On tour, the ‘Kings of the Mic’ defy their ages

CorrespondentJune 17, 2013 

At one point in De La Soul’s excellent opening set at Sunday night’s “Kings of the Mic” show, 44-year-old rapper David “Dave” Jolicoeur polled the audience about their ages, ending with a query about how many fans were “his favorite people,” those 35 and older.

That question, not surprisingly, got the loudest cheers. It wasn’t even close to being a contest.

The demographic may have skewed boomer, but the audience at Durham Performing Arts Center partied like they did when it was 1980-whatever. With four age-defying giants of old-school hip-hop (De La Soul, Public Enemy, Ice Cube and headliner LL Cool J) on the bill, what else could they do?

The long, fun-filled night started at 6 p.m. with local hip-hop legend 9th Wonder (producer, DJ and former member of Little Brother) getting the party started in the lobby.

A little past 7, the action moved into the theater, as DJ Chuck Chillout warmed up the packed house for De La Soul, one of two acts on the “Kings” tour (the other is Public Enemy) whose entire recorded output is worth owning, pretty much without exception.

There seemed to be plenty of old-school hip-hop heads familiar with De La Soul’s work, going back to the 1989 debut masterpiece “3 Feet High and Rising,” but group member Dave wasn’t about to pander to the audience with words of praise and appreciation for nothing.

After halting the opening number, he informed the fans that “we are not on display. This is not a zoo.”

In other words, stand up, everybody. They did.

Seconds later, Dave stopped the show again, to admonish the security guys up front to stand up and party with everyone else. Presumably, they complied, because the show went on beautifully.

Dave’s fellow MC Kelvin “Posdnuos” Mercer looked and sounded like he hadn’t aged a year since the early ’90s. He kept the party rocking from stage left, as the group did superb versions of De La classics including “Grind Date,” “Potholes in My Lawn,” and of course, the irresistibly funky “Me Myself and I.” Third member Vincent “Maseo” Mason spent most of his time bopping behind turntables and a laptop, occasionally coming out to clown a little with Dave.

As great as they were, Public Enemy was even better. Chuck D and Flavor Flavor Flav were as strong-voiced and athletic as men less than half their age.

Flav, in particular, was amazing, as he leapt about the stage with the agility and ease of Spider-Man. The greatest hype man of all time was definitely the beloved star of the show. And for good measure, he even played a little bass and drums – very impressively.

Public Enemy was hard to top, and no one did, which is not to say there wasn’t reason to stick around.

Ice Cube’s gangsta act seems mighty over-rehearsed these days, but when he dipped into the NWA songbook and pulled out some early solo hits on the order of “It Was a Good Day,” the crowd fell into his bone-shaking bass groove.

LL Cool J totally embarrassed himself recently with that awful country collaboration with Brad Paisley. So it was easy to bring low expectations to his set.

But watching him charm the bejeezus out of every heterosexual female in the room, as well as tearing into old hits such as “Going Down to Cali” and “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” with the energy and skills of his once-teenage self, the audience was reminded that he’s on this tour for reasons other than television fame.

“I got all kinds of records,” he joked to one fan yelling out requests. “Y’all just forgot.”

The important part is, LL remembered.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service