That’s right. I managed to make it out to Ann Arbor, MI to catch Common and Slum Village play one of the dopest shows I’ve seen. Common, an artist I’ve been trying to see for years, literally blew my mind. It was definitely one of the most energetic and crowd-focused shows I’ve had the pleasure to being to.
The whole thing started off with a hilarious faux-battle. A radio host brought two random kids out of the audience, and surprisingly neither of them were emcees. And neither of them were very good, but they sure had a good time up there. The rounds were lackluster but rather hilarious. The winner’s big zinger was a non-rhyme that went something like “Look at your shirt/ it’s American Eagle/What are you, 14 years old?” The crowd went nuts.
Then enters Slum Village, Detroit’s own hip hop legends. These cats have been performing for nearly a decade, and were the primary vehicle for the dopest of J Dilla’s beats. The group has undergone several changes over the years, not the least of which is the replacement of Dilla with Elzhi. Poor guy has huge shoes to fill. Elzhi was absent for this show, so Baatin and T3 had to hold it down. To do this, they brought in a rather generic heavy-set rapper to round things out (no pun intended).
Their set had its ups and downs, overall. I sadly think I prefer their recorded sound better than their live set, but some of the tracks were amazing. They hyped up their upcoming release, Villa Manifesto, and debuted a couple of tracks off that release. However, the moment they started taking it back into the older stuff, hitting up Raise it Up and Tainted, the crowd went nuts.
After a brief intermission, Common came on and the house started getting out of control. Everyone was out of their seats and startng to dance. He eased his way into things, starting off with hits people are guaranteed to know. An energetic performance of Go was followed by what has to be the worst song Common has ever written. Hell, the worst song I’ve heard in a while. Sex 4 Sugar is a juvenile attempt at a popular track, and is so un-Common (see what I did there? uncommon/un-Common?) that I could dedicate a whole post to it. But he managed to pick himself back up again.
He kept things going, doing I used to love H.E.R, and probably made someone’s day when he pulled a girl out of the audience to serenade her with Come Close to Me. Chantelle, the young asian girl he pulled out, was excited but managed to keep things under control. Props to her for handling herself well. Common was showing a bit more cockyness than I expected as well, getting this girl to wipe his sweaty head down with a towel before he started singing to her. But hey, I guess he’s entitled to a bit of confidence these days.
My hands down, favourite, part of the show came up soon after. Common, at the end of one of his tracks, broke into this little hip hop medley. He kept chanting “hip hop, hip hop”, and then would break into a classic verse. He did the chorus from Bonita Applebum (one of my favourite Tribe tracks), then went on to do the chorus from Definition, did C.R.E.A.M., and did a verse from Pharcyde’s Passing me By. Then, for no apparent reason, he tacked on a disgusting Kanye West first about someone jacking his lexus. Totally out of place, but I guess you gotta give a shout out to your friends.
Common even brought Slum Village back out to perform with him for a bit, which was nice. Those guys deserve a hell of a lot of respect for holding it down for so long.
He kept up his attitude and his enthusiasm all the way through to the end of the show. He finally built his way up to Universal Mind Control, one of my least favourite tracks. But by this point he had wound us all up enough that people really cut loose. The whole auditorium was dancing and screaming.
Then the show ended, with a quick thank you to the audience and a big round of applause. And the oddest thing happened.
Seriously. The auditorium began to empty immediately. It was like 10:30 pm. Not late. It’s not a dangerous part of town. But no one, and I mean no one, even tried to ask for an encore. I stayed where I was for a few minutes, to make sure that Common wasn’t going to come back out or anything like that. But when I saw the throngs of people heading for the exit, I knew that there was no chance. The day was over.