This year we've seen some of our favorite families align once again both briefly (this past summer's Ruff Ryders reunion show for example) and for sustained campaigns (chief among them the Bad Boy Reunion tour). Thursday night in New York, The Juice Crew, the trailblazers who made it cool to be a collective, formed Voltron once again at BB King's Nightclub.
The Juice Crew, comprised mostly of MCs from Queens and Brooklyn, reigned for most of the '80s into the early '90s with a catalog of classic albums and endless hit records and one of the greatest posse cuts ever in hip-hop history, "The Symphony" (1988). Just about everyone down with the crew took the stage Thursday night, including pioneering music mogul "Fly Ty" Tyrone Williams, Glamorous, Grand Daddy I.U., Tragedy Khadafi, TJ Swan, and DJ Polo. And all of the legendary principals were in play as well: Big Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, Biz Markie, Kool G Rap, Craig G, Roxanne Shante, and the leaders of the pack, MC Shan and Marley Marl.
Marley, the endless accolade-having producer for most of the Juice Crew's biggest records, not only DJed, but he joined MC Shan for the ode to their home, "The Bridge." Marley stayed out for Roxanne Shante's set, which included the highlight "Live On Stage."
Roxanne then brought out Biz Markie, the "Clown Prince of Hip-Hop." His crowd-favorite themes "Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz" and "Nobody Beats the Biz" were followed by a handful of songs from his own "Let Me Turn You On" to "Mary Jane" by Rick James and "Kiss" by Prince, where he tried to imitate the deceased music icon's high-pitched stylings.
Biz went back to the basics with "Vapors" and "Just A Friend"; he even tried to hit his famous "Biz Dance." During "Rhyming With the Biz," Big Daddy Kane came out for one of his early star-turning verses to animated yells from the spectators.
"The Prince of Darkness" then took over the stage, opening up his Pandora's box of timeless tunes, which commenced with "Wrath of Kane." He was clearly the greatest showman out of the Juice Crew, executing every lyric with clarity, dancing, and heavily interacting with the crowd. Midway through his set, he urged the audience to put their camera phones down and really savor the show. "Dark Gable" said he had a song dedicated to everyone with a camera phone and then pulled out his. He unleashed his bars, back turned to the crowd, looking into his phone.
"Rough, rugged and real, you're on standstill / To obey, okay, so let the man build. / Words of rapture that you have to capture and I just slapped ya / With the hand full of literature / That's dope def fresh hype choice smooth and raw. / Rappers I replace, rub out, and erase / Competition, you must be on freebase./ Smokin' or chokin', bound to be broken."
He then switched up his famous punchline to: "Get your damn hands off them camera phones / You must be joking."
After "Ain't No Half Stepping," Kane left the stage and Marley came out to start "The Symphony."
With the signature piano chords powering the ferocity, each MC on the song came out one at a time. Masta Ace, then Craig G, and when the mic was passed to Kool G Rap, he came out to a glorious roar. It was the first time the audience had seen him all night. After G Rap's vicious verse, Kane re-entered and had everyone saying the most-quoted line: "Put a quarter in your ass because you played ya self."
While everyone was leaving, Kane called out G Rap. He told his friend he wasn't getting off that easily. Kool G smiled, and rewarded the venue with "Ill Street Blues" and "Road To Riches."
Big Daddy followed up G Rap with one more record, "Warm it up Kane." During the dance routine, Scoob Lover and Sean Wan The Don of the T.C.F. held him down. Kane went into his choreographed part where he falls back into the arms of Scoob, one of Kane's original dancers (Sean Wan has since taken over the duties from Scrap, who left music altogether two decades ago) then is literally launched to Sean. Kane jumps up. Sean catapults Kane in the air and Kane lands into a split, then splits with his other leg — all in less than 10 seconds. When Kane first tried it, it was almost botched, as his landing didn't go as smoothly as the Smooth Operator wanted.
Kane then told the crowd he was 48 years old and with 50 right around the corner, he was going to try the move one more time and then he was retiring it. Second time around, the launch and landing went without a hitch. "There you go, there you go," he said with a smile, getting back up.
Kane, who spearheaded the reunion, closed out by bringing the entire Juice Crew on the stage, with a special message of love to radio godfather Mr. Magic, an integral part of the family who helped launched them to the masses.
While there is no word yet on an entire Juice Crew tour, they do have another reunion show Friday in New Jersey and another slated for early 2017 in Atlanta.