Rock Steady/QN5 MegaShow

Volume 6: Rock Steady Crew Anniversary
August 9, 2005

“Beat Street was 21 years ago, and Crazy Legs still looks the same.”

Ah, it’s been a minute since the Voice of Reason was last heard. If you
do the math, this article was originally intended as a means of
commentating on what I see. Since I already have rap for that (and the
song about superficial bitches is coming soon), it quickly morphed into
me writing about events I witness. Whether it be watching an awards
show on TV, attending one of the notorious Jams (real heads fuck with
the Scribble and Summer varieties), or just kicking it with Beyonce, I
am going to do my duty as a member of the Hip Hop community and give
you my perspective. But don’t get it twisted: I attend more than a
handful of Hip Hop-related events per year. So why, then, is this page
so infrequently updated? Because only a handful of events inspire me
enough to write an article about. This year’s Rock Steady Crew
Anniversary was one of them.

As you may or may not know, the Rock Steady Crew celebrates its
anniversary every summer with a series of events in New York City.
Since this attracts many out-of-towners to NYC, third party promoters
book events within this time period to take advantage of the influx.
This often results in multiple events going down on the same day. As it
were, the most hyped event that Saturday was justifiably the QN5 Mega
Show at the world-famous BB King’s in Times Square, which featured Ras
Kass performing alongside QN5’s CunninLynguists, Tonedeff, Pack FM,
Mecca, and Session. The show would be Ras’ first New York performance
in years. It was also billed as the first time the entire QN5 roster
all performed on the same night — which wasn’t entirely true, as the
group Kynfolk did not appear. Way to overlook your own artists!

In any event, I was looking forward to the show, despite the hefty $25
entrance fee. True, I could have saved three bills by copping a $22
ticket in advance, but I’m too spontaneous for that. What if I ended up
on the guest list? What if I got booked to perform elsewhere that night
and couldn’t make it? What if I got in line that night and the person
standing in front of me happened to have just won a ticket to the show
on the radio after previously buying one, and would thus have an extra
ticket he could sell me for only $20? OK, so maybe that last scenario
is a little far-fetched, but as it turned out, that’s exactly what
happened. Never doubt the mind of a genius. In all seriousness,
however, the show was well worth the twenty dollars I spent, and would
have also been worth the two to five more it could have cost me. I knew
this from the jump. And they knew I knew this, which is why the fuckers
made me wait… and wait… and wait. Now, anyone who’s ever been to a
Hip Hop show could tell you that these things never start on time. But
Pack FM had insisted and insisted that this one would, and that if
anyone got there late, he or she would risk missing out.

Yeah, he lied.

Doors were supposed to open at 11 PM. They didn’t open until around
12:30 AM. The show was supposed to start at 12 AM. As you could
probably imagine, that didn’t happen. I’m not sure what time host The
Bad Seed took the stage, but screw it. This thing was finally about to
start. SUPER! I hit the bar as he shouted out the names of all his
people in the house. That list may or may not have included me, as I
was too busy ordering my obligatory overpriced Long Island Iced Tea to
notice. If my name wasn’t mentioned, I guess I got what I deserved.
Still, quite a few people in the crowd recognized me and introduced
themselves to me. That always trips me out. Complete strangers picking
my face out of a crowd and going out of their way to give me a pound.
That’s nuts. One love to everyone who met me. I wish we could have had
more time to chop it up, but we were both playing the same role that
night: that of a fan. The last of a dying breed.

Just to clarify: New York crowds are a motherfucker. Everyone, and I do
mean everyone, is either a rapper or a DJ. The typical response even
the best performers get from New York crowds is the arms folded “so
what, I do this too, bitch” ice grill. And it’s really fucking sad,
because a true artist isn’t intimidated by the talents of others. More
often than not, those acting unimpressed are actually envious of those
on stage. What they don’t realize is that if they spent their energy on
their craft instead of trying to hold others back, then they’d be the
ones on stage. It’s people’s insecurities that keeps everyone from
having a good time. Fortunately, this show wasn’t about that. Heads
came from all over the world to see this, and even the local artists in
the house were there to show love (peace to the pre-show cipher). By
the time QN5 was set to perform, we were amped. You won’t catch us ice
grilling fresh MCs.

They began with a Summer Jam-style video package that was obviously
prepared by Tonedeff. The clip featured footage of previous
high-profile QN5 performances and appearances, including their
commercial spots for MTV’s Hip Hop Week. It also sarcastically remarked
about how much the major media outlets embrace all forms of Hip Hop,
and illustrated this — or, actually, refuted this — by sampling
footage from BET at various times over the course of the same night.
Each time, the Mike Jones “Back Then” video was playing. This was
followed by a picture of Rakim with Tone sarcastically commenting that
“Rakim would be proud.” Hilarious. The “fuck Mike Jones” theme would be
one that would continue throughout the night. I guess even talented
artists aren’t above hating, though in this case the hate was
productive, as it was done in good fun and designed to make everyone’s
night more enjoyable.

Before each artist took the stage, the video screen would provide a
proper introduction. This gave the show more of a professional feel: it
felt more like being at a concert than just another rap show. In the
past, the QN5 artists would commonly perform together, but this time
each one held it down for dolo with individual sets. No artist would be
seen on stage prior to his own set. Session kicked it off, with Debut
backing him up. Previously, they would have to teach the crowd the
call-and-responses for the chorus to “Don’t Do It,” but on this night
that was not necessary. As soon as the beat dropped, the crowd went
into a frenzy, rapping along with every word. They damn near blew the
roof off when the chorus came around. A more appropriate finale could
not have been chosen. But things were just getting started, of course.
Up next was Mr. Mecca, who held it down without a hypeman, but
surprised everyone when Buckshot and Steele randomly emerged to spit
some shit during his set. Nice. Pack FM hit the stage next, but didn’t
stay there for long, as he jumped down and performed his entire set
from some milkcrates that he had set up in the crowd. Thank God for
cordless mics. Unsurprisingly, his set was the livest of the night.
After telling the crowd his sprained ankle would prevent him from
performing his most popular song “Stomp” (there was even a
back-and-forth chant on beat with the crowd yelling “Stomp!” and Pack
responding “No!” repeatedly at the end of one of his instrumentals), he
finally gave them what they wanted, breaking the milkcrates in the
process. He then proceeded to perform the rest of his set atop a fan’s
back. I am not making this stuff up.


A visibly stressed Tonedeff was up next, but that didn’t stop him from
putting on the performance of his lifetime. From his old shit “Heads
Up” to the Elite-produced “Issawn” off his new album, Tone left no
stone unturned. I know I wasn’t the only one hoping KRS-ONE would come
out for “Clear ‘Em Out,” but it’s all good. The CunninLynguists rounded
out the QN5 portion of the show, starting with songs off their upcoming
album, and ending with their better-known older songs with help from
former member SOS. A hilarious moment occurred when Kno spotted a
couple damn hear fuckin’ — they were really going at it — in front of
the stage, and threatened to hit them with a New Kids on the Block
pillow if they didn’t pay attention. Yes, he actually busted out the

Though they all held it down, I would have liked to see more of the
collaborations between the artists performed. After all, how many times
are all these cats in the same spot together? Bringing the whole squad
back for songs like “Slogans” and “FYIRB (Remix)” would have been the
perfect way to end the show. I later found out that this was indeed the
plan, but since the show started so late, they had to cut time off
their collective set so that Ras could still perform. Perhaps they
should have cut that time out of opening act Pumpkinhead’s set instead?
AZ and Sean Price were also in the house, but didn’t get to perform due
to the time constraints. Anyway, shit was dope regardless. I guess I
shouldn’t complain. Especially not with Ras Kass still about to take
the stage. Right?

Well, he certainly did take the stage. Unfortunately, most of the crowd
didn’t seem to care. They were clearly there for QN5, and when Ras
started performing, they swarmed the side of the stage where the QN5
artists were gathered. This threw Ras off his game — even more so than
he already was for having to start so late. His performance, though not
wack by any means, was understandably lackluster. Though it was his
name on the marquee outside BB King’s (while QN5’s was nowhere to be
seen), the story inside BB King’s was completely different. Aside from
the handful of fans that came just to see him, it was pretty much Ras
who? And that’s not to say the QN5 fans didn’t know who he was, or even
that they didn’t like him. They were just so spent from seeing the Baby
Blue Armada tear shit up that they knew nothing could properly follow
it. And you know what? I think Ras knew, too. He bitterly ended his
set. I gave him a pound and kept it moving.

Meanwhile, everyone gathered outside in an attempt to congratulate the
winning team and cop some merchandise in the process. See, BB King’s
wanted 30% of the artists’ sales, and they weren’t having that, so they
took it to the streets. But the boys in blue weren’t having that, as
they threatened to arrest both the artists and the fans for selling
shit on the street and loitering, respectively. So the victory
celebration was short-lived. That was aight, though, because it was
practically light out, I was tired as fuck, and I still had to catch
the train back home, where I could finally re… OH SHIT! The official
Rock Steady Crew anniversary event would be starting in a few hours.
How in the world was I gonna pull this one off? I actually had
forgotten all about it until I ran into Kno outside and he told me he
had to speak to me, but that we could just talk “tomorrow” (which was
really today already) instead. That eliminated the possibility of me
sleeping in and skipping the show. Ironically, I would get my ass up
and make it to the bitch, while he would not.

It was at the QN5 Megashow in 2003 that I first met Tonedeff and the
CunninLynguists, and I’ve witnessed them come (pause) a long way since
then. Their live show was always on point, but this one just took shit
to a whole new level. I can now say with confidence that they are among
the best live performers in Hip Hop, period. What makes them so special
is that they always go out of their way to put on a good show, whereas
everyone else just raps. More artists should follow their lead.

As inspiring as all that was, my journey was far from over. Of course,
I had just missed the last train home, so I had to wait at Penn Station
until the morning. I got home while most of the world was eating
breakfast, set my alarm, slept for a few hours, woke up, and headed
back into the city. Since this particular event was during the day, I
knew I’d never be able to catch the whole thing, and I was cool with
that. What I didn’t realize was that I’d get lost in Harlem trying to
find the motherfucker, only to get there and have to wait in line for a
few hours before I could get in. When I finally got inside the Cherry
Lounge on W. 128th Street, The Emcee (formerly Jin Tha Emcee) was being
introduced. He rocked his new song “Top 5 (Dead Or Alive),” emphasizing
that “there ain’t no best!”, before spitting the ever so true quote
found at the top of this article. Crazy Legs nodded in acknowledgment
as Jin thanked him and everyone else in the house, noting that he
“probably battled half of us in the past.” He then shouted out Tonedeff
and Pack FM by name. I bet when he was recording the song “Thank You”
for his Ruff Ryders album and he spit the line, “Shouts to Stronghold,
Tone, and the rest of The Plague,” he didn’t realize that he’d be back
in this same scene with these same cats just a year later. Still, this
scene better suits him. He seemed content with where he was at. Shortly
after disapearing into the crowd, I caught up with him, and he was
excited to tell me about the new DVD he was moving, which he claimed
showed all of his battles, from the time he was 14 in Miami, to his
days in the New York City underground, to 106 and Park and beyond. I
meant to pick one up from him right before I left, but he was gone
before I was.

In the meanwhile, the End of the Weak cats held a cipher on stage that
saw Mecca (“I’m in your girl’s mouth like a tongue ring”), Substantial
(“I thought diamonds were a girl’s best friend/ So how come lately they
seem to be attracting men?”), Vanguard, and others kick rhymes before
Crazy Legs had everyone form a circle for his new generation Rock
Steady b-boys and -girls to breakdance on the floor. I’m talking about
Pizon, in Harlem, with Crazy Legs and the Rock Steady Crew throwing
down. Can you get any more Hip Hop than that? When you’ve got DJ Evil
Dee providing the break beats, the answer is yes. Around this time, my
lack of sleep caught up to me, so I took a rest on the couch. When
Keith Murray hit the stage, however, I was back up with the quickness.
Keith’s set was dope, until he brought out G-Dep to perform “Special
Delivery.” Dep got a nice ovation in his hometown, but he was so high
that he literally stood there without uttering a word into the mic for
a solid minute. While the beat was playing. Murray tried to save him by
having Evil Dee drop the beat and ordering G-Dep to spit lyrics
acapella, but he was too high for even that. All he could say was,
“It’s an honor… an honor… an honor… an honor and a privelege to
be here” in a tone so monotonous I was surprised no one was asking for
Premier’s whereabouts. Finally, his man announced his new single on Bad
Boy and had it played while Dep clumsily adlibbed over the whole track.
No one booed, but no one cheered, either. Thankfully, Keith saved “The
Most Beautifulest Thing in This World” for last, which picked the crowd
back up. It was also announced that Black Rob was in the house, though
he didn’t make an appearance.

There were afterparties jumping off. There was EOW later that night.
But I was done. I got some Chinese takeout off 125th, hit the train,
and went home. For once in my life, I had all the Hip Hop I could
handle for one weekend. It was exhausting, but it was one of the most
inspirational experiences I could have asked for. When people ask me
why I go around saying I Am Hip Hop, I wish they’d gotten to experience
events like these. ‘Cause if they had, they’d be screaming it with me.

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