Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kanye West Steals the Show

The biggest hip hop show in New York City Tuesday night was at a venue no larger than a Brooklyn brownstone. Led by a surprise appearance from Kanye West, downtown Manhattan’s Knitting Factory treated an audience of about 100 underground, hipster rap fanatics to a great G.O.O.D. show.

The night began with producer 88 Keys performing two tracks from his upcoming release The Death of Adam (Decon Records). The Long Island, NY native began with “Handcuff ‘Em”, a witty J-Dilla inspired track about finally finding a woman worth committing to.

The night’s ultimate tease was when Keys broke into “Stay Up (Viagra)”, which features vocals from G.O.O.D. general Mr. West. When his DJ originally dropped the jazzy beat, Keys ordered him to pause so that he could run backstage and bring out the man everyone wanted to hear. When the music returned, Keys, wearing a pink puffy vest, Kanye’s Venetian blind sunglasses, and scarf wrapped snuggly around his neck, jumped onstage, mimicking the Louis Vuitton don right down to his “Jesus Walks” dance and “Stronger” neck whips. There was no Kanye, at least not yet.

Following the disappointment was Massachusetts-bred Termanology and G.O.O.D Music's latest signee, Big Sean, who seems to be the next rapper to fall into the abyss of swagger raps. All three of the songs he performed focused on how fresh he is, the girls he can get, and what he can do with them. The Detroit talent's voice clearly is not ready for the rigors of regular shows as it began to crack halfway through his second song and he lip-synced most of his cult hit “Getcha Some”.

Next at bat and backed by a live band was Bronx rapper Mickey Factz, His glasses, rap style, and calculated awkwardness are going to give many the impression that he’s channeling his inner Lupe Fiasco, which is something even Factz knew and poked fun at.

Midwest upstart Kid Cudi was the highlight of G.O.O.D. Music’s B-team. Cleveland’s internet all-star performed cuts from his A Kid Named Cudi mixtape. In a fuchsia Bathing Ape hat and black t-shirt, Cudi had the crowd eating out of his hands.

As Cudi exited stage right, the new buzz was for the headlining act, Queens MC Consequence, but also for the whispers that Kanye West was in the building. With his ex-fiancé Alexis Phifer close behind him, no less.

Three songs into Consequence’s set he assured the audience that something special was about to happen. “This is a G.O.O.D. Music affair and I got some tricks up my sleeve,” he yelled. That said, DJ Plain Pat played “Gone’’, a track on West’s 2005 Late Registration (Roc-A-Fella) album. And that’s when the energy in the room flew to new heights.

In a grey sweater with a red suspender print, black jeans and sunglasses, a bearded West jumped on stage to rap his verse. When that was through Consequence asked if the crowd would mind if “Kanye gets loose and performs some of his stuff.” The screams and cheers were all the affirmation needed for Pat to get “Can’t Tell Me” blasting from the speakers. “Flashing Lights” synths were the next squeal, followed by West spitting his verse on Young Jeezy’s current smash “Put On” acapella.

Fresh off premiering his heart-wrenching first single from his reported winter release 808’s & Heartbreak (Roc-A-Fella), “Love Lockdown” at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, West sang the track again to roaring approval. He concluded with his verse on TI’s “Swagger Like Us” with all his G.O.O.D. artists by his side.

But the night was not over yet. A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip bounced on stage with the energy of a high schooler running through classics like “Award Tour”, “Stressed Out”, and his current single “Gettin’ Up”, closing out the festivities.

Each fan in the audience left the venue with their shirts sweated through, looks of amazement, and the feeling that their dollars were well spent. Granted, their label is called G.O.O.D. Music, but if you weren’t at the Knitting Factory on this night, you missed something classic.