Easier to read here: https://medium.com/@DickBigems/i-saw-dj-premier-pete-rock-perform-last-night-b085911b968b
Doors opened at 11 P.M., but we didn't get there till 12:30 A.M. I went with my dad (we look close enough in age to pass for brothers), and we didn't leave the house till like 11 P.M. because we anticipated that they’d be a grace period between when the doors opened and the show actually started. Where we live is only like 30 minutes outside of D.C., so it was no sweat getting there, though we had to make some stops at the gas station and a Checkers because I was starvin’ like Marvin. A friend of ours who’s a fairly successful DJ had gone to a DJ Premier vs. Pete Rock show like this one before and told us that Preem and Rock didn’t actually get on stage till about 12:30, so we figured we weren't missing anything.
As it turns out, by the time we got to Howard Theatre, after passing through all the gentrified streets of D.C., Premier and Pete had already started their set. And they pretty much gave whatever one would expect and want out of such an event which is stars them. Old-school hip hop nostalgia, chants of “real hip hop,” and what have you, complete with record scratching and other turntablism skills that your average deejay wouldn't be able to match. Oddly enough though, when we first walked into the place — a club of sorts, adorned with a well-stocked bar, a decent sized dance floor you have to walk down a small flight of stairs to, with a few tables off to the side, but largely no where to sit — the first song we heard playing was Jim Jones’ “We Fly High.” I’m not exactly sure why either. While in the Checkers drive-thru, the radio had played that song as well, so I figured either it was Jim Jones’ birthday or just some odd coincidence.
Who goes to see a DJ Premier vs. Pete Rock concert so they can hear Jim Jones? lol. Thankfully, they eventually switched over to what the people really wanted and played some old shit for all the dustheads there. The first segment was a Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z tribute of sorts, with Preem and Pete alternating between tracks like “D’Evils,” “Lil’ Ghetto Boy,” “The Next Episode,” and “A Million and One Questions,” as well as playing some of the original samples for those songs to make things more interesting. There was a lot of that during the show; playing the original sample for a song and letting the audience figure out what they were about to play next or whatever. It almost makes you develop more appreciation for the songs to hear what original tunes they took from. Plus it’s a good crowd working tool and makes the build up for the beat drop that much more anticipated.
Some might have also noticed the dancer in the center of the stage, a dark skinned brother with a dreadlocks cap doing all these kind of wacky dances. That was Grap Luva, Pete Rock’s little brother, who I suppose was trying to keep the spirit of b-boying alive with all those old dance moves previously seen on Soul Train. I don’t think some people might have gotten exactly why he was up there dancing, but I think that was the reason why. He seemed to be really into whatever Pete Rock and Preem were playing, which was appreciated because he kind of helped with the energy of the show by making it more entertaining to look at than just two old dudes in their forties spinning records.
You probably can’t expect Brand Nubian to happen to show up at a DJ Premier vs. Pete Rock concert all the time, but it just so happened that they did at this one I went to last night. And the entire Brand Nubian was there too, not just some incomplete version that only has Lord Jamar and Sadat X. They went on to perform “Slow Down,” “All for One,” and “Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down,” which was cool. Heavy set Grand Puba and his pals would ramble off their indecipherable verses in a muffled microphone, yet crowd seemed to know what lyrics to say when the beat stopped and were expected to yell them back at the stage. It was cool to see people still listened to Brand Nubian and such spontaneous performances by the group were still occurring. That might have been the highlight of the show.
After those three songs, Brand Nubian dipped and if I can recall correctly, Premier and Pete broke into a random J Dilla tribute of sorts. Well, it wasn't so random I guess. Perhaps they felt a little obligated to play a string of Dilla tracks because his mom (and perhaps his brother Illa J as well, though I’m not sure) happened to be there. So they brought out his mother to the stage and everyone applauded, then Premier and Pete proceeded to play J Dilla’s “Woo-Hah” remix and songs like “E=MC2,” “Fuck the Police,” “Love Jones,” “Players,” “Runnin’,” and the original sample(s) to the song “Workinonit.” They also played some song he produced for A Tribe Called Quest, it might have been “Find a Way,” but I’m not sure because I mainly just fuxwit ATCQ’s pre-Dilla stuff. For the most part, I think a lot of that Dilla music mellowed the crowd out a bit, firstly because I don’t think some people were all that familiar with the Dilla songs and secondly because Dilla’s music a lot of the time just happens to have a mellowing effect on people. Still, I suppose it was cool to see two of the producers Dilla looked up to giving him his props, though in a way it was probably a bit obligatory because the dude’s mom was there. The mix of Dilla songs was a rather predictable one too I think (I’ve seen enough DJ Premier deejay sets on Youtube to know that “Love Jones” is his go-to song to play in honor of Dilla).
Then they started doing a little mix of James Brown songs, beginning with the “Funky Drummer” drumbreak, eventually moving on to the original samples to song like “Just Playing” by Biggie and “Rebel without a Pause.” DJ Premier would scratch that squealing horn part for awhile, which was sort of impressive I guess. I liked how they’d transition from the original samples of songs to the hip hop songs. Other James Brown songs they played were “The Boss,” “My Thang,” “The Payback” (of course), and I think “Get Up Offa That Thing” as well as some others I probably can’t think of off the top of my head. Overall, a pretty solid portion of the show, though the energy was still kind of low in comparison to other parts of it.
I think Premier and Pete might have recognized that the energy was dying down, so they started playing “Shook Ones Pt. 2" by Mobb Deep as well as a flurry of tracks from Illmatic. The crowd on the dance floor appeared to love it, but I wasn't too amused. Three times during the time they were playing Illmatic songs, DJ Premier yelled out to the crowd and asked if we owned a copy of Illmatic. Basically everyone cheered in a way that would suggest a positive answer, but he still felt the need to ask it that many times for some reason. lol. Mainly the stuff Pete Rock would yell out to the crowd would be the typical “When I say this, you say that” kind of thing. The responsiveness of the crowd varied during the concert.
As the show went on, the mixed crowd of white hipsters, middle-aged black guys, old black women, and Asian dudes gradually shrunk, probably to the point where at least 1/3 of the people of there from the beginning had left towards the end of it all. I could understand why. Standing for three to four hours can get wearisome, especially after a long day. I was feeling wobbly myself at times and I hadn't even had anything to drink that night. Plus I was leaning on a rail the whole time I was there. Imagine being a little tipsy and having to stand for that long. To be considered as well is that this was no concert to go chase some tail. The only prospects — if you’d even go as far as to call them that — were black women in their forties and up, probably thinking they could catch some similarly middle aged black guy to pick them up and take them to his place or the Days Inn only a few miles away. Nah, if you’re looking for a last ditch effort to get some tail, you’d have to leave and go on the streets where there any number of clubs and bars inhabited by a plentiful amount of young white chicks in skimpy clothing looking to catch the eyes of as many males as possible to fuel their egos.
D.C. has changed a lot in the last 10 years.
Anyway, another person Preem and Pete Rock paid a little tribute to was Big L. Of course they played “Full Clip” by Gang Starr which has the little bit at the beginning where Premier says “Big L rest in peace,” and they’d spin that back repeatedly calling for the crowd to put up their “L”s with their hands. They also played “Holdin’ It Down” and “The Big Picture (Intro),” which are two songs Pete Rock and Premier had produced for L before he passed. I have no complaints about this.
Perhaps my memory is a bit shaky and I can’t recall everything little bit of the show that I saw, but that was pretty much the gist of the concert. Premier and Pete basically closed out the last 30 minutes or so till 3:00 A.M. playing the original samples to their records then dropped their own beats to a solid response by the crowd that was actually managed to stick it through to the end. Pete Rock played “I Get Physical,” “Straighten It Out,” and his legendary remix to “Shut ‘Em Down” by Public Enemy. Premier played “Come Clean” by Jeru the Damaja, to which Pete Rock responded with his own song “Tru Master” which happens to sample that song in the stratch hook. Premier also played “Livin’ Proof,” “Mass Appeal,” and “DWYCK.” Oh yeah, and Pete Rock had his own little rapping segment where he did the song “The Creator,” which I found to be one of the more entertaining parts of the show, though the crowd as a whole probably didn't think so. They also played the Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth songs “Mecca & the Soul Brother,” “Lots of Lovin’ (Remix),” and “Soul Brother #1,” and Gang Starr songs “Just to Get a Rep,” “Code of the Streets,” and “Royalty,” so there was a fair amount from both groups’ catalogs for fans who came to hear those sort of tracks.
They closed out the show playing the Jefferson Airplane’s “Today,” which of course has that famous riff which was sampled in another version of the song for “T.R.O.Y.” by Pete Rock & C.L. It was a good song to close off on. I figured they might have closed off on PE’s “Shut ‘Em Down,” but this song has a little more mystic I guess. They had the crowd sing the horn riff part back to them to make it more fun and involved.
Then the show was over and if you could manage to get close enough to the stage, you might have gotten a chance to shake Pete Rock and Premier’s hands, and if you brought something for them to sign, they’d autograph it for you. I knew I should have brought my CDs. Anyway, for what it’s worth, I got to shake both of their hands.
So if you’re into all the stuff described above, I’d definitely recommend going to see DJ Premier and Pete Rock perform. I mean, I’d be willing to see either of them perform alone, but the fact that they’re doing this show together, arguably two of hip hop’s top 5 producers of all-time as well as two of the finest deejays, makes the experience that much greater. Catch ‘em sooner than later. The turn out for shows like this in the states is only getting smaller and smaller, plus these dudes are only getting older and older, so opportunities to see these guys in action are dwindling. And it only cost $27.50! Who knows, a group like Brand Nubian might show up and make things that much more interesting. If they ever happened to pass through your city and tickets are only $27.50, by all means, go see them. They could use your support, and they probably would appreciate it as well.
Some other songs they played which I forgot to mention (if anyone cares):
“Ten Crack Commandments,” “Just Rhymin’ with Biz,” “Nas is Like,” “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know,” “Real Hip Hop,” “Duel of the Iron Mic”