One generation inspires another, that inspires another, that inspires another and that makes the culture thrive.
On Friday night (February 23), several hip-hop greats gathered at New Jersey's NJPac for another round of Ice-T and his longtime confidante and business partner Mickey Bentson's "Art of Rap" tour. Founded in 2015 and named after Ice's critically-acclaimed documentary of the same name, the outing has been a major outlet for fans to experience a plethora of gold and platinum acts that came to prominence in the 80s and 90s.
Last year's "Art of Rap" show date in Las Vegas was the very last time that Mobb Deep performed and legends such as Rakim, Slick Rick, KRS-One, Doug E. Fresh and Ice Cube have performed at various show dates across the country.
Friday night's lineup was power packed, featuring Brand Nubian, Roxanne Shante, N.O.R.E.—who turned his set into a C-N-N affair when he brought out Capone—Mr. Cheeks, DJ Mister Cee, Onyx, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD and headliners Bone Thugs-in-Harmony. All of the sets were less than 40 minutes, allowing every act to perform nothing but classics.
The soon-to-be 50-year-old Big Daddy Kane showed he still has uncanny athleticism breaking into a full split during the second chorus of "Ain't No Half Steppin." With the crowd yelling "Ain't! No! Half! Steppin!" Kane dropped to the ground with ease and smoothly rose back to his feet. BDK then went into his lethally lyrical third verse: "I appear right here and scare and dare..."
Meanwhile, a man came from backstage carrying a light-colored gangsta fedora and matching coat. He placed both on rap's self-proclaimed "Prince of Darkness" while Kane kept flowing.
"A mere musketeer that would dare to compare / Put him in the rear, back there where he can't see clear / Get a beer, idea or near stare, yeah / So on to be want to be competition / Trying to step to me, must be on a mission / Up on the stage is where I'ma get you at," he rapped.
The Brooklyn rhyme God then dropped the mic and walked off with flair during his last line: "You think I'm losing? Pssshhhh / picture that."
EPMD followed Kane and hit the crowd with a hailstorm of their catalog gems, including "So Wat Cha Sayin'," "Music," "Rampage," and "Crossover."
New Jersey native Ice-T himself came out and addressed the crowd about the importance of supporting legends then went into "Colors," with Bone Thugs soon closing out the show.
Backstage, it looked like an All-Star game as you could see all the MCs saluting each other. Ice and Kane got huddled up in a corner after taking pictures with fans and crew members from other rapper's camps. NJ's own Rah Digga and Lord Jamar talked to people about their new podcast, Keith Murray cracked jokes with friends, Roxanne and Capone saluted EPMD, N.O.R.E. shouted out Cheeks and Onyx as they crossed paths.
"It's always love at these shows," N.O.R.E. said in his dressing room. "Just like on my show 'Drink Champs,' we try to show this caliber of artists love always. The fans are coming out and there's such a rich audience for these types of shows. I'm just happy to see all these guys that I respect so much and listened to and still listen to to this day."