Kanye, Bleek. Others Support LIFEbeat & Fight AIDS

“We have confirmation that Kanye West is in the building,” the host eagerly told the antsy audience gathered inside Float for last night’s (March 11) LIFEbeat benefit concert in New York City.

Despite the two separate “Kanye” chants while the crowd waited for West, it was far from being a one-man show.

Fellow Roc-A-Fella artists Memphis Bleek, the Young Gunz, Freeway, Oschino & Sparks, as well as Roc Music crooners Rell and Allen Anthony all performed.

Allen Anthony performed first and gave a vocally flawless, albeit physically restrained, performance.

His R&B counterpart, Rell, was as limber on stage as Anthony was stiff. Rell’s lanky frame paced back and forth as he knelt down to serenade ladies on both sides of the stage. “Go Rell, sing that song!” one woman excitedly exclaimed.

But it wasn’t until the Young Gunz took to the stage (barricaded by four bodyguards) that the picture phones began appearing and the flip phones opened. Wearing a White T-shirt, blue jeans and Timbs, and with his diamond encrusted watch and State Property piece on, Young Chris had all the swagger of a Young Hov. “What’s up New York,” he asked the standing-room only crowd. “Holla at ya boy.”

After running through a few albums cuts off their recently released Tough Luv, Oschino & Sparks joined Chris and Neef as they performed “Want Me Back,” off of last year’s State Property album. But another Philadelphian threatened to pilfer the set from his hometown partners, as Freeway performed frenzied renditions of “What We Do,” and “Flipside.”

Free led the crowd as they sang the impromptu intro of “Flipside,” minus an incarcerated Peedi Crakk. During the last verse, Free rapped a cappella, spitting in a double-time flow almost to the point of suffocation, before he slowed down: “Put on a team/ shoot, put on a beam, b*tch/ lean, b*tch, shoot at they entourage, hit up they team/ can’t put on ya jeans, b*tch.”

With videos from Kanye West and the Young Gunz airing on the flatscreen TV hovering over the stage during Memphis Bleek’s performance, it seemed like another slight to the onetime heir apparent to Jay-Z.

However, with no hype man and no security on stage, Bleek’s strong showing proved the veteran rapper still has plenty of fight left in him.

Following a spirited performance of “My Mind Right,” which the crowd sang along with, Bleek called out to crowd. “What do you say to a ni**a that’s handcuffing his woman?” The crowd raucously replied: “Is That Your Chick?” before Bleek launched into the cut.

Sporting a Polo sweater, tinted shades, and his beloved Louis Vuitton backpack, Kanye West arrived on stage to the thumping bass line of “Two Words.” He quickly ran through remixes of “Get By” and “Stand Up.” On the latter he rapped: “I’m not trying to stab one like ‘Jack the Ripper’/ I’m trying to stab two like Jack Tripper.”

After a high-energy performance, which had more shouting and arms wailing than Sunday Service, West slowed it down for his final bow. “I always end with this song,” he said referring to “Last Call.”

Backed only by John Legend on piano, West delivered a lounge-act styled rendition that would’ve made Frank Sinatra jealous. Instead of the delivering the story of his rise to fame like he did after the album version of the song, West intermittently inserted anecdotes between his bars.

He explained his employment at Gap gave him discounts at Banana Republic and Old Navy, hence his line. And he joked that Bun B wanted him to stop referencing the rapper in the song. “His wife is getting mad,” West quipped.

But when it came the line regarding his arrogance, the rapper grew serious. “How you gonna say I’m arrogant, because I got goals,” he asked. West then intensely finished his verse before trailing off, “Killin y’all n*ggas on that lyrical shit…” To which the crowd triumphantly finished for him: “Mayonnaise color Benz, I push miracle whips.”

LIFEbeat works with AIDS organizations across the country. Through concert tours they are able to raise funds and provide direct outreach to the community.