Paid Dues Festival 2008 Wrap-Up
It was definitely a busy weekend for the bad guys. While half of the HipHopDX team were down in ATL for A3C, the other members of the DX family were here in the land where it never rains, Southern California, for Paid Dues. The sun was definitely out doing its job in San Bernardino California, thank god the main stage for Paid Dues was indoors.
Prior to the 12-hour plus day of work, HipHopDX erected a huge booth to promote its presence by giving away CDs, selling t-shirts and connecting with its readers. Other vendors also scurried about as final preparations would be made for an event that would find itself immersed in thousands of adoring Hip Hop fans burning to catch a glimpse of their favorite emcee.
Murs posted up as booths were being built outside. As many know by now, Murs is an integral part of the organization of Paid Dues, as well as the host. Unfortunately, pleasantries would be exchanged but the Living Legends member would find no time to sit down and give an interview.
The line began to grow outside and when the doors finally opened at 1pm, fans plowed through the gates and into the venue. Murs’ protégé, Isiah, immediately took to the stage to warm the hundreds that filed into the building. Outside, fans scurried about looking for trinkets and t-shirts to purchase, while others raced off to the VIP area to indulge in alcoholic beverages.
Headliner Sage Francis made a surprise appearance during B Dolan’s set and encouraged the crowd to vibe with his newest find. Yak Ballz made his presence felt as he delivered treats from his recent outing Scifentology II [click here to read review…].
Back outside, the HipHopDX booth featured giveaways of the second round of Independent As F*ck mixtapes [click here to listen…]. Twenty-five hundred CDs were given out well before the day’s end. For those that missed out, there were still two style of t-shirts being sold: The popular “Hip Hop is Not Dead” & “Independent As F*ck.” While other booths hustled their designs for $20, DX pushed these beauties for the cost of $5 (that’s cheaper than the $7 pizza).
Some of DX’s faithful readers dropped by to give their two cents about their “favorite” website. One gentleman in particular professed his disdain for DX’s reviews (“they suck“) while giving a drunken thumbs up to the audio and Beauty & Brains sections [click here…] (go figure).
The back stage atmosphere resembled a family reunion of sorts as journalists, rappers and fans co-mingled with mutual respect. DJ Evil Dee of Da Beatminerz caught up with Fatlip (of Pharcyde fame) to give the now solo emcee props on his last solo release. In an era in which emcees and producers are quick to tear each other down, the moment was enough to elicit a smile from the hardest cat in the room.
Elsewhere, the entire Boot Camp Clik cooled out with bottles of Hennessey and snacks as they prepared for their stage show. Found nestled on the couch was Rock, who had just dealt with legal trouble [click here to read…] but back on the scene. “They only gave us 40 minutes,” said Dru Ha to DX, as Buckshot, Sean Price, Rock, Tek, Steele and Evil Dee strolled about. “But we’ll make it work.”
Back at the main stage, Busdriver was more than eager to show his eclecticism and progressive approach towards Hip Hop music. Armed with a beat machine and a trusty sideman playing live drums on the MPC player, the LA-based rapper kept the crowd pleasantly amused with rapid-fire poetics and otherworldly beats. Those in the audience who were schooled in west coast gangsta rap or east coast thug might not have found his “art schools-meets-street” performance at all endearing but it was quite obvious that the indie music heads were feeling his non-standard approach to rocking the mic.
Next up, P.O.S. leveled the crowd with lyrical dexterity and blessed those with numerous gems off of his previous endeavors. After hearing him perform songs like “Half-cocked Concepts” it becomes necessity to get your hands on his last album Audition [click here to read review…]. You can’t beat a performance from an artist whose shirt has a picture of Paris Hilton ready to take a shot in the mouth.
After getting a moment to exchange pleasantries with Kool Keith before he hit the stage Rapper Big Pooh (who also attended A3C) and DJ Flash emerged from their trailer. Tonight would be the night when DX’s newest addition, adult film star Sinnamon, would take LB to task for an interview unlike any other.
In the meanwhile, Phonte and Pooh wore their “sunglasses” disguise as they posted up at the DX booth – obviously making an attempt to look “incognegro” – as they greeted all the busy bees at the booth.
As expected, Kool Keith’s performance was in and of itself an anomaly. With the majority of the relatively young fans in a weird state of casual indifference, the cult-status hero remained undisturbed on-stage and performed with equal parts pride and humor. The Bronx-bred rhymesayer, along with his energetic hype-man and masked deejay, began the set with a quirky medley of hooks from the various personas he has embodied throughout his bugged-out career. He then proceeded to do a full song from each of them, including “Girl Let Me Touch You” (from the infamous Dr. Octagonecologyst album) and the boom-bap classic from the Ultramagnetic MC’s, “Poppa Large.” With the maturity and wisdom of someone who has seen Hip Hop since the beginning, the veteran rapper quickly ended his short stage performance with a freestyle about today’s wack emcees but he was still able to do in a weird, strange and playful manner only he could pull off.
It was a special treat to see the Boot Camp Clik perform together at a west coast Hip Hop festival such as Paid Dues. The legendary crew from Brooklyn felt at home in San Bernardino and this was evidenced by their energetic performances. Smif-N-Wessun (aka Cocoa Brovaz) rocked the stage first, giving the audience of young and old rap fans a taste of the Brooklyn swagger with hits such as “Bucktown” and “Sound Boy Bureill.” Heltah Skeltah (featuring the indie rap favorite, Sean Price) blasted a few of their songs as a group and as individual artists. Their short but sweet set ended with Buckshot, the famed leader of the clique, giving his all by going through classics put out by Black Moon, including “How Many MC’s” and “Who Got the Props.” Even in 2007, heads ain’t ready for what the Boot Camp has to offer and what they offer the most is pure Hip Hop – raw and uncut.
After BCC, the show came back home to the west for three sets. First off was the live show pros, The Visionaries. If you haven’t seen a Visionaries performance this is definitely an act to check for if you want real Hip Hop live on stage. As the night wore on the crowd at Paid Dues reached capacity, and the inside of the venue was nearly shoulder to shoulder.
Hieroglyphics were definitely the crew that many of the Paid Dues attendees wanted to see perform and it was not hard to find their famed logo on just about every other t-shirt worn that day. No strangers to rocking the underground Hip Hop circuit, the Bay Area stalwarts kept the crowd in a frenzy through a bevy of hits, even without the skillful presence of A+ (from the Souls of Mischief) and their spiritual leader, Del The Funkee Homosapien. Thankfully, Opio stepped up and was the star that night, keeping the crowd positively focused with his admonishment for keeping the peace. Although he was more than proud to show the audience his allegiance to his No-Cal roots (with the bright yellow Oakland A’s logo emblazoned on his chest), it was obvious that love and unity were the overall themes that night.
Next up was the Living Legends. You know Murs wouldn’t do a Hip Hop festival without inviting his boys to perform. Unlike rappers who get on simply because their boy hooks them up, the Living Legends proved they belonged on the stage.
Paid Dues would then take a west coast break with Jedi Mind Tricks, as a lot of people were happy to see the performance. After Jedi Mind Tricks left, it was Dilated’s turn to take over the stage. They rocked classics like “Live on Stage” and newer tracks like “Kindness for Weakness.” As always, Ev and Rakaa gave Babu his chance to shine on the turntables. After Babs got his turn in the spotlight, it was Ev’s turn. He performed “Chase the Clouds Away” and of course “Mr. Slow Flow.” Dilated couldn’t leave without performing “Worst Comes to Worst.”
As the rest of the crowd stepped up to get closer for Little Brother, Supernatural took the stage. Supernatural freestyled, then he freestyled, then he freestyled some more. No preplanned rhymes. How do we know? Because the whole time he was on stage he constantly leaned over into the crowd to take items from fans to use in his rhymes (it has become his trademark). He took one cat’s class ring, and then said it was so small it looked like it should be on a female. He took another cat’s camera and started recording himself as he spit. Like many who took the stage before him, Supernatural killed it.
The backstage games officially began when porn stars Sinnamon and her sidekick for the day Kitten finally made it to the NOS Center. After being ushered to the backstage area, the duo was set to interview Little Brother for Sinnamon’s new DX column titled “Sex Love & Hip Hop.” As part 1 of the interview took place, we knew it would be a steamy affair that could only translate correctly on video.
With time winding down backstage, LB rushed to the stage with their man D Brock and got straight to it. Their set was Get Back heavy. They performed “Sirens” “Extra Hard” “Dreams” and “When Everything is New.” They also went back to the Minstrel Show for “Say it Again” along with other songs. Pooh caught a lot of flak for his lyrics on earlier LB projects, but he deserves just as much credit for his stage presence. Add in D Brock on the vocals and Phonte next to Pooh, and an LB show is something to see.
Fresh off yet their invigorating performance, Dilated Peoples would be the next to be interviewed by the dynamic duo.
Meanwhile, a game of chance was taking place backstage, as Sage Francis and Rich from Guerilla Union engaged in a quick game of poker. The outset of the game saw the Strange Famous Records artist down early in front of a crowd of journalists and performers. In an ending fit for a big screen feature, Sage emerged victorious on the game’s final hand, just in time to hit the stage and close the show.
As editor, photographer and porn stars wrapped up the second part of their interview with Little Brother (the video is coming soon) all headed back through the arena which resembled a warzone of Hip Hop, alcohol and good old fashion fun.
T-shirts? Sold in bunches. CDs? Gone before sun down. Staff? Burnt out from a long day of work.
Another job well done.
Until next year,
Additional Reporting By Anthony Springer Jr, Brillyance and Remco Semaun
Photo Credit: Anthony Springer Jr & Nina Semaun
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