Raekwon The Chef Can't Cook Up A Delicious Performance
Rap is a cultural celebration of telling, through music, what it is real today, right now; not what was real two years ago as happened on June 19, 1865 when word finally reached Galveston that President Lincoln had freed the slaves... two years previous.
Photos by Marco Torres
At midnight on Juneteenth (this year), the inside of Warehouse Live looked more like Fitzgerald's downstairs stage on a Friday night than a venue at which one of hip-hop's greats would be performing.
"There's only 15,000 people here," the DJ said. But barely 200 people were loosely packed into Warehouse Live's four walls. Surely more people came, we thought, so we checked outside, thinking they might be outside, smoking last-minute cigarettes or simply carousing around. Nope. Aftermath stepped back inside and surveyed the scene, wowed by the small number of people in attendance at what we assumed would be a huge show.
The fans in attendance were true-blue, core hip-hop fans. How do we know that? Because the city government was sponsoring free, family-oriented Juneteenth parties and celebrations all day and night for free. One does not usually schedule a concert with a cover change when the government is sponsoring competing events for free - July 4, for example - which the government rarely does.
The DJ admirably tried to hype the crowd - "All the pretty women in the house, make some noise! Rest in peace, Pimp C! If you from Texas, make some noise!" - but to no avail, really. He gave it one final shot before Raekwon finally took the stage: "I've been a lot of places, but Houston has the very best weed."
To this, the crowd finally cheered. Aftermath has a few friends in California who would beg to differ, but they weren't stuck with the task of hyping an overly apathetic crowd, so we'll leave it alone.
One fan, hindered by crutches, had no trouble making his way to the front of the stage. It's not that we would have preferred he stay in the back, but anyone who's ever gone to a concert knows how difficult it should be to get to the front once the headliner has taken the stage.
At 12:20 a.m., Raekwon finally appeared and, in an attempt to increase the crowd's energy, began his set with a few verses from "C.R.E.A.M." to a backdrop of growing marijuana plants. While his salience seems low, at least judging by lack of walk-ons by local rap luminaries, Aftermath praises Raekwon's sans-background-vocals performance. While most rappers perform over their pre-recorded vocals, the former (future?) Wu-Tang Clan member let his voice soar over the backbeats, making his live performance feel much more genuine than that of other rappers.
By the sixth song, though, Raekwon and his crew began to get sloppy, slurring words together to the point that already near-unintelligible lyrics were completely lost in the mix. After the slurring ended, Raekwon went on a rant about the sound engineers on duty, claiming that he was losing his voice, and saying it was the engineers' fault for not turning his mike up (as he had requested in between each and every song). To Aftermath's ears, the mix sounded fine, but far be it for a rock star (of sorts) to take blame for a poor performance.