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Monday, 21 October 2013 19:07

Concert review: Pete Rock and CL Smooth drop an instant classic at 2720 with Camp Lo, Mathias, the Vaporz and DJ Needles, Sunday, October 20

Camp Lo at 2720 Cherokee Camp Lo at 2720 Cherokee Wil Wander
Written by Wil Wander

The golden age of hip-hop came to 2720 en masse for a night of nostalgic joy and veteran performances. Even on a Sunday night, the crowd was out in good numbers and started to fill the dance floor as soon as the music began.

The Vaporz, combining DJ Reminise with Shadzilla handling the emcee and hype duties, joined up with DJ Needles to open the night with a set of timeless, head nodding tracks that kept the usually hopping smokers' porch nearly empty.

They gave way to local emcee Mathias, who found himself having to make some late adjustments as Ms. Vizion, the other half of Mathias and the Pirates, was unable to return to town for the show. This turned out to be serendipitous, as he performed a set of songs that heavily featured his previous solo materials, and for a special treat, Black Patrick joined his former Earthworms crew member on stage to perform together for the first time in over two years. While miniscule in comparison to the decades of performing experience the headliners bring, revisiting Mathias's past added to the classic feel of the evening.

Needles and the Vaporz returned to the stage for another set to warm-up the crowd for Camp Lo. This time, DJ Reminise was pitted against Needles, challenging each other track by track, building the energy and density of the audience with each mix. Every song elicited a big response as entire groups suddenly busted out the dance moves from the video and displayed the depth of their lyrical knowledge, matching each verse word for word. They more than adequately kept the energy up as the crowd waited eagerly for Camp Lo.

After a delay, Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede finally took the stage. After neglecting St. Louis for much of their career, the Bronx-based duo now returns for their second show in less than a year after headlining a show last December. Their previous show was confined to material from their legendary album "Uptown Saturday Night," but this time around they were able to pull from some of their more modern releases as well. The delay meant they had a devastatingly short set, but they delivered nonetheless, hitting only the crème de la crème of their repertoire.

There are few names in hip-hop that carry as much merit as Pete Rock and his long-time emcee CL Smooth. As a revolutionary producer, Rock was instrumental to the development of hip-hop by reimagining songs and samples from the world of jazz into deliberately crafted remixes, arguably setting a new standard of production in the genre. CL Smooth, his counterpart, is forever branded as Pete Rock's emcee. After the group's early success, they split as Rock pursued other opportunities and the lyrical side of the duo was largely withdrawn from the hip-hop community. After a brief reunion that resulted in a handful of isolated singles, the two split again, and CL Smooth released some solo material about five years ago. Now they've reconciled again and are touring all of their classics.

After a straight forward start to the set, Pete Rock included a few instrumental tracks and on a few occasions, he took the time intro the next track by playing and remixing the original song it was sampled from. Not purely a producer, he even took the opportunity to drop an a cappella verse early in the set. CL Smooth took a harder demeanor on stage than expected, sometimes staring down the audience with a slight scowl as his verse ended, but his lyrical style remained as smooth as his name implies. With roots in the Bronx area during the same period, his stage presence was very similar to Camp Lo and brought uniformity across the acts.

They concluded the show with an extended finale. Pete Rock slowly worked a track from original sample through an extensive remix and eventually teased the audience with a single phrase from the immortal saxophone sample in "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)." He immediately cut the track, and CL Smooth guided the audience to remake the sample in scat form, rebuilding the track once more. After another playful tease, they knocked out their most famous track to close the show. Despite their superstar status, everyone was happy to meet and greet their fans, including many that had been waiting 20 years for this day.

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