he faithful came out Monday evening and were treated to a great show by two old school rap groups. It’s been fifteen years since Salt-n-Pepa had a hit song and about the same amount time for Public Enemy. But these years away from the limelight didn’t diminish their performances or the audience’s enthusiasm. They brought the music, and the people brought the party, dancing and screaming for about three hours.
The groups are currently on separate tours, and they came together yesterday evening for a one-off show at a free outdoor concert at Wingate Park in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The concert was part of the park’s ongoing Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series. It’s the thirtieth year anniversary of the series, which continues through late August with shows by Ledisi, three members of New Edition, and Cissy Houston.
Fans came out of the subways with lawn chairs thrown over their shoulders and Adidas on their feet. And I followed them to the park where hundreds of people stood in line an hour-and-a-half before the show’s scheduled start time. The stage sat on one side of the mostly treeless park, thronged by a crowd of several thousand people. On the stage, a backdrop featured Public Enemy’s iconic man in the crosshairs logo. All ages were represented, but thirty- and forty-somethings dominated. The weather was mild with a slight breeze and free of either the thunderstorms or the 90 degree heat that have plagued this summer.
An hour before the show, organizers announced a special guest, leaders of the New School, who kicked off the show with a rocky start. Audience members who expected to see Busta Rhymes, Charlie Brown, and the whole crew were disappointed. Only one member of the group, Dinco D., was present. He came on stage backed with only a DJ, which brought into question use of the plural “leaders.” He performed only three songs, the last of which was “Scenario,” the hit A Tribe Called Quest song that featured Leaders of the New School. The audience started to jump and scream when they heard the bass line. Unfortunately Dinco D. spat only his verse, then put the mic down and left the stage, leaving thousands of people wanting to hear somebody say “Rowr! Rowr! Like a dungeon dragon.”
Salt-n-Pepa hit the stage next. The first ladies of hip-hop know how to put on a show. After 25 years in the business, they were still energetic and fun. Early in their one hour set, they got the audience hyped by playing and dancing to some old school hits, including EU’s “Da Butt” and dropping a few lines from “Rapper’s Delight.” Pepa added lyrics from two Naughty By Nature songs, prompting Salt to tease her with the quip, “Why you always doing your baby daddy’s songs? Treach gonna get you.”
Then they moved into some of their classic songs, including “Tramp” and “I’ll Take Your Man.”
Both Salt and Pepa were keeping it sexy even as they reach middle age. Pepa wore short denim shorts and a revealing black top. Salt was a little more conservative, with a loose silver blouse and tight, shiny black pants.
But it was definitely a family friendly show, at least for their set. There was no cursing. At one point, they even brought some of their children and other young relatives on stage, which was a lot of fun. “The first hip hop babies” they called them. Less interesting, however, was when Salt brought out her husband Gavin, who appeared to have no interest in being on stage, for the song “Whatta Man.” Thankfully, Pepa stepped in and asked for an audience member to dance with her. This produced one of the most fun