She sat on his shoulders with her thighs tied around his neck. She lifts her shirt letting out a yell of glee as they tumble out in glory. The crowd erupts, more women began to climb on top of shoulders of boys and men, liberating their areolas from the constraints of clothing. It reminded me of the Girls Gone Wild infomercials that would come on Comedy Central during the after hours, except there was no stars censoring nipples. For a moment I forgot I was at a concert, my first rap concert, until the giant man on stage let out a hefty laugh over the microphone. This was his crowd, his fans, he wasn’t the Based God, but I wouldn’t be surprised if men lined up their women for his choosing afterwards. The way fans rapped every word with beer on their breath and excitement in their eyes you knew they were more than fans, completely devoted to the mic holder. Witnessing Tech N9ne on the All 6’s and 7’s Tour was a spectacle that couldn’t be experienced through blurry vines and shaky Instagram footage. This show came to mind recently while watching Jay Z perform from my living room. The quality of the YouTube stream is crisp, the sound is fair, and yet I sit envious of everyone in the crowd. I'd rather be in the sea of cellphones, hypebeasts and fans in a too small room that’s way too hot, losing my voice rapping along. Concerts aren’t meant to be watched but to be lived. There are so many I’ll never be able to live through. Artists passed, moments gone.
I was in Downtown Vegas walking under illuminated casinos, passing a street performer dressed as Michael Jackson doing a poor rendition of "Thriller," an Elvis with a white costume that started to resemble an off-putting piss yellow, a naked man that covered his family jewels with an acoustic guitar. I could see how this place inspired Hunter S. Thompson’s fear and loathing, all I was missing was some acid. I boarded a taxi and the radio informed me that B.B King had passed away in his Vegas home. It was King's untimely death and the coincidence of our shared location that inspired me to research, finding a New York Times article that briefly covered his history. Once he started, he never stopped touring. After becoming a millionaire and being diagnosed with diabetes he still spent a majority of his life on the road. I got a taste of what he sounded like live through the Live In Cook County Jail album. You can hear the inmates in the introduction, booing the Warden as they welcome B.B to the yard. Imagine their striped jumpsuits, handcuffs, all these men and women isolated in county jail awaiting a blues singer. Throughout the album they whistle and applaud as his guitar, voice, and band bring some magic into a desolate place. It was glorious, but by the end I felt a small void, the realization that I’ll never know the feeling of seeing King live. Having and hearing the music and being in the moment is simply different. It sent me reminiscing, longing and sad for all the concerts I’ll never attend. Forced to look at clips on YouTube but never fully experiencing until the time machine finally arrives. And when it does, pulls up to my house in all its DeLorean glory, this is where I’d go….
Kanye’s Glow In The Dark Tour is first on my list. For years I’ve regretted not being able to attend, he didn’t have any Atlanta dates, and despite seeing the monumental Yeezus mountain, I still feel like I missed something special. The bill for that tour is outstanding. It’s 2008 and you have good girl gone bad Rihanna, pre-Lasers Lupe, N.E.R.D after dropping Seeing Sounds and Kanye West the innovative visionary. Chris Brown appeared on random dates, Lu dressed up as Darth Vader and danced to "Everybody’s Nose." Kanye’s stage setup looks like something from a distant future in a distant galaxy. The mask he wore could’ve came from Star Wars and the backgrounds were simply breathtaking. In the photos, it looks more like a play than performance. Plus, his set includes songs from College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, and 808’s. I would buy a pair of those ridiculous, cheap, shutter shades and rap “Spaceship” until my heart gave out. It’s the kind of concert you never stop speaking of.
I was too young to remember the Up In Smoke Tour when it was sending the world into a West Coast frenzy. It was like all the Westside Mount Olympus tier artists all got together and decided to destroy stages for the culture. A bill that consisted of Dr. Dre & Snoop, Eminem, Nate Dogg (RIP), the NWA reunion, Westside Connection, many more, almost any celebrated OG of today. I have this vision of buildings filled with chronic smoke and G-Funk, twisted fingers and Crip walking, parking lots full of Impalas and low riders, everything one could want when traveling out west. I would love to be in that crowd and hear records from Chronic 2001 like "Xxplosive," "Forgot About Dre," and "Nuthin’ But A G Thang." Then you have a young Eminem riding the success of The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP. Not only does he have an enormous following of onlookers waiting for him but an arsenal of classics that would explode on stage. With Eazy E’s sad departure from this world it couldn’t be a true NWA reunion, but having Snoop fill in had to be historic. A tour this monumental could go on for hours without a single dull moment. Too many superstars, too many hits, I missed a moment in hip-hop history.
Since I can remember, Summer Jam has been a pivotal hip-hop tradition in New York. Hate it, love it, it’s impossible to ignore. If I could, I’d attend Summer Jam 2001. Outkast, Destiny's Child, R. Kelly, Snoop, Nelly, and Ludacris all performed that year, but they are rarely remembered because of Jay Z. What he did that night would’ve overshadowed anything except the rapture. Not only did he bring out Michael Jackson for a brief wave at a boisterous audience, he premiered “Take Over.” This is the moment where his beef with Nas truly escalated, what inspired "Ether," being in that crowd, hearing him prove the pen is mightier than sword would’ve been priceless. The cherry on top was the infamous photo of Prodigy that will live in Summer Jam history. There’s countless Jay performances in history, but this is one of the most historic that I simply couldn’t overlook.
I could babble on for days about where a time machine would take me. Seeing Big and Pac perform of course is on my list, but even recent shows likeLil Wayne VS Drake, Watch The Throne, Chance The Rapper at Lollapalooza and Outkast’s ATLastare shows I would love to visit. Party with J. Cole at Dave Chappelle's Block Party, turn up with DMX on the Hard Knock Life Tour, and wear a giant white tee to T.I's show at Birthday Bash in 2005. Not just rap, I want to punch a Hell’s Angel at Altamont, party during Woodstock 1969, hear the magic of Jimi Hendrix, fall in love with Amy Winehouse, break shit with Nirvana, moonwalk with Michael Jackson, bop with Ray Charles, enjoy the sweet tunes of Miles Davis, and learn the piano from Frederic Chopin.
I would spend years just jumping between generations and genres, enjoying the live music. I would definitely revisit my first show, it was like getting high and always chasing that initial rush. That’s a gift good music will give, a thrill that you’ll continue to seek. Writing this also makes me want to get back into the concert circuit. Most days I don’t like shit and I don’t go outside, rarely wanting to leave the comfort of my home to drive downtown, but while I binge watch Daredevil on Netflix there’s moments unfolding. Classic, unforgettable career highlights that will only live on that stage. I want to be there for it.
[By Yoh, aka R.I.P B.B King., aka @Yoh31]