When we heard that the Smokers Club Tour was coming to Philly, we were admittedly excited. Both Method Man and Redman helped shape our love of Hip-Hop. Their first album as a duo, ‘Blackout’, was played endlessly in our rotation during our college years. In addition, we still quote classic lines from their movie ‘How High’ to this day. With Cypress Hill’s ‘B-Real’ and several other rappers also on the line-up, we were convinced this sold-out show would be one we’d relish attending. It wasn’t.
When we arrived at the TLA there was a mob scene outside. The number of people waiting in line for will-call, trying to get onto the tour bus (parked directly outside), or convince the TLA staff that they were on some guest list or another was staggering. The woman working in the box office actually lowered a curtain at one point and left us standing there for a solid 5-10 minutes (with a stout line of people behind us). The show was sold-out, then it wasn’t, then it was again. The level of confusion and aggravation outside the venue was palpable.
Once we finally got our tickets and photo-passes and got inside, things didn’t get much better. Mick Jenkins and Berner had already performed and B-Real was currently on the stage. The place was jam packed. Trying to navigate through the sea of people was a lesson in futility. It took us a solid 20 minutes to make it from the back of the venue to the photo pit. If you’ve ever been to the TLA, you know that this is a distance of only about 40-50 yards. Once B-Real left the stage, a DJ came on and began playing old-school Hip-Hop jams. Awesome, we can get down to that. Not in this case. He would play 10-20 second clips of great songs, and then cut (train-wreck is more accurate) out of them into something else. He’d encourage the crowd to sing along “word-for-word” but wouldn’t let the song play for more than a verse. If you’re going to drop Nas’s ‘Ether’, let the thing play all the way out. Damn.
After about 30 minutes, Redman and Method Man’s respective DJs took to the stage. At this point it was already well past the 9:45pm time that they were supposed to begin their set. The dueling DJs hit the mic saying that they hadn’t even sound checked that day and they were going to do it now. They picked up right where the other DJ had left off, dropping bits and pieces of tracks, and telling the crowd that it was almost time for Red & Meth…then it was almost time for Red & Meth, and then, you guessed it, it was almost time for Red & Meth. After about an hour of this, it was actually time for Red & Meth.
The night had been a let down up until this point but we were still in the mind-set that the headliners were going to salvage the evening. After hyping up the crowd from off-stage, Redman and Method Man appeared and the show was underway. To their credit, they came out with a ton of energy, bouncing around the stage and into the crowd. However, the disappointments for that evening had not been exhausted. The dynamic duo took it upon themselves to belittle the Philly faithful on several occasions. We get trying to hype the crowd up, but repeatedly telling them that they aren’t as good as New York or New Jersey isn’t going to win anyone over.
On top of that, there was absolutely no flow to the show. 70% of the show was Redman or Method Man just talking, redundantly, like they were stuck on repeat. Maybe others don’t share our opinion, but we also feel that it’s an insult to fans when the artists can’t bring themselves to perform any of their songs in their entirety. This seems to be a lot more prevalent at Rap shows than anywhere else but this was far worse than any other we’d attended (in that regard). They would play a few verses of a song, stop, blab on about some asinine topic, and repeat. In comparison to other genres of music, could you imagine if a big time band hit the stage and only performed 30 seconds of each of their biggest hits? The crowd would not be happy. They might even boo them off the stage.
It got old, fast. We gutted it out as they switched back and forth between classic Redman and Method Man songs, hoping that they would drop ‘Da Rockwilder’ so we could leave on a high-note, but we didn’t make it. We eventually left the venue without hearing one of our favorite songs (20 seconds of it anyway). If this is considered an acceptable performance by Rap fans, then that is a sad state of affairs. We hope that in the future that when artists come to town, they spend a little more time performing their (full) hits and a little less time blabbing away on the mic. If you’re going to insult the crowd for not having enough energy, maybe you should take a look in the mirror and realize that the crowd was there to hear your hits, not a verse or two sprinkled between senseless rants. And that, is the end of our rant.
[Photo credit: D. Jacob Miller Photography]
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