1st Generation at Club Nokia, 7/23/11
Better than: Compton High School's annual talent show, but possibly not.
It's been said that you can instantly judge the economic health of a neighborhood based on the prevalence of barriers: fences, security systems, especially speed bumps. Unfortunately, the poor just have to learn to live with each other. Yeah, I'll acknowledge a stretch of a metaphor when justified, but the state of the record industry as a whole and hip-hop in particular can be illustrated by just how long it's been since we've had an even marginally interesting beef, let alone one where someone's life appeared to be in danger.
Such is the situation for those who don't have the luxury of being ascendant in the game; veterans who may have been enemies on account of the narcissism of small differences are now uniting out of common respect and possibly necessity. We've already seen examples of this in the past couple of years both hearteningly successful, at least in the artistic sense (DJ Quik & Kurupt's 2008 LP Blakqout), and tragically comic, such as Slaughterhouse, a fun idea ruined by four rappers with no charisma and unconscionably annoying web presences. Enter 1st Generation, a loosely affiliated collection of West Coast rappers, DJs and producers who certainly have made their presence felt over the past two decades, but are most likely known by hip-hop moderates as guys who may have appeared on a Snoop record at some point.
If you're to trust some understandably overzealous PR, Tha Chill (of Compton's Most Wanted) and Gangsta (uh, Google it) have initiated the formation of not just a supergroup, but a walking Hall of West Coast Fame. And to the crowd which grew surprisingly packed towards the end of the night after filling in Club Nokia with the progress of an IV drip, maybe they were. But after finally taking the stage after an astonishing and seemingly endless four hours of supporting acts, 1st Generation member King T entered to perhaps his best-known appearance in the mainstream: a track that popped up way towards the back end of Dr. Dre's 2001. The title is aptly demonstrative and anticlimactic: "Some L.A. N****z."
Then again, for all their bluster of "the streets need us" and changing the game and so forth, 1st Generation were above all else about memorializing a certain kind of party & bullshit formalism indigent to the West Coast. It's been a strong year for Cali, no doubt - LPs from DJ Quik, E-40 and Kendrick Lamar are among the best hip-hop records from any region in 2011, but each plays up a certain sense of friendly eccentricity.
With all due respect, that's not what MC Eiht, Jayo Felony and Kurupt (amongst a host of others) were about on Saturday night. And that's pretty much how things were supposed to be -- carping about swag, critical disrespect, or pretty much anything was kept to a minimum, everything instead focused on the enterprising dudes in the front who held up their W's for the night's entirety and were probably perfectly pleased with paying about $50 in tickets and parking just to hear Battlecat and Kurupt do "We Can Freak It" in the flesh.
It was wholly satisfying, even if the utterly soul-crushing openers demanded the patience of a POW. If you've interacted with any social networking site in the past week or so, you've undoubtedly heard about the ungodly heat baking the East Coast. If you're wondering how serious they are about their plight, ask them how interested they'd be in switching places with anyone who happened to believe for even a split second that "support" would last from 7:30-8:00 with 1st Generation promptly taking the stage at 8:30...and suspiciously performing until midnight despite this being their first show ever.
Ticket prices at Club Nokia tend to far outstrip the attendant talent, and you might chalk it up to the premium of being in L.A. Live. A more apt, if not accurate, justification would probably be the astronomical AC costs since its temperature is about that of a slightly balmy meat locker. For nearly four hours, you could shiver to the experience of pretty much any iteration of internet no-hopers who somehow finagled a deal with Uneek Music (not to be confused with the DJ U-Neek of Bone Thugs N Harmony).
No less than ten openers hit the stage, each of them with names that evinced a tremendous fear of success -- P2TheLA, Mimi, LMKR, Compton AV. Not a single one was more entertaining than the MCs incessant ragging on some guy's Coogi shirt and boat shoes or the ten seconds where the DJ would play something like "No Hands" or "Racks" that the crowd would undoubtedly rather be listening to. The clear standout was someone who mixed an Eazy-E styled L.A. Kings snapback with white wraparound glasses as seen on the first Soulja Boy record. He goes by Krita-Cali Acclaimed and has a worse name than a third-gen chillwave act.
And then there's the whole sad notion that most of these dudes probably were involved in some pay-to-play arrangement so the promoters would at least be able to eat most of the cost. So in a way, this made perfect sense as an opener for a throwback conglomerate: some things never change in hip-hop.
Critical bias: Personally waiting for 3rd Generation, a Southern follow-up featuring Bone Crusher, Miracle, Drama, Dirty and a TBD contributor from Beatz By The Pound
Overheard: "You having a good time, baby?" Boyfriend to his girlfriend during a song presumably named either "Stripper Ho" or "(I Need A Bad) Lil' Stripper Ho."
"It's tight too!" - a female crowd member responding to the MC comparing Puerto Rican women to "a slip n' slide."