Mos Def played the first show of his The Ecstatic tour last Saturday night at First Avenue; it ended up being an early show due to Too Much Love, the club’s weekly dance night. Jay Electronica opened for the legendary emcee, a logical pairing considering the two will soon release a collaborative effort titled Simpatico.
A friend who saw Jay Electronica open for Mos Def asked jokingly, was he an emcee or a comedian? It was true; Jay Electronica may have talked more than he rhymed, which was disappointing. The emcee made several pop culture references in his set, including several to Twitter, encouraging fans to hit him up there. He even threw his phone out at a dude in the crowd to get his number. Jay teased the crowd with the possibility of an early appearance by Mos Def (“I saw him just walk in!”) and by his beau, Erykah Badu. The fib wasn’t too far off; she’ll actually be joining the tour later, as will Talib Kweli.
Jay pulled up a guy from New Orleans out of the pit and gave him a hug, calling the crowd’s attention to the emcee’s roots in the city. He told the crowd “this is my mom” in reference to the club’s stage manager, after he tried to drag him onstage. The stage manager had been trying to get Jay off the stage, since the show was running 40 minutes late at the point.
Preservation was Mos Def’s DJ—which was appropriate, since the duo often collaborate. As expected, Mos Def played most of his new album The Ecstatic, but threw in a few older favorites while keeping the performance mostly single-driven through the first half of the set. Mos gave shout outs to P.O.S., Atmosphere, Prince, and Garrison Keillor. He performed a dedication to M.J. with “Billie Jean,” joking with the crowd and looking at his shoes and pants, hiking them up in MJ fashion before entering into the track, letting the line “She thinks that I am the one,” bleed into “UR The One,” a definite high point in the performance.
But there was never a dull moment. Mos Def started jamming out more halfway into the set, putting on classic soul and reggae in between his own cuts. The latter section of the show was similar to the emcee’s show at last year’s Take Back Labor Day at Harriet Island. He called “The Auditorium,” his collaboration with Slick Rick, one of his favorite songs. He did a great rendition of another new track, “Casa Bey.” Mos Def didn’t perform an encore, instead ending with a soul track, keeping it simple and plain, a verse common throughout his albums. It was a perfect performance by one of hip hop’s finest, and easily one of the best of 2009.
Crystal Erickson (email@example.com) is a freelance writer and photographer, with preoccupations in hip-hop, art, and bicycle anarchy.
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