Calling the Juice Crew legendary is an understatement these days. Even for those who count Nas, Wu Tang, and B.I.G. as godfathers, the Juice Crew was always a trump card our elders would pull out when we got a little beside ourselves about our generations MC's.
And in 2008, here they were, headlining the A3C Festival in Atlanta. The buildup had been strong; to weeks of preparation to newer artists like Blu making the trip just for the honor to open for them.
Since all of the Crew made their legends mostly through solo work, each artist was given a twenty to twenty-five minute solo set before the grand finale bringing them all together. Famed battle MC Craig-G took the stage first.
He warmed up the crowd with selections from his forthcoming Marley Marl project Operation: Take Back Hip-Hop, and of course classics from his back catalog. The A3C crowd was ecstatic when Craig went into Droppin Science and U R Not the 1.
Craig-G Performing "Droppin' Science"
With a flawless performance so far, Craig thought it was appropriate to now bring out the surprise he had promised in the weeks leading up to the event. Suddenly, Killer Mike rushed the stage and the bass began to thump from Bonecrushers Never Scared. The crowd went from confused to crunk, as a shirtless Bonecrusher followed Mike on stage.
Craig-G, Bonecrusher, and Killer Mike Performing "Never Scared"
The two Atlanta natives aggressively delivered their verses while Craig G handled call and response with the fans. The surreal sight of a shirtless Bonecrusher struggling to keep his pants up while rhyming helped to put the impromptu performance over the top. The Juice Crew is definitely in the building! an inspired Killer Mike yelled as he left the stage.
Next up was Queensbridge pioneer MC Shan, who started his set with a few shots at former rival LL Cool J. Playfully chiding Marley Marl and Cool V for playing too many Cool J selections before he came out, Shan reminded the audience who rocked the kangols and pumas first.
Long time fans were treated to such cuts as I Pioneered This, and Project Ho. Of course, a Shan performance would not be complete without a shot a KRS-One. Shan interpolated BDPs My Philosophy with his diss record Kill That Noise creatively using the record to dismiss the Blastmasters merits as a philosopher.
While the crowd was respectful of Shans newer material and his verse from Snows Informer, they would not go crazy again until he performed the joint that started it all, The Bridge. Clearly happy with the reception, Shan closed the show by bringing out his two teenaged children, who were seeing their legendary father perform for the first time.
The clown prince of Hip-Hop Biz Markie was up next. Many people forget the sheer number of hits Markie had, as from the beginning he went into Biz Is Goin Off and This Is Something For The Radio.
It became apparent early that out of all the Juice Crew members, Markie had the best songs for live shows. The crowd kept their rowdy energy throughout his set, as Biz ripped through The Vapors, Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz, and Nobody Beats the Biz.
Ironically, the problems didnt start until it was time for Biz Markie to perform his biggest hit, Just a Friend. Biz inexplicably forgot the words, and had to scat his way through the verses to the amusement of the crowd. Help me out here, yall know this sh*t, Biz joked halfway through the song.
There was one present member left unaccounted for, and that was the queen of the crew, Roxanne Shante. Shante got a huge ovation from the crowd and she attacked the mic like she never left.
There were no forgotten rhymes or miscues with Shante, as she went through Live on Stage and her BDP diss Have A Nice Day flawlessly. Curiously, Shante didnt perform her first hit Roxannes Revenge, but she had another gem in store.
Shante made her bones battling the top stars of her era, and she went into her early 90s diatribe Big Mama. The song literally roasted every prominent female MC at the time, and Shante relished in opening old wounds. This record caused a lot of problems for people, she laughed as the beat hit. It was obvious why, as many oohed and ahhed at the lines Shante directed at her peers.
First up there's Latifah:
You roll up, and I'm a smoke that ass like reefer
Cause you ain't never in life been a star to me
Sold the fuck out tryin to go R&B
Now that shit is shady
You say ladies first, well I'm the first lady
And all y'all hoes are phoney
Try to get flippid, I'ma rip you and your girl Monie
You're illegitimate, tryin to get a little bit
And I'm about sick of that 'Monie-in-the-middle'-shit
Your album cold garbage
Had one good jam, now you think you a star, bitch
Later on, MC Lyte and Yo-Yo were skewered as well.
You say you're lyte as a rock, you get crushed like a pebble
One word, and I'ma bag her
Watch the bitch stagger, cause I don't dig the bulldagger
To me a wush don't deserve a mic in hand
Somebody tell her to stop actin like a man
She needs something real thick to help her out quick
(What?) And that's a good piece of dick
Now as for that West Coast slut
With fake-ass hair, contacts, and a padded butt
Instead of stompin to the 90s, use your brain
And stomp your ass down to Jack Lelane
You better hurry and hop on a diet plan
And keep the pork chops out the fryin pan
Shante brought Biz back out to close her set with Def Fresh Crew, and reminded the audience that with even sixteen years removed from her last album, she is still an MC at heart. And this night, few could argue with her.
There was now a big problem. It was known for weeks Masta Ace could not attend due to prior commitments with his group eMC, but Big Daddy Kane canceled at the last minute due to blood pressure problems. Without Kane, Ace, and Kool G. Rap, how could the legendary crew perform The Symphony?
With Craig G there, his verse came off without issue. However, everyone began looking around to see who could pick up the slack. Biz Markie started to freestyle, but thought better of it a few bars in. He tried to hand the mic to Shan, who looked at him like I dont know them dudes verses.
However, Shan stepped up and spit a good sixteen bars over the legendary track, which was shockingly followed up by a freestyle from Marley Marl. While no one will be clamoring for a Marley Marl solo anytime soon, it was a great ending to a magical night.
Despite the unforeseen setbacks, the Juice Crew was able to improvise like all great artists, and took us through over twenty years of memories. Once again, the pioneers show why their place in Hip-Hop culture is undisputed.