Yesterday I felt as if I was witnessing a piece of history at Radio City Music Hall in Midtown Manhattan. After being on hiatus for a decade my favorite conscious comedian Dave Chappelle resurfaced for a series of shows at Radio City, along with some really dope musical guests. Last night one of my all-time favorite Emcees was the musical guest -- NAS.
Anyone who is a fan of Dave Chappelle and his wildly popular comedy central show -- the one he quit 10 years ago with $50 million on the table, knows that Dave is a hip-hop head. He’s the kind of hip-hop head that we conscious people can relate to. Remember Block Party -- the documentary in which Dave had the who’s who of conscious hip-hop and “neo soul” music performing in Brooklyn on the same stage, accompanied by his comedic genius. The one that completed the impossible task of reuniting the Fugees. Well a decade later Dave has recreated that historic collaboration with a weeks worth of comedy performances and musical guests, like The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Busta Rhymes. I heard Kanye West made a surprise performance during the Friday show.
Many critics seemed concerned that Dave’s sabbatical from the limelight had somehow stunted his comedic growth and that his best days were behind him. The fans clearly did not share the skepticism because just about every show is sold out, except for one.
This was my first time seeing Dave Chappelle live, and I must say that my expectations were off the charts. I attended expecting the Dave Chappelle that I became an instant fan of after watching Half Baked to emerged unscathed from a decades worth of headlines calling him crazy and washed up.
I was not disappointed.
Dave literally bought the house down with his routine. He discussed topics ranging from Paula Deen, Donald Sterling, Magic Johnson and AIDS, to marijuana, his wife and children and I walked in as he was discussing the missing Malaysian plane, which he said landed on Tupac island. His material was fresh and polished, nothing remotely close to the horror stories we've heard of him making random appearances at random comedy clubs. Hearing him discuss current events took me back to 10 years ago when the Chappelle Show was a staple in many of our lives.
The energy in the room was electrifying to say the least. It was clear that the audience felt the same connection to the moments we were experiecing that I felt. Having two not only amazingly talented artists, but artists who use their gifts to enlighten the people, on the same stage was monumental.
NAS has been going strong for the last two years, celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the release of Illmatic, one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever created. He took the stage after a 20-minute intermission following Dave’s set.
What surprised me more than anything about this show was that it started on time -- promptly at 8 p.m.. My cousins and I were still in the concession lines at 8pm, as ushers shuffled through the crowd announcing that the show would be starting soon. We brushed it off, thinking that there would be a few opening acts before either of the headliners got on stage. We were wrong.
When we finally got to our seats at around 8:15, Dave was already just about done his first cigarette -- he would go on to chain smoke throughout the set.
Back to NAS -- this was not the first time I had seen NAS perform, but it’s been so many years since my first NAS concert, I was looking forward to hearing him perform a lot of his new material, post Jay-Z beef. But in keeping with the 20-year celebration NAS performed the entire Illmatic album, as well as a bunch of his post 2000 hits up to the Stillmatic album. Although I was hoping to hear some of GODSON, Untitled and Life is Good, I can’t say that I wasn’t on my feet the entire 1.5 hours NAS performed just like everyone else. Illmatic is certainly a classic album and NAS a classic artist -- it is impossible not to feel a connection to the music and the culture in this type of venue.
It was also interesting to see the diversity in the crowd. It was NOT a black audience. It was also not a white audience. There were people of all races represented in large numbers -- an onus to NAS and Dave's mass appeal, despite both their dedication to bringing light to the struggle and making it as much a part of their artistic manifestation as trending news topics.
Unfortunately at this point for anyone interested in attending the show, tickets will be near impossible to get. At the entrance to Radio City, where you’d normally see the typical scalpers trying to peddle a last minute ticket, these cats were actually asking attendees for extra tickets. Go figure.
I was not surprised that the event sold out so quickly, as Dave’s comeback has been highly anticipated. I was determined to attend this show and despite the high ticket costs I can truly say that it was worth every penny. For everyone who wanted to attend but missed the boat, better luck next time, you missed it!