For their 38th Rock Steady anniversary concert, hip-hop legends, Big Daddy Kane and Whodini put on an incredible show at Central Park Summerstage. For those who lived and breathed the golden age of hip hop, the Rock Steady lineup was undoubtedly, an unparalleled experience. For those who are new to the genre or unfamiliar with the latticework of culture, community, art and creativity that hip-hop is grounded in, this show was a truly revelatory music experience.
If you’re yet to make your way to one of the many Summerstage shows this year, I highly recommend you try to remedy that. They have consistent, and best of all, free performances throughout the summer that span across genres, so once you decide on the artist you can’t afford to miss, you won’t regret the three hellishly hot subways it may or may not take you to get there.
The July 26th show began at 2PM and within the hour it was difficult to find standing room. The pattern of most shows I’ve attended follow a fairly predictable ascension in terms of energy as each performer takes the stage. Conversely, at the Rock Steady show, the crowd was in an unwavering state of sheer enthusiasm and gratitude. To me, there’s nothing like a hip-hop show, there are no parts to play, no discernible hierarchy, just a unified celebration of music, history and all those who represent it.
The Rock Steady Bill featured performances by emcees but the true heroes of the evening were of course, the Rock Steady crew. The b-boys and girls amazed everyone, behind, in front of and on the stage. MC’s, kids and friends gathered on the unfixed sidelines of the stage to admire and jump into the seemingly effortless feat of talent taking place before them.
One of the most memorable and moving moments from the show was the Pumpkinhead Tribute set in memory of the late Robert “Pumpkinhead” Diaz who died suddenly on June 9th 2015. The late MC’s oldest son, Raiden performed a verse from the track “Here” from 2005’s Moon Over Brooklyn and the performance was emotional but also an empowering moment for PH’s family and friends. Those who appeared on stage to show their support were surprise guests, Immortal Technique, Jean Grae, Poison Pen, Diabolic, Hydra and more. Although the day’s headliners were Whodini and Big Daddy Kane, it would be dishonest to say that this wasn’t the most affecting and profound moment of the day.
Headlining MC’s, Whodini and Big Daddy Kane had everyone dancing and more than one newly made friend at the show explained to me with measurable sincerity “these guys are my heroes!” It was truly and more than anything, a family event, with one generation passing the figurative torch of music, community and culture in hip-hop, down to the next.
Article: Lea Weatherby
Photos: Shayne Hanley