Hardcore rap pioneer Rakim and his well chosen opening group, Jurassic 5, prove that in an age of MTV and flashy concert production, hip-hop fans still respect and respond to old school basics: Turntables, microphones and stellar showmanship.
After a five-year hiatus, the former, lyrical half of Eric B. & Rakim returned late last year with his comeback album, “The 18th Letter” (Universal). On his second House Of Blues date in three months, Rakim moved the crowd with the same cold, unflinching flow that made him a hardcore rap trailblazer in the late ’80s. Like his tightly gripped microphone, he kept the audience in his palm for the duration of his 50 minute set.
Fans echoed every lyric to classics like “Paid In Full” and “I Ain’t No Joke,” as well as his recent hit, “Guess Who’s Back”; obeyed Ra’s every request to “make some muthaf kin’ noise”; and cheered wildly as fellow rap pioneer and audience member Ice T joined him on stage for a song. By the time Rakim fired off the oft sampled lyrics “pump up the volume” from “I Know You Got Soul,” he’d whipped the house into a full throttle frenzy. He ended the song with a climactic stage dive.
In their first major venue show, Jurassic 5 — whose eponymous, self distributed EP has made them the toast of L.A.’s rap underground and the object of label bidding — got bodies rocking with pass the mic freestyles, d.j. solos, impromptu breakdancing and witty lyrics about rap’s roots.