Legends Tour brings back elder statesmen of hip hop

Nov 6, 2007 at 5:29 pm

I was just barely too young to have gone to the now legendary 1987 Def Jam Tour, when Public Enemy opened for LL Cool J, Doug E. Fresh, Stetsasonic and Eric B & Rakim.

Likewise, I never had the chance to see that same year’s Beastie Boys tour, also with a who’s-who of hip-hop greats opening. Sure, in the 20 (!) years that followed, I have been to a ridiculous number of shows, seeing a variety of musical legends of every genre. The question now is, can you go back home again? Can you fill a decades-old desire? And what’s the deal with gray-haired rappers?

On Saturday, the great Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Whodini, Doug E. Fresh and Dana Dane are playing the Louisville Gardens on the aptly named Legends Tour (inexplicably sponsored by Li’l Jon’s Crunk Energy Drink).

Anyone who saw last year’s VH1 Hip Hop Honors set is fully aware of Big Daddy Kane’s amazing showmanship. Kane is arguably one of the greatest rappers of all time, a huge influence on nearly every rapper who followed. This is a man who has presence.  He delivers lyrics at double the speed of today’s emcees, with full choreography! Today’s rap stars think you should be happy to shell out $75 or more to see them stalk a stage, while their hype men recite 60 percent of the lyrics in an incomprehensible, shrill bark. (Note: The hype man remains an interesting phenomenon in hip hop. Imagine if the Stones had a hype man screaming, “I say ‘Wild,’ you say ‘Horses’!” But that’s an article for a different day.)

Kane puts on a show. Often backed by longtime dancers Scoob and Scrap (no word on whether they will be at the Gardens; they will be sorely missed if not), he regularly puts younger peers to shame.

Ricky “Slick Rick” Walters and Doug E. Fresh are responsible for the greatest single A- and B-side in hip-hop history, 1985’s The Show/La-Di-Da-Di. After splitting shortly after, each became stars in their own right. Fresh is known worldwide as “The Human Beatbox” and appears in a variety of situations, from VH1’s flashback shows to random appearances at Prince concerts.

Slick Rick has struggled in recent years to maintain his career. The British-born, Bronx-raised emcee has had various run-ins with immigration officials and other law enforcement agencies in one of the more peculiar post-9/11 cases related to immigration.

That said, Slick’s catalog of hits and classics is undeniable, from the oft-covered “Children’s Story,” to “Teenage Love,” to “The Art of Storytelling,” and more recently appearing on Morcheeba’s “Women Lose Weight” and Chamillionaire’s “Hip Hop Police.”

Whodini and Dana Dane are both firmly rooted in the “Where Are They Now?” realm of hip-hop history. While their songs can still move a party (Whodini’s “The Freaks Come Out At Night,” to Dana Dane’s “Cinderfella Dana Dane” and “Nightmares”), neither has quite been able to stay commercially viable, though Dane now DJs for Sirius Radio. Whodini was recently a 2007 VH1 Hip Hop Honoree.

I still don’t know what to think of gray-haired rappers, or the concept of grandparent emcees. I just know that I’ll be the guy up front wearing the Kangol and three-finger ring reciting all the lyrics.  

Legends Tour
w/ Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Whodini, Doug E. Fresh and Dana Dane
Saturday, Nov. 10
Louisville Gardens
525 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.
$22-$37; 8 p.m.