Kings of the Mic rap to a jubilant crowd

Reviewed by Clay De Souza
Times-News correspondent

   DURHAM — The loud-pumping levels of bass and stereo old-school rap filled the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) as De La Soul, Public Enemy, Ice Cube and LL Cool J performed Sunday night during the Kings of the Mic tour.
Even though they’re a bit older, these hip-hop legends still have the passion to make the audience feel youthful. During the four-hour show, however, the near-capacity crowd would get pushed back into a 21st century actuality; for instance, when De La Soul gave everyone their Twitter addresses.
But I guess that is what one can expect at these retro reunion shows. It was loud and the ferocious societal messages of politics and the ills of the streets of South Central Los Angeles these guys once sang about has been turned into feel-good, sing-along songs. The head count of a lot of gray heads was prevalent, but you know what? These are good songs to sing along to.
   De La Soul asked how many folks in the crowd were 20 to 25 and it seemed that only a few folks acknowledged. The majority of the crowd was 35 and older according to the amount of the thunderous applause given when asked who was represented in the building.
De La Soul remains a big draw, and the show had its first high point when the trio performed “Me, Myself and I.”
Backed by a full band and a DJ, Public Enemy was next with Chuck D and notorious clock-wearer Flavor Flav — both in their early 50s and recent inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The volume was way too high, and their powerful words were pummeled under the needless boom. But it wasn’t hard singing along to “911 is A Joke” with Flavor Flav doing his squirmy spaz dance, “Bring the Noise” and “Don’t Believe the Hype.”
Long before the movies “Are We There Yet?” and “Barber Shop,” Ice Cube was the most dangerous mouthpiece in music. He’s not as alarming at 44. His set was compact and hard, old-school gangsta, opening with “Natural Born Killaz.” Cube showed his melodic side on “Check Yo Self” then got everyone on their feet with N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton.”
The final act of the show LL Cool J (aka 45-year-old James Todd Smith) is also a household name and jack of all trades. But let it be known the man responsible for “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “Going Back to Cali” is still a force to be reckoned with onstage.
He brought some female audience members to the stage to dance, but left the stage rather abruptly without so much as an encore. Nontheless, hail to all the Kings of the Mic — they’ve earned the title.

 Clay De Souza is a student at Guilford College and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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