Q-Tip’s anxiety was obvious. More than once, he would freeze at the end of a song, his face turned away from the crowd, his fingers wiggling in vain for more applause. He was overly earnest in his effort to be a rockstar, screaming a few times at the end of “Electric Relaxation,” even holding the microphone upside down at one point (who’s got a picture of that?). “What’s the problem, y’all good?” he would ask, “You paid your money to come in here, not to stand, but to move…. This is the Brooklyn Hip-hop Festival, right?”
It’s true that the crowd was uninspired. Maybe it was the reshuffle of the line-up, explained unsurely by host Ralph McDaniels. The show was running way over time; Kendrick Lamar did only three songs before heading off the stage not too long before. It was a motley audience — there were little kids, but mostly old heads, multicolored and stubborn. Maybe it was the fact that few of them were actually born and raised in Brooklyn, according to McDaniels’s live survey. That’s what Q-Tip seemed to think: “It’s a lot of implants, that’s what it is,” he posited, “Gentrification’s a motherfucker.”
In retrospect, Q-Tip’s nervousness was warranted — how would the audience respond to the all-star cast waiting backstage? Monie Love got the crowd hyped when she joined him on stage for “Buddy (Remix)” and “Monie in the Middle,” joking “Still in the middle. Just had a baby, what’s goin’ on?” as she exited. The first big-name guest was Black Thought, who relieved Tip of crowd control duties with his surefooted presence. But the crowd really went wild for Busta Rhymes, who knocked out “Scenario,” “Oh My God,” and his own current hit, “Look at Me Now” with his trademark confidence.
When Teyana Taylor’s indelible “Can we get much higher?” blasted through the speakers shortly after, the thought of a Kanye appearance seemed pretty unlikely to me, though Tip has produced a rack of recent Yeezy joints. And yet in he bounded, in a tank top and backwards hat. He waded through the plebeians for the first verse of “Dark Fantasy” and had the stagnant crowd sprinting in his direction, and then retook the stage for “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “All of the Lights” before Tip urged him to stay for “Award Tour.” He took off in his Maybach before the show was finished.
After each guest, Q-Tip would rant about how much he loved him or her: he told us that Busta was this close to being in Tribe, and Busta responded that “Scenario” “definitely changed a nigga’s tax bracket”; he told us that when he met Kanye, “I only felt like this when I met Dilla.” Kanye was mostly quiet during his bit, and Q-Tip’s effusiveness sometimes felt a little awkward and untimely — especially when he had J. Period spin back “Scenario” and “World Tour” after the first few bars. Though it took a bit of goading at first, everybody was going nuts by the end of his set.
Q-Tip definitely wants to prove that he can handle his own amidst the controversy of Michael Rapaport‘s documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life. (Sidebar: Rapaport was reportedly backstage.) Many speculated that Phife would be one of his special guests, but of course, that wasn’t the case. When he spoke about the film at the end of the show, he only encouraged people to go see it, calling it “a true hip-hop artifact” that he was “humble to be a part of.” As the crowd made its way for the exit after a Ralph McDaniels-induced encore, the buzz was palpable; for all his eagerness, Q-Tip had put on a legendary show. But could he have pulled it off without a little help from his friends?
After the jump, check out more pictures courtesy of the super talented Shamel Washington.
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