"Whether there's twenty people or 2,000," said Raekwon, painfully aware of which side of that spectrum this small gathering was on, "I'm always gonna give it 200 percent." And he did, with grace. He spoke directly to the front row, despite the camera-phone screens they hid behind. "I know, y'all gotta get back to class," Raekwon mused good-naturedly, drawing one of the more spirited reactions of the afternoon: "Fuck class!" Rae chuckled, "Y'all be makin' me look bad."
See Also: - Rock the Vote Road Trip heading to Colorado with Raekwon and Theophilus London - Is Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan a beer nerd? - The music fan's guide to voting - Photos: The Romney/Ryan Victory Rally with Kid Rock and Rodney Atkins - Andy Guerrero on hugging the First Lady - Why the Obama campaign might want to rethink using "City of Blinding Lights"
Before Raekwon emerged from the trailer onto the small stage, the paths surrounding the Auraria campus's Tivoli Commons were peppered with steaming food trucks, providing hot food to the chilly audience-to-be while they loitered within earshot of the Assassin's Creed III/Rock the Vote trailer where Raekwon The Chef was hanging out pre-show. In the meantime, DJ Largechild kept himself warm running records on his decks, scratching and blending hits like Lupe's "Kick, Push" and ODB's "Got Your Money."
Despite a few spirited dancers, everybody was really waiting for The Chef to bring some much-needed heat to the kitchen, and once he appeared, after a brief introduction by the lovely Miss Colorado, the Wu-Tang Clan member got as spirited a reaction as could be expected from such a sparse crowd after one of the first snows of the season.
True to his word, Raekwon performed the whole show like a champ. No matter how many times he cut his vocals in anticipation of crowd participation that was barely there, it didn't stop him from trying again. It was obvious that Raekwon was here to inspire young people to vote, and nothing more. He had nothing personally to gain. Likewise, he has nothing to lose -- pride, credibility, whatever -- for doing small shows like these.
Fact is, he could sell one ticket for the rest of his career, and it wouldn't take away from how awesome Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was, or 36 Chambers, for that matter. As it happened, with the exception of his verse from "Triumph" from Wu-Tang Forever (which some believe is the best verse in the entire Wu-Tang catalogue), the set drew only from those two albums.
Strangely, it wasn't clear that Raekwon even chose the songs in his set; he seemed perpetually and pleasantly surprised as Largechild played track after track from the Chef's menu. It was actually nice to see an artist naturally excited to get into each of his hits, which he has surely recited thousands of times. More rappers should try it. Stranger, though, was the mysterious disembodied voice of the hype man who backed Raekwon. There is a strong possibility that he was lounging in the trailer, intermittently chiming in at his favorite parts, playing Assassin's Creed 3 at the same time. Not a bad gig.
As Rae announced his last song, he asked the audience if he should stay the rest of the day. Finally, the crowd seemed to wake up, but it was too little, too late. After a good but short 45 minutes, Rae gave one final salute and walked off the stage from the cold to the trailer. Hopefully next time he can get a little bit of a warmer welcome.
Personal Bias: Raekwon is my third favorite living member of the Wu behind RZA (first) and Inspectah Deck. You really can't lose with any of them, though.
Random Note: Rae sorta complimented one of the crewmembers during the set: "You're doing a good job. You look like Willie Nelson or somethin'."
By the Way: Miss Colorado had to stand in front of a photo screen to take photos with people. Not the most glamorous job, but she repped solidly.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.