash a barrage of gunshot sounds and sampler noise throughout the set (a gimmick utilized throughout the night). It was when the garbage can percussion of the song “Grindin'” began, almost literally hitting the crowd, that hands were raised for mercy.
As great as the Clipse were, when the reunited (and it feels so good) Dogg Pound hit the stage, it was clear what the crowd was there for—a West Coast gangsta party. Not only was this personified by the swagger of Daz and Kurupt, but the huge Hennessey-toting crew onstage with them (including a guy who looked like he could be the father of G-funk crooner Nate Dogg).
Tha Pound whipped the crowd into a frenzy by doing songs from Dogg Food, and many a West Coast hand sign was thrown as mysterious clouds of smoke rose from the crowd, especially when the DPG’s West-love anthem “New York, New York” came from the beat machine.
Kurupt was especially impressive. He was full of life, and his slightly spastic, stuttering flow was accentuated by his loose stage movements. The crowd’s enthusiastic reaction, despite the absence of Snoop Doggy Dogg, was testimony to just how popular tha Dogg Pound is on the West Coast. After a relatively short set by the group, who could have headlined the Senator, the anticipation began.
While we, like everyone else, have got love for tha Pound, it was pretty clear who people were there to see. From the moment fellow Westside Connection member WC hit the stage crip-walking, people went crazy, almost unable to believe that the leader of the gangsta nation was in the house. From the first words of “Hello,” the crowd sang along: “I started this gangsta shit /And this is the muthafuckin’ thanks I get?” Then they threw their dubs in the air (along with the giant inflatable hand hung behind the DJ) and took a gazillion cell phone photos. The scowl was back.
And Ice Cube rarely took the microphone away from that scowl. It was his show, and he was determined to spend the entire 70-plus minutes of his set reminding us that he is a rapper-then-actor and not vice versa.
Cube’s larger-than-life presence was all but hidden behind his larger-than-life raps. Every line, from the beginning of the set to the end, was yelled into the crowd with unmistakable intensity. He focused on his hits but also highlighted songs off his upcoming album. He even dropped a couple of early, lesser-known classics like “Jackin’ for Beats” to appease us older fans. DJ Crazy Toones added subtle scratching throughout the set, reminding everyone that gangsta rap is real hip-hop.
What took the crowd from loud to deafening was when Ice Cube and WC put up a $5,000 gentleman’s wager on which side of the divided crowd could make the most noise. Needless to say Ice Cube’s side won hands down, with a worthy roar to the talent of the multifaceted superstar.