RAKIM at CERVANTES OTHERSIDE | 9/18/13 Last night at the Otherside, Rakim stalked the stage like a lion on an African plain, controlling the mic with a swagger that hypnotized the room, which was filled with an audience that hung on his every word. The God MC showcased a presence that left everyone in awe, including local producer Kruza Kid, who said, "I feel like I was just in class." Rakim's ability has been well preserved over the years. "When I'm an old man twenty years from now," he pointed out to the enthralled crowd, strutting across the stage, "I'ma be the same."
The positive energy in the room was palpable after Rakim emerged from backstage to perform "Holy Are You." Then, head pointed to the sky, eyes closed, with the mic lifted to his lips, Rakim paused to soak the moment before launching into many of his classic hits, cuts like, "My Melody," and "I Know You Got Soul."
DJ 33, who held Rakim down on the tables and got the crowd hyped, asked The God MC where his favorite place was in town. Rakim said, "You know I was Downtown, and I was like 'Yo, this looks like Times Square,'" he said as the crowd broke into a frenzy of cheers. "And that's good when I'm a million miles from home, and I feel at home."
Rakim was graceful and humble but also powerful when he interacted with the crowd. He took time to shake hands with everyone in the front row and asked the crowd to join him and "Put one finger up for the people affected by the floods," as he himself bowed his head for a moment in acknowledgment.
The energy in the room skyrocketed when he performed "I Ain't No Joke," and it continued to soar as he rocked, "Don't Sweat the Technique." Observing several New York fitted hats, Rakim said, "I heard Denver is a melting pot right now, New Yorkers, New Jersey and a lot of people out here. But you know Brooklyn is everywhere. Is Brooklyn in the house?" His notion was confirmed by cheers from the crowd, at which point he said, "I'm going to do this for Denver."
During his set, Rakim professed his love for all aspects of hip-hop, calling for cheers for the four elements, saying, "I still write rhymes in graffiti. I breakdance," he said, before adding, "No, just kidding."
Rakim's personality was jovial and gravitational, as he pulled in everyone with songs from all over his collection, like "Move the Crowd," the Dr. Dre-produced, "Addictive," and "The Watcher 2." At the end of his set, every face seemed to be wearing a smile. It was a rare chance to see a legend, and as such the Otherside was packed with fans, including official Nuggets DJ Bedz, who toted his Paid in Full record with him to get signed.
Warming up directly for Rakim, Stay Tuned amped up the crowd for the better part of 45 minutes. The outfit's performance was perfectly summed up by Mane Rok, who said mid-set, "I am his MC," referring to DJ Tense, "Anyone who knows hip-hop understands that," said Mane. The set was totally entertaining thanks to Mane and DJ Tense, whose mastery of the cuts was on full display.
After rocking one song, Mane invited Ichiban to the stage, and he proceeded to rock the crowd with his precise lyrical matter over two or three joints. Mane's energy peaked when he went into a mixtape showcase that started with "Chief Rocka" from Lords of the Underground to Ice Cube's "Check Yo' Self," and then returning to the L.O.U. hit, before Tense took over with a fine display of cutting skills with the chanting "Chief Rocka" chorus sample.
Mane further impressed the crowd with his diversity, also performing "This One's (Remix)," and Tense's best moment came when he mixed a scene from Wayne's World in which Garth rocks the drums at the music store.
Sophistafunk, a hip-hop band from Syracuse, New York, was a gem in the show. With one drummer, and a keyboardist playing bass with his off-hand, the band offered a set in which the crowd was never bored. The act's sound was built on complex yet funky dragging bass-lines, organ solos and electronic leads, while MC Jack Brown rapped insightful lines about social behavior.
Earlier in the night, Eddy Knoll and DJ Cavem got things going. Knoll was a bit simplistic with production, but the live saxophone was most certainly the honey that sweetened their set. DJ Cavem kicked off the evening off with the DJ Checkone, who deejayed and drummed at the same time. Cavem enticed the crowd with his organic ideology and mused about effects of fracking on the drinking water. He also took a moment to encourage people to plant gardens and stay away from Round Up. After rocking "Roots, Beans and Greens," Cavem invited Panama Soweto and Molina Speaks to join him on stage.
Personal Bias: Rakim was far more cordial than rumors in hip-hop circles would have you believe. As a long time fan of his, I was impressed by his presence and the next level confidence he exuded. Random Detail:Sophistafunk was joined by the sax player from Eddy Knoll for a short set, in what seemed an impromptu collaboration. By the Way: Rakim said he often drives through the 'hood in other cities just to see what it is like and be around the people. He was very down to earth.
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.