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Over the past couple of years I’ve been able to see some great old school hip-hop and R&B concerts. They seem to get better and better each show.  This concert happened to be on what is known as the birthday of Hip-Hop, the 50th anniversary.  So what better way to celebrate than hitting up a concert with my wife and some great friends.  LL Cool J is calling this the F.O.R.C.E. (Frequencies of Real Creative Energy) Live tour. LL will headline those shows himself, and he’ll perform with The Roots, as well as Philadelphia legend DJ Jazzy Jeff and LL’s own collaborator, the onetime mash-up specialist Z-Trip. But rather than having LL give a proper headlining performance, the show will be set up more as a continuous set, with the Roots backing up all the guests.  I love the idea of mixing up the special guests, so no one show will be the same.  We were lucky enough to get the GOD MC himself, Rakim, Queen Latifah and De La Soul. There is a common theme for me and my friends (more on this later), and that was The Roots performance.  WOW is all I can say.  They may be one of the best live bands I have ever heard, and the fact they played straight for the 3-and-a-half-hour show was remarkable.  So live, so energetic, so perfect!  Questlove….holy crap!!!  The Roots came out first to get the crowd moving, and gave us a taste of what was to come.  They played a few of their own songs, sounding perfect.  "Black Thought" on the mic was awesome….all night long!  LL was on a local radio station earlier in the day and said, this is not a concert, it is a party.  And he was totally right.  The Roots stopped for a second and we hear Jazzy Jeff bringing in a beat and Rakim steps to the stage.  Crowd went nuts, not a single person sitting.  He goes into Move The Crowd and yes, the crowd was moving.  They flow onto "Microphone Fiend", the crowd rapping right along with Rakim…..

The invincible, microphone fiend, Rakim,
Spread the word 'cause I'm in
A smooth operator operating correctly, But back to the problem, I got a habit, You can’t solve it, silly rabbit.

When he went into "Eric B. for President", or should I say Jazzy Jeff for President, the crowd rapped right along and it was so loud right from the first lines….I came in the door, I said it before, I never let the mic magnetize me no more. So good, so hyped, so crazy.  "I Ain’t No Joke" was up next, he was playing everything this crowd wanted.  The Roots and Jazzy Jeff sounding so perfect.  Every song Rakim got more hyped, The Roots got more hyped, the crowd got my hyped.  It was time to pump up the volume with "I Know You Got Soul".  Rakim stepped aside for Jazzy Jeff to entertain us on the wheels of steel with some amazing cutting and scratching……I think he may be the best DJ ever.  That, of course, took us to "Don’t Sweat The Technique". My wife (a DJ herself and influenced by Jeff) leaned over and said, they are going to go into "Know the Ledge", perfect song to mix into and flows so perfectly.  She was right and the crowd loved it. Rakim stopped The Roots and Jazzy Jeff (one of the few little “breaks” The Roots had all night) for a nice acapella free style.  Nice and slow and smooth, leading us into "Follow The Leader".  A little earlier the guy in front of me said, what do you think will be his last song….without hesitation I said "Paid In Full"…….Well, once we all heard the bassline, crowd went absolutely crazy.  There was not one person not rapping along.  It gave me goosebumps listening to close to 14,000 rapping along with Rakim.  I have seen Rakim a few times live and this had to be the best performance!  I was a little surprised Rakim was the first up, but a perfect way to get the party started.  The Roots played a couple of songs and we were expecting either Queen Latifah or De La Soul to come out next. 

And then were heard, Calling all cars, calling all cars, be on the lookout for a tall light-skinned brother with dimples……..CROWD WENT NUTS…….LL Cool J comes running out to "I’m Bad"!  I think it took us all a few seconds for it to sink in the LL was on stage.  He sounded so good.  He truly is BAD!  He flowed into "Doin’ It" and the crowd was doin’ it with him.  Next up Black Thought and LL rapping back and forth together, sounded so great.  He then gave us some "Boomin’ System" and "Big Ole Butt", the crowd rapping right along to every lyric. Tina got a big ole butt. I have never been the hugest LL fan, always liked his music, but not one of my top hip-hop artists.  I totally was into this performance and didn’t realized how many of his lyrics I knew.  He was having so much fun up there.  I was so surprised at how The Roots were so hyped.  Questlove drumming constantly, Tuba Gooding Jr. dancing all over stage with his tuba and Captain Kirk Douglas all over the stage as well!  Their sound was perfect all night.  When he went into "Luv U Better", everyone was on their feet swaying to the sweet groove. We knew he was going to flow into "Around Away Girl", crowd bobbin’ up and down to LL’s groove. I do not think there was one person in their seat since Rakim came on. So much energy on stage from LL and The Roots.  Then an amazing part of the whole show, he goes into "Headsprung" and the energy hit the roof, so did LL, Tuba Gooding Jr and Black Thought!  They were jumping up and down for almost the whole song…..tired just thinking about it.  He then went into EPMD song "Rampage" with Black Thought, he sounded so hard!  He was killing the mic!  We got some "Jingling Baby" and then he took us back to Cali….Going Back to Cali, Cali, Cali, I’m going back to Cali, hmmmm, I don’t think so.  LL sounded great but this song was also about The Roots….perfect live song for them, especially the sax!  LL walks off the stage and we are all just so hyped. 

The Roots played a couple more songs, mixing in some old school hip-hop songs we all grew up with and then De La Soul (Posdnuos and Maseo) comes to the stage.  Of course they were missing Plug 2 (Dave), passing away earlier this year (RIP).  Another group I was never a huge fan of back in the day, but wow did Posdnuos and Maseo put on one hell of a show.  They sounded so good, going through some songs I was not familiar with and others I remembered (again like with LL, knowing more lyrics than I would have thought). They did "Potholes In My Lawn", "Goes With The Word", "The Grind Date" (getting the crowd to move their arms up and down the whole song).  They really sounded so good and The Roots were a perfect background group for them.  Maseo was behind the turntables up to this point but came down with Posdnuos for Oooh, they had the crowd dancing and jumping up and down and rapping right along. 

God bless the God,

lay these Streets wall to wall,

It go, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh,

Yo, you got popped like a flick by that rivalry clique,

It went, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh. 

They flowed with "Much More and Stakes Is High", and took a second to talk about their album De La Soul Is Dead, and their transformation from the daisy and just growing up.  Paying homage to Plug 2 and having the crowd yell, thank you Dave, thank you Dave.  "Pass The Plugs" was next up and they finished off with "Rock Co. Kane Flow".  Great song to finish off the night and what a performance. Once again The Roots plays some songs and mixes in some hip-hop tracks, did I mention how amazing they sounded?  Then the Queen comes to the stage to "Had It Up 2 Here" and right from the start she sounded so good. She moves onto "Wrath Of My Madness" and "Just Another Day", her lyrics on point and her singing sounding so nice.  She really showed off her singing voice with "It’s Alright", the crowd dancing and swaying along with the Queen. She goes into "Verse Of The Day" with that smooth beat keeping the crowd grooving to the beat.  She then hits us with a little bit of her TV show theme song, "Living Single" and then it got crazy.  Monie Love came out on stage with her for "Ladies First!"  Monie was so freakin’ awesome! She sounded amazing and so sweet hearing the two on stage together for this absolute classic.  Of course Monie couldn’t be done……"Monie In The Middle!"  Her flow is so amazing, totally impressed. 

Monie in the middle (Where she at?) In the middle
Yep, Monie's in the middle (Where that at?) In the middle
Monie in the middle (Where she at?) In the middle
(Go Mon, Mon, what is she?) Monie in the middle

It was time for a little house music so Latifah hit us with "Come Into My House". The Roots totally killing this joint. It was time for Queen and Monie to finish up so they hit us with "U.N.I.T.Y".  Wow did this hit us!  Great sound, great performance.  I loved Queen Latifah and Monie Love, so sweet, so strong, so amazing.  We got a bit of a surprise in this concert….I mean Party!  As Queen leaves the stage De La Soul comes back out for "Me, Myself and I".  The crowd LOVED IT!  Every single person on their feet singing right along! 

The Roots went on and played for five to ten minutes playing so many classic hip-hop songs, the crowd not tired yet, dancing and rapping along to all of it. Kool Moe Dee, Biggie, Rakim, Jay Z, Biz, DMX, ODB, and on and on.

It was time to hear LL Cool J…again.  He started with a nice slow jam, "I Need Love".  Everyone rapping right along with LL.  He had the crowd put their lighters (phones) up in the air, 12,000 plus lights in the arena. He kept the mood slow with Hey Lover, the crowd flowing right along with Cool J and then changed up the music to "Between The Sheets" and then onto a little Biggie flow! I see some ladies tonight that should be having my baby…baby!  Nice work LL.  Keeping the slower flow going, he flows into "All I Have", asking the ladies to sing J Lo’s part. It was time to bring up the tempo a bit with "I Shot Ya", really nice flow from LL on this one. Then he took us way back to I "Can’t Live Without My Radio".

Suckers on my jock when I walk down the block
I really don't care if you're jealous or not
'Cause I make the songs, you sing along
And your radio's def when my record's on

"Jack The Ripper", Jack, Jack The Ripper flowed right in. What a smooth transition!  Keeping with his boomin’ beats he goes into "Kanday", the girl with big juicy lips and nice round hips. "Eat Um Up L Chill" and "Ill Bomb" up next, the beats are still bumpin’, The Roots still killing it and the crowd dancing! Time for "Paradise and Phenomenon", LL with so much energy and love for the crowd. We all deserved a visit from "Mr. Goodbar", so LL delivered. As he flows into "Loungin’ (Who Do You Love)" the sound and party are getting more hyped. Next was the one most were waiting for, one that we all needed to hear live, "Mama Said Knock You Out!" This. Was. So. Hyped!  It was a long show (party) we were all there for a long time, but you couldn’t have seen that!  Every single person on their feet rapping right along and throwing air punches! 

Just like Muhammad Ali, they called him Cassius
Watch me bash this beat like a skull
Don'tcha know I had beef wit'
Why do you riff with me, a maniac psycho
And when I pull out my jammy, get ready 'cause it might go
Blauh! How ya like me now?

The crowd kinda thought this was the final song, and easily could have been.  People were ready to head to the exits.  Then we hear Jazzy Jeff on the wheels of steel doing his thing…….could there be more?   LL had to finish this off with "Rock The Bells".  This may have been the song with the most energy and passion.  Wow what a way to finish off the party LL told us about.  This show was fantastic, everyone sounded great and brought amazing energy.  The next day, whether we were at breakfast, or lunch, or having some beers at the Pratt Street Ale House, or at the hotel bar telling the bartenders about the show, or dinner at the Rusty Scupper, all we kept talking about was The Roots.  How amazing they sounded but even more amazed at how they played basically straight through for three plus hours, never losing their energy, in fact getting more energized as the night went on.  Questlove, holy crap, how do you drum for that long with so much love and energy!  This is a show to be seen, if you get the chance you got to check it out. 

-One Love, Todd

Todd Judd

Photojournalist - Pennsylvania

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