Last night was one for the hip-hop heads. People Under The Stairs came to the Highline Ballroom and it was equipped with a nostalgic opening of a SEGA game, tributes to Phife Dawg and Sean P, and a hell of a lot of men stuffed into one little venue.
When I walked into the Highline, the DJs were playing Tribe Called Quest and heads were bobbin in unison to the beat. I was a little surprised to see such an extreme ratio of guys to girls. Nevertheless, you could tell everyone in the crowd really knew hip-hop by the way they cheered and sang with each throwback the DJs mixed in.
A-F-R-O (stands for All Flows Reach Out) opened up the show and at only 18-years-old, this guy proves the future of vintage hip-hop is in safe hands. Growing up, AFRO heard Rakim's "Microphone Field" at only nine-years-old and thats the moment he knew he wanted to go into hip-hop. AFRO, whose mentor is R.A. the Rugged Man, raps solely from the Golden Era perspective and has a flow thats faster than most emcees that are twice his age.
During AFROs set, his hype man would run back and forth, covering every inch of the stage while chanting "AFRO, AFRO" and get the crowd to repeat after him. At one point of the set, both AFROs DJ and hype man did a round-table freestyle where AFRO displayed exactly how fast he could flow. AFRO stands at over 6-feet-tall and he's a pretty husky man, but hes as modest and humble as they come. In between each song, he'd throw his arms up and show appreciation as everyone chanted his name. Theres hope for the future of hip-hop because of AFRO.
People Under The Stairs (which consists of Tres One and Double K) opened up the set with a visuals on their backdrop screen of a mock SEGA video game. The game had two animated characters to represent Double K and Tres One. In the game, Tres One was attempting to get his character to an island that had a big door on it. Once he got there, Tres One's character enter the door as it lit up and floated to the sky. Tres One said it signified the door to heaven and dedicated the show to all the artists we lost this year. I give it a 10/10 for most entertaining opening to a show.
A few songs into their set, they played "Scenario" by a Tribe Called Quest to show respect to Phife Dawg, who passed away a few months ago, and the whole crowd was shouting "Here we go, yo, here we go, yo / So what, so what, so whats the scenario?" When they performed "Trippin at the Disco" from their 2009 album Carried Away, Tres One danced all over the stage and encouraged the crowd to jump around during chorus. Tres One stopped the music and said, "Can you turn the fogger off? 'Cause we steamy anyway" and continued to make comments about how the room was filled with a mixture of weed smoke and fog from the machine. He followed it up by joking, "Just kidding, dont do drugs."
The set was full of highlights, from Tres One's corny hip shaking to Double K suddenly beat-boxing as Tres One threw down a freestyle. "I want to get hip as hell" Double K said just before the beat started to the track "Hip" from 12 Step Program. Next they performed "Runaway" from The Getting Off Stage, Step 1, which was yet another highlight of their set. Greg Nice is on that track but he's on tour so they wanted to get the whole crowd singing along in his honor. And of course the crowd favorite was the People Under The Stairs hit, "Acid Raindrops" putting an end to an energized night of classic hip-hop feels.
Im a big fan of the intimate space, low-lighting, and amazing sound quality at The Highline Ballroom. It was the perfect place to host AFRO and People Under The Stairs as it wasn't a sold-out show so there was plenty of room to bop around and appreciate a few of the great emcees in the world.