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Paid Dues Underground Hip Hop Festival Kicks Off In New York [Exclusive Coverage]



David Ponte

New York

-- DJBooth was in attendance last Wednesday, as the

SanDisk Paid Dues

concert series kicked off in New York City. Located in the heart of Times Square, the relatively small Nokia Theatre played host for the first of four national stops that include Ft. Lauderdale, Denver (June 13) and San Francisco (June 14).

The independent hip-hop festival, which is currently on its third annual run, featured underground and independent hip-hop at its finest with Rakim, GZA, Blackalicious, Murs & 9th Wonder, Buckshot (Boot Camp Clik), Supernatural and Scratch, Kidz in the Hall, and Yak Ballz all making appearances. Kicking off the evening was new school duo

Kidz In The Hall

. Unlike many hip-hop shows, however, the Chicago/New Jersey connection started their set right on time. Since this is a rarity in the urban concert world, we cannot tell you if they properly rocked the mic, but if you’ve listened to their new album “

The In Crowd

” it’s safe to assume they did.

Up next was Scratch from

The Legendary Roots Crew

, who began beat boxing over an older recording, while scratching on top of a multi-layered beat that sounded practically identical to the actual song. He followed with a rendition of “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West, as well as other recognized work by the Neptunes. Joined on stage by emcee


, this was the beginning of an evening that true hip-hop heads could really appreciate.

Buckshot spittin' rhymes

After a 20 minute break,


was next up to bat and his performance was possibly the best that the evening had to offer. The crowd, who was nicely boozed up by the time his set began, started to get amped as Buck slung himself in and out of old school records. In the middle of a Black Moon record,



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appeared on stage as a surprise guest and together they performed “The Bridge Is Over” and “The South Bronx.” Buckshot finished with material from his

Boot Camp Click

days, in addition to a few joints off his most recent collaborative album with

9th Wonder

, “The Formula,” but the best was already behind him.

The host of the evening’s festivities,


, followed Buckshot and began his set with “Bad Man” and “The Rain.” Without a hype man alongside, Murs’ rhymes were astoundingly clear; surprising considering the immense amount of marijuana it is assumed Murs enjoyed before arriving on stage. The Gift of Gab, a.k.a.


, went on shortly after Murs and performed a short set as well that left much to be desired. Black’s breath control while on stage was completely lost and whether close to the stage or in the back by the bar; it was extremely difficult to understand a word he was spitting.

GZA on the mic

Ending the evening were performances from


, who was joined on stage by


for a rendition of “4th Chamber” (from Liquid Swords) that had everyone in the house throwing their W’s in the air, and the legendary


who is the tour’s headlining performer. If you deem yourself a lover of hip-hop, and have yet to see Rakim

perform live

, we suggest you make your way to Denver or San Fran for one of the remaining two shows.

Brian "Z" Zisook contributed to this report.