The founders of hip-hop don't need to be honored. The recent glut of tribute concerts and award shows recognizing the 30th anniversary of the form are nice gestures, but they ring hollow. Such events suggest that the originators of rap are nothing more than washed-up former greats who are only as good as the work they put in some three decades ago.
Thankfully, there was not so much as a hint of homage at the Blast From the Past old-school hip-hop showcase at Kili's Kafe and Lounge on Friday night. During a four-hour monster of a concert, some of the finest hip-hop acts of the '70s, '80s and early '90s proved that they're still quite capable of rocking a party.
The action kicked off with legendary D.C. rapper Stinky Dink, who delivered new cuts as well as the classic "One Track Mind." He was followed by Sweet Tee, the lone female performer of the night, who received a few cheers from the smattering of party people familiar with her sole full-length album, 1989's "It's Tee Time."
But it was big man Chubb Rock who set the tone for the evening. He stormed the stage and insisted that the show was a party, not a performance. After engaging the crowd gathered in the outdoor tent in some old-fashioned call-and-response, the Chubbster launched into the reggae-influenced "Just the Two of Us" and the timeless club standard "Treat 'Em Right."
While Rock characterized the evening as an "old-school party," subsequent acts replaced the term with various euphemisms. South Bronx scratchmaster DJ Busy Bee remarked that he and his peers were getting cuter rather than older. And the ever-dapper Dana Dane asked that he and his body of work be referred to as "classic" rather than old.
The star of the night was Big Daddy Kane, who periodically swigged from a jewel-encrusted pimp cup. During a rapid-fire, crowd-pleasing freestyle he dropped his microphone and then scooped it up with a line about his ability to "still make it look good." For his last number, "Warm It Up, Kane," he jumped into the audience and erased any doubts about his physical and lyrical agility.
The drawback to throwing a late-night old-school jam is that revelers tend to be, well, old. A large segment of the sleepy and swollen-footed left just before Special Ed emerged, and the crowd was noticeably thin by the time headliners Whodini, Kurtis Blow and the Sugar Hill Gang appeared.
Those who insisted on being in bed before 4 a.m. missed the chance to hear New Jack Swing forefathers Whodini restore the edge to their mainstream smash "The Freaks Come Out at Night" and to watch original hip-hop heartthrob Kurtis Blow dust off some old B-boy dance moves on "The Breaks."
The Sugar Hill Gang closed the show with Melle Mel and Scorpio -- after a quick run-through of hits from both groups, the men launched into the song that everyone had been waiting for all night, "Rapper's Delight." Fans and performers alike rushed the stage and boogied to the beat, proving that the best way to thank rap's pioneers for their innumerable contributions is to simply rock to the rhythm and shake your derriere.