The New York City crowd was jam-packed with lyric-hungry, authentic Hip-Hop heads. They had to be real Hip-Hop heads - otherwise they may not have even known about the 20-year legacy of the famed Lyricist Lounge.
The Lyricist Lounge, founded in New York City in 1991, has sought to promote up-and-coming raw artists, and in doing so, has facilitated three albums, seven domestic tours, two seasons of an MTV sketch comedy, called “The Lyricist Lounge Show“, and two DVD releases. It has always been an invitation-only club for true MCs - where truth is defined as lyrical/word dexterity rooted in the "massacre the mic" foundations of rap.
For one night, some of the most famous alumni came together to celebrate its longtime epicness via the Lyricist Lounge 20-Year All-Star Reunion at Manhattan's Le Poisson Rouge, sponsored by AllHipHop.com, Rocksmith, Real Talk NYC, and Fusicology. And, with a hella-heavy lineup and special guests list and boasting Black Thought as host, the fans were about to get their tickets' worth.
When it comes to lyricism, it doesn't get much better than Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter. As a founder of Philadelphia's legendary Roots crew, Black Thought was seemingly blessed from birth with words that fit together with an effortlessness, a unique, throaty tonal quality, and unmistakable street rawness. He held the show together like a host with the most - in between sets, keeping the capacity crowd enthralled with his verses, something like a late night monologue over beats backed by J Period on the turntables.
It was on, and in a nutshell, the unforgettable night went something like this:
Backstage, AllHipHop.com asked Black Thought to define lyricism, and then pointed to his 700-word "75 Bars" masterpiece as a likely candidate for one of the best no hook, no nonsense rap records ever. We caught him beforehand in his always dimly-lit green room, freshening up the lyrics (see video below), and then during the show, dropping it in what was a great moment in Hip-Hop...
Black Thought performed his "75 Bars" alongside the equally stellar Mos Def a.k.a. Yasiin Bey, who knew the song almost better than its writer and co-signed it as one of the best songs in Hip-Hop history. The two also paid tribute during their set to a recently fallen friend, the late MCA of the Beastie Boys.
DaBush Babees, offshoots of the Native Tongue clique, made the seasoned heads bop with just as much energy as they had on 1994's Ambushed. It was a rare and welcome sighting for the group from Brooklyn.
About Queens, New York's Homeboy Sandman, though? Quite simply, he ripped sh*t. From the corners of the stage and the DJ booth, even the veteran MCs marveled at his voracious command of the crowd. His well-known rap rolick had his faithful NYC fanbase rocking then stopping, rocking then stopping. We got to know him better at last year's Brooklyn Hip Hop Fest, but dang, Sandman - we're watching more closely from here on out!
Prodigy was there, and naturally, anything Mobb Deep from the lyrical heyday of the '90s and early 2000s was sure to hypnotize the Big Apple crowd. And the crowd, they loved him, but one couldn't help but wonder where Havoc was.
Then there was Immortal Technique, who always seems angry, but actually is a solid, thoughtful guy on every occasion. He rocked the crowd into a revolutionary frenzy, and then, in true Immortal Technique fashion, he closed the show with a disclaimer for any visitors: that even though you may see men in pink shirts walking fluffy dogs, "this is still New York City!"
Deep into the night, Hip-Hop Monuments Doug E Fresh and DJ Kid Capri reminded the crowd that female MCs have always been among the best lyricists in the game. They brought Farrah Burns, Sara Kana, and Eternia to the stage to burn off some of the testosterone in the air. Short story - the ladies killed it.
There are too many highlights still left to mention - and too many other cool people in the building to run them all down. (Peace, Pharoahe Monch and Lil Fame of M.O.P.!)
All in all, it was a lyric lover's dream. Just like the Lyricist Lounge.
Beyond this event, the “Lyricist Lounge 20-Year Anniversary” celebration continues with several commemorative events throughout New York following the kickoff party, including outdoor concerts in city parks in partnership with Summerstage and Celebrate Brooklyn.For more info on the Lyricist Lounge, visit www.lyricistlounge.com.