To paraphrase Katt Williams: "If you don't mess with Jet Life because you don't like rap, that's cool. Go on and get your paper, Boo Boo. But if you like rap and you are not messin' with the Jets, I don't know what in the hell you are doing with your life. I really don't." Curren$y's Jet LIfe Tour, which touched down at the Summit Music hall Saturday night is easy to compare to Jay-Z's Hard Knock Life Tour. But let's go old school, because with a Motown revue styled concert -- that's exactly what the Jet Life crew did. If Barry Gordy's label was "The Sound of Young America," the Jet Life Tour is "The Sound of Blowed America" (or high, roasted, baked -- choose the adjective you prefer).
Most of the kids in the crowd know Motown only as a faded touchstone of a bygone era. It's ironic, though, that in this information age, many of the artists that appeared on stage on Saturday night do not have well known faces. Many in the crowd glimpsed them for the first time, like their grandparents got their first look at Smokey and the Miracles. The Jet Life Tour was as tightly rehearsed as a Motown revue, complete with DJ Bombshell Boogie keeping things moving as designated spinner for every act.
Monstabeatz set the night off with a surprisingly lively stage show. As smoke filled the room, rapper Dee Low only became more animated, performing songs available on their free mixtape like they were radio staples. Unsurprisingly, a faithful crowd greeted each cut more enthusiastically than the last. Before this opening act could steal the show, Bombshell ushered on Nesby Phips, the genius beatmaker and an able showman.
Nesby's twenty minute set was more like a victory lap highlighting his own beats. He made sure to soundcheck "Supply," his excellent contribution to Wiz Khalifa's Kush & Orange Juice. What's astonishing about this whole Jet Life crew is the depth of talent. Usually a co-sign from a rapper means nothing (see Jay-Z's "dynasty"), because most affiliates don't produce on a level of the leader. Nesby and Monstabeatz are arguably deep into the Jet Life bench, but both are capable of compelling performances and sublime production.
Nesby's "Supply" track inspired the biggest reaction from the crowd, and it's safe to say that even amongst the haze of weed in the air the place was going fucking mental. Shouts out to the security who tried valiantly to deter weed smoking, but what can you do in a dark room where the acts themselves are giving away rolling papers? Besides, if you eject all the smokers, all that will be left in here is me and the photographers.
Corner Boy P took the stage full of that NO swag. The excellent sound in the room couldn't help his voice, as we had to struggle to hear him over the pre-recorded tracks. His hype man fared much better. That hype man would be the legendary Fiend, formerly of No Limit records (just like Curren$y Spitta). Fiend served as a great hype man with his spooky electric deep voice and commanding stage presence. Full disclosure: I have been a fiend of Fiend since his excellent 1998 album There's One In Every Family. Needless to say, it wasn't long before Fiend was jumping into his own featured material. His breath control was incredible considering his stocky frame, altered state of mind and our Mile High altitude.
The dynamic duo of P and Fiend had to make way for the other big name on the bill, and Smoke DZA did not disappoint. Performing material from his THC mixtape, DZA was like an alto version of the Notorious B.I.G. in his mannerisms, humor and presence. It was eerie and exciting at the same time. Smoke DZA is a future star of hip-hop. I could see his goofy smokers tales crossing over to the mainstream like Wiz Khalifa has done in the last year. Rrrright?
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Smoke gave way to Trademark da Skydiver and Young Roddy, two cats who arguably steal the show with their appearances on "Hold On" on Pilot Talk 2. But amongst the veterans and young lions that had come before them, Trademark and Roddy seemed laconic and disconnected, especially when the headliner himself popped up at the end of their set, apropos of nothing.
There was no doubt that this was the moment we'd all been waiting for, but just in case, Spitta gave us a minute to post to twitter (like our reality needed to be further augmented inside those clouds of smoke). It was easy to feel left out if you hadn't memorized every single word this man has committed to record. As the crowd impressively rapped along to all the hits and even knew his verse on Rick Ross' "Super High (Sativa Remix)," Curren$y was pleased. Speaking of album cuts, Spitta kept it official sticking pretty strictly to material from Pilot Talk 1 & 2, with both albums getting equal billing thanks to memorable perfromances of "A Gee," "King Kong," "Address," "Audio Dope I" and "Hold On."
Affable, edgy, cool and crazy hype to be in Denver, Curren$y should be one of the biggest names in hip hop. Hopefully his buzz and this tour will translate into greater recognition. The show was supposed to end on the hypnotic strains of "MIchael Knight," but instead we got treated to a cut off of his collaboration mixtape with The Alchemist "Covert Coup." I was coughing through most of the encore, so I cannot identify the cut, but I can say that Curren$y's fans most definitely smoke that good good.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I think Curren$y and his affiliates are easily one of the most talented crews in hip-hop. The fact that they represent the NO negates their impact in the eyes of "hip hop fans" (scare quotes inserted for sarcastic effect). If these guys were from Queens or Brooklyn, they would be hailed as rap's next big thing. 75 percent of the music at this show is available for FREE download, so get your google on. Random Detail: DJ Bombshell Boogie is a definite "yes" and had me daydreaming about southern hospitality. Also, I think I said the words "Jet Life" at least 1,000 times in three hours.