Words by Phi
Peter Stuyvesant Music Spectacular @ the JHB stadium
Three simultaneous stages, thirteen acts, one stadium and an expected 60 000-strong audience. This was the scenario billed for Peter Stuyvesant's last event in South Africa before the tobacco advertising ban becomes effective. Previous concerts staged by the same sponsors that aimed at the urban market (i.e. 'black people') met with dodgy reviews and stories of singers having to run off stage for fear of their lives, violent crowds, and general mayhem. I guess I must be a sucker for punishment 'cos my curious ass made its way to the Johannesburg Stadium to catch a bit of the action on the night of the 28th of October.
The way it worked was that Brian McKnight, Eric Benet, Puff Johnson, Monifah and Montell Jordan would smoove it out on the R&B floor. Marshall Jefferson, Todd Terry and David Morales (who came as a last minute replacement for Frankie Knuckles) would keep the E-popping house music fans happy on another floor. Naughty By Nature, MC Lyte, Foxy Brown, and 112 (don't ask) would represent Hip-Hop on the third floor.
I arrived late expecting the show to operate on "African time' as is usually the case. My deliberate tardiness turned out to be to my own detriment as I ended up missing the curtain-raisers Spex, P.O.C and Bongo Maffin all of whom, surprisingly, did their thing on schedule. I was just in time to catch 112 outfitted in matching white attire as they harmonized the hook for the "Only You" remix, with synchronized choreography to boot. An eager fan informed me that they had just gotten on stage. I wasn't sure whether I was ready to go through a whole set from this quartet who I'm sure meant well but were really not on the right stage. Their earnest attempts to work the crowd with shouts of "pump your fists like this" presumably in their most Hip-Hop like fashion, convinced me that this was an opportune time to visit the bar.
MC Lyte was on stage when I got back from my fill-up mission. It was cool to see the lady who I once considered to be one of the most competent female MC's, even though she wasn't there to perform. Lyte is apparently working on a new album, and thus had no stage act to offer. Instead she stood in as an MC in the literal sense, holding it down in between the different acts. She did a damn fine job of interacting with the crowd with charm and ease whilst Da Brat took her time to get on stage. Lyte even managed to tease the crowd with 'Ruffneck' and 'Cold Rock A Party' while she was at it. Da Brat gave her fans (and there were several) a good time starting off with her own spin of Black Rob's 'Like Whoa' and then getting into very energetic (and drunken) renditions of all her hits from 'Funkdafied' through to 'Unrestricted'.
Local R&B singer T.K performed forty five seconds of her year-old unreleased single 'Mind Your Business' before making way for an oiled up, high heeled, hot pants-clad Foxy Brown. 'Get You Home' kicked her set off to the delight of her fans who enthusiastically joined in on the chorus. 'Hot Spot', 'I'll Be', and 'I Can't' were equally well received, as was the 'Thong Song' remix even though it looked quite wack when Sisqo's wailing vocals did eighty percent of the song on the DAT, leaving Foxy with not much else to do than smile and prance around sheepishly on stage. If it wasn't for her (extremely) hype man, who diligently kept the crowd's momentum and hands up, Foxy's set would have been shown up for what it really was - a platform for her to display her ass and bad mouth her longtime nemesis Lil Kim. Ill Nana really played herself when she did some rhymes with no backing instruments in which she praised her pussy and kept referring to herself as the "king bitch" to the utter disinterest of the crowd who were far more interested in having a good time than chicken head politics.
Twenty-five minutes of waiting, an ad-hoc performance from another local singer, Lebo, and an unnecessary fireworks display later, the crowd was rejuvenated as Naughty By Nature burst on to stage. Vinnie and Treach immediately took us ten years back to 'OPP'. This must have been quite a young audience because even though they were loving it they weren't as responsive to the legendary hook ("Yeah you know me") as I expected. Even 'Ghetto Bastard' and 'It's On' seemed to go over quite a few heads, but it was all good 'cos the vibe was hype and there was an air of expectancy that put pressure on NBN to perform. And perform they did with a hand from their Rottin Razkals protégé crew. One of the Razkals stood in as their DJ since Kaygee is no longer rolling with Naughty. Something about "getting rid of excess baggage..."
Anyway, the bulk of Naughty's set came from 'Poverty's Paradise'. This proved to be a smart move as cats seemed more familiar with tracks like 'Craziest' and 'Feel me flow'. Naughty then got into Tupac's 'Hail Mary', which I assumed was a build up to 'Mourn You Till We Join You'. While they bigged Tupac up I noticed a small male figure walking toward Naughty. Thinking it to be part of the act I just let it ride. And then I saw him pull middle fingers at them. Before I could make out what he was mouthing Vinnie had knocked the dude down to the ground. He curled himself up in a ball while Treach kicked him in the side. Naughty's hype man then picked him up and tossed him off the stage. It wasn't until bottles started flying from the crowd that I realised that this was no skit. About half the crowd left despite Vinnie's insistence that "we're not leaving till this show is done!" The flood lights came on which is usually a sure sign that the show is over but NBN did their best to pacify the crowd with an apology or two and justification that "...you can't come up here and be disrespectful".
Once again I defied logic and stayed just to see how this shit was gonna end. The crowd's vibe was gone, tension levels were overwhelming and Naughty had lost some of their drive. By the time they concluded the show with 'Hip Hop Hooray', everyone was glad to just be the fuck outta there. With that mishap aside the show was entertaining, although far from spectacular. Too many DAT sets and insufficient security were just some of the loose ends that needed tightening. In future it would be nice to see promoters with real respect and knowledge of Hip-Hop run shit so that we don't have to be subjected to has-beens and models disguised as MC's.