At one point in De La Souls excellent opening set at Sunday nights 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 wasnt 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 Souls work, going back to the 1989 debut masterpiece 3 Feet High and Rising, but group member Dave wasnt 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.
Daves fellow MC Kelvin Posdnuos Mercer looked and sounded like he hadnt 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 wasnt reason to stick around.
Ice Cubes 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 Cant Live Without My Radio with the energy and skills of his once-teenage self, the audience was reminded that hes on this tour for reasons other than television fame.
I got all kinds of records, he joked to one fan yelling out requests. Yall just forgot.
The important part is, LL remembered.