by J.T. Tarpley
“This ain’t skinny jean music! Some of these guys had cassettes!”
The huge majority of the people packing the house at the new and beautifully appointed Robinson Center for the "Legends of Southern Hip-Hop" Tour are well into our thirties and at least a generation removed from the digital natives thumbing through Audiomack and DatPiff apps for new music.
And while I personally never owned a cassette from any of tonight’s line-up (although I vividly remember being ten years old and looking wide-eyed and shook-like at the disposable camera Mexican standoff scene on the cassette cover of "Mr. Scarface is Back" that sat under the glass counter in Beaches, my Ark-La-Tex hometown’s rap cassette/incense/God-knows-
Although a mismapped Uber kept us from catching Bun B (the best rapper on the bill by a hair or two and most likely to sweep a week of “Jeopardy!”) open the night, Trick Daddy flexed through a block of Miami classics, including a tender and timely “Thug Holiday” (“Here go one for all these killings and all these conflicts in religion/See the Muslims, Jews, and Christians but know they're all God's children.")
Juvenile opened with the title track off “400 Degreez” and stayed true to his name, roasting his own hooks, riding an invisible donkey across the stage, swinging a microphone dong at the wings, and playing fuzzy geography by claiming his home state of Louisiana shares a town with Arkansas in Texarkana (“I ain’t never been to that motherfucka but”) before ripping into “Ha," objectively the best song Cash Money ever put out; grind classic “Slow Motion;" and (isn’t it time for a revival of this one?) “Back That Azz Up."
Scarface, dressed like a weekday afternoon minister in a polo and sensible jeans, wasn’t afraid to call his set a sermon, sounding great and precise when dominating the occasional 16 acapella. After “Fuckfaces” and “Mary Jane," one of the crowd’s intermittent smoke signals went up (which always ended up with two beefy cops walking back up to the lobby, empty-handed as they came) and Scarface indirectly chastised the crowd for smoking something that “made me paranoid as hell” before the wah lick from Isaac Hayes’ “Hung Up On My Baby” swooped in and made entire crowd light into “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” (“I sit alone in my four-cornered room, staring at candles!”)
Before leaving, Face said this would probably be the last time he raps in Little Rock. He’s switching the direction of his career, the icon says. Fingers crossed we see Johnny Nash’s cousin swinging through the White Water Tavern with a South Texas roots outfit soon.