On Saturday, June 12, Ice-T and Mickey Bentson’s “The Art of Rap” show made its way to Mount Plesant, Michigan. And all the artists blessed everyone in attendance with a showcase of Hip-Hop in its purest form.
The evening’s opening act slots provided platforms for Detroit’s Trap 100 (and he did rep The D to the fullest with an authentic Pistons’ cap) and Minny Niiche, a signee of Mickey Bentson’s Payup Records. And in addition to being signed with Mickey, she is also managed by him and actor/filmmaker MJ Harrell. Thus, a roster of iconic rap artists had the stage set for them to remind all who were there precisely how this thing called rap is genuinely an art.
And before anyone even took the stage, it was DJ Kevie Kev Rockwell on the 1’s and 2’s who did his thing all damn night and host Boogie Black who kept the crowd entertained before, between, and after the performers with his own hit, “Blame It on the Henny.” Clearly, this is a production which values all of its talent and all of its talent is worthy of such value. The DJ and the host had the crowd rocking with excitement as if they were acts themselves. And with Mickey busy behind the scenes from before the curtain opened until after it closed, his assistant Dayaa Benzo made sure that everything continued to run smoothly so that the artists could perform comfortably, the venue staff were happy, and that every paying customer got his or her money’s worth.
Kicking off the show was EPMD, a duo who not only has endured but made some of the dopest Hip-Hop music ever along the way. The “West Coast sound” that the two guys from Brentwood, Long Island, New York helped shape via funk samples was clear. Not only did they run through their hits, they also paid homage to other fallen Hip-Hop greats such as Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
Following them was Too Short, a rapper who simultaneously made the word “Biatch” famous and provided social commentary. The effect he had on the crowd was immediate. During the beginning of his set, I was backstage, and someone came back and said, “They’re all standing up.” When I went out back out to observe the audience, everyone had risen to their feet and were hanging on to every word Short Dog recited from his classic “Freaky Tales.” His performance was only at the beginning. And it was a real trip when during “Life is… Too Short”, the whole crowd said, “comin’ straight from Oakland” right after modifying the line before it.
Next up was one of the greatest emcees of all time. If one gets asked to name the ten best emcees ever in the history of Hip-Hop, only nine need mentioning because, as Kool Moe Dee put it in his book (There’s a God on the Mic [Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2003]), “Big Daddy Kane has [the most perfect] rhyme inflections ever!” Kane is a given. Therefore, not acknowledging Kane’s greatness invalidates the credibility of anyone who leaves him out. And he proved during his show how he set a standard for phenomenal emceeing over thirty years ago that few have ever reached since.
During the set, Kane also brought Mickey Bentson out on stage to make sure the audience showed him some love. For those who don’t know, Bentson is a music industry veteran. He is business partners with Ice-T and, in addition to many other things, helped establish “The Art of Rap” brand, was a founding member of the Zulu Nation, managed Big Pun, and as he once said, “[my music career] has taken me around the world three times.”
Then, the original gangster Ice-T took the stage and proved why he is still “the coldest motherfucker that you ever heard.” His performance of classics like “Colors” and “The Tower” was mesmerizing. The inclusion of Power’s “Girls L.G.B.N.A.F.” was great too. And near the end of his time, he brought a fan up on stage to help perform “Original Gangster” with him, and he locked into it perfectly. The gentleman was maybe in his twenties, so the fact he knows a song that could be older than he is so precisely is serving as a testament to how amazing Ice-T is as a rapper and why he is one of the most influential people Hip-Hop culture has ever seen.
Closing out the show was Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and, as to be expected, they were incredible. Ice-T shared with a few people during their set about how he saw them at their first performance way back in the day. It’s cool to know how he saw the Ohio collective from the jump to them now being on the bill alongside him on a roster reserved only for the greats. It should come as no surprise, though. “1st of tha Month,” “Foe tha Love of $,” and, of course, “Crossroads” are timeless classics that helped catapult Hip-Hop into the mainstream popularity that it is still enjoying to this day.
For footage of some performances, interviews, and even a few surprises, check the video below [vertical cinema style]!