Halfway through its second summertime go-round, the Smokin' Grooves tour displays a four-hour breezily paced menu that makes for nice --- if imperfect --- aural grazing of hip-hop-friendly acts new and old. Headliners Cypress Hill and George Clinton both bite into their hourlong sets by showcasing their own, unknown artists, and Badu steals the show. Badu, with her multiplatinum "Baduizm" LP still charting, probably could've filled the venue on her own and her jazzy vocals and live, laid-back R&B band made for an attractive and compact 40-minute set. Her performance of her top 10 single "On & On" with the Roots' rapper Tariq hit a freestyle seg that rivaled any of the other rhyming of the night.

The vibe changed 180 degrees as Badu’s elevating lyrics about the circle of life were followed abruptly by Cypress Hill rapper B-Real’s tales of guns, weed, death and a hail of expletives; the group’s hour of aggressive, psychedelic hip-hop was almost out of place among the other acts.

Clinton and his circus of funketeers squandered much of their precious hour on instrumental, improv and unfamiliar material that showcased random singers and MCs, including Clinton’s own granddaughter/rapper, who clearly inherited few, if any, of his funky genes. Annoyed fans left, but redemption arrived amidst billows of smoke with the landing of the Mothership and a rousing perf of “Atomic Dog.”

Live rap band the Roots and U.K. retro-soulsters Brand New Heavies opened for the slowly filling house.

House of Blues Smokin' Groves

Universal Amphitheater; 6,800 seats; $49.90 top

Cast

Presented by HOB Entertainment. Performers: George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, Cypress Hill, Erykah Badu, Brand New Heavies, the Roots. Reviewed July 30, 1997.
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