Only two words can describe the Busta Rhymes concert in my hometown on Friday. “Colossal disappointment.”
For starters, while perhaps what I expected it to be, the crowd was full of fake people. A lot of rakishly tilted hats with the stickers still on them. A lot of cologne. A lot of Yankees emblems on everything. A lot of suburban kids trying to reflect a lifestyle they’ve only read about. I kept getting looked at like no one had ever seen a guy in an Overkill shirt with a bullet belt before.
The carnival commenced with a whole mess of overblown white rappers from Connecticut, who seemed to keep coming from the side of the stage like performers from a clown car. Ranging from overzealous to downright irritating, each was in some way just as insipid as the last, with rare exception. I have never thought of Connecticut as a hotbed for rap activity, and my opinion remains wholly unchanged. If these are the standard bearers for hip-hop from New England, then those states need to rethink their position on the issue. It’s not too late for an honorable withdrawal.
The entire cadre of early rappers were far too willing to laugh at the inside jokes contained in each individual’s lyrics. The content of the songs itself was the usual drab fare; money, “toughness,” and the alleged sexual prowess of the rapper, or the alleged lack of sexual prowess of “whack MC’s,” to bring back a phrase from classic hip-hop. It was as though each person believed that if he rapped about success at all levels, surely it would come to fruition. If I might editorialize for a moment, this is frankly backward from how nearly all successful rap careers begin. It has always been the relatable struggle (Ice-T,) the hunger and quest for respect (KRS-One,) the profound anger (NWA,) or the search for truth (Public Enemy,) that has driven the iconic rap artists to stardom. When one of them asked the audience “Anyone just got out of prison?” My first question was “Have YOU ever been to prison?”
In the end, the entire prolonged opening act was a festival of self-congratulating, chest thumping, and heterosexual man-love; a rap version of the extreme punks from Harold and Kumar.
But Busta Rhymes would be out soon and he would fix everything. Wouldn’t he?
This is where this gets depressing. Busta Rhymes (and Splif,) did appear. The crowd (which I admit was smaller than I would have thought,) roared their appreciation. The lights fell. The beats started.
Twelve minutes later, it was all over.
The ending had come so suddenly you would have missed it if you had blinked. There were some words from Busta, a promise to see us all at the bar (which never happened,) and then a retreat to the green room. The show was over before it had really begun. People stood around in confusion before eventually shambling off to either the bar or the parking lot. The DJ continued playing club songs for maybe a half-hour, and then that was over as well. The lights came back up. We all went home.
From a concert standpoint, this was so staunchly unfulfilling as to be criminal. This was like the Hindenburg crashing into the Titanic. It was Sodom and Gomorrah fenced in by the walls of Jericho. Yes, gentle readers, it was worse than Green Jelly. It was disappointing enough that I would have left early, except that it was over before I could. I would love to give you a rundown of what the set list was, of what the caliber of Busta’s performance was, but I can’t. None of it happened.
I am forced to wonder what happened to Busta Rhymes. Was there a signal crossed? Was it supposed to be an hour and fifteen minute set, except he only got told the last part? Has the man become lethargic with success? Does he think his future career lies in acting in more “Halloween” movies, at the expense of rap? There was a day when Busta Rhymes was the living embodiment of Sho’nuff. Now, “Woo-Hah!” seems like a distant and fading memory.