First things first: I have a new mashup that I’m really excited about and I’m working really hard on. I’m going to release it here either tomorrow or the next day most likely. But it’s going to be really cool once it’s ready, so make sure you come back and get it in the next day or two.

Anyway, tonight I attended the Paid Dues Festival in New York. On top of the Hot 97 Summer Jam on Sunday, I have seen a ridiculous number of hip hop artists this week.

Of course, given the lineup, there were plenty of backpackers there. What was funny, though, was that there were a lot of people there who were literally wearing backpacks. It’s even funnier because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t deliberate and the irony was completely lost on them.

Anyway, the first act was Yak Ballz. They suck.

Kidz in the Hall was next. I’ve heard a lot about these guys, but I never bothered to actually track down and listen to their music before the show tonight. The MC came out wearing a vest and a tie with jeans, like he thought he was a cross between Kanye West and Justin Timberlake or something.

(By the way, I took all of these pictures on my phone. Sorry about the horrendous quality.)

But it turns out that he was an incredible entertainer, and a solid rapper. I really enjoyed their set, and I’m going to track down their music as soon as I can.

Between sets, I noticed an interesting phenomenon that would only happen at a hip hop concert: there was a long line for the men’s bathroom and no line at all for the women’s bathroom. Go figure.

Then Scratch, a beatboxer who used to be in The Roots, did a set. He is an insane beatboxer, and he’s really entertaining. He did a lot of covers, everything from “Drop it Like It’s Hot” to “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes. I totally lost it when he went into “Touch It” by Busta Rhymes, because he combined three things I love–Daft Punk, hip hop, and watching beatboxers perform live.

Eventually Supernatural, who as you may know holds the world record for the longest freestyle (at like 9 hours), joined Scratch.  As you might assume, he freestyled, and as you also might assume, he’s really good at it. He was rhyming about how he got caught in traffic on the way to the concert, about this guy taking pictures of him, all this stuff he couldn’t have written beforehand, and he also threw in pop culture references (about Yankees players, etc.).

Buckshot from Boot Camp Clik came up next. His set was fairly unremarkable until, of all people, KRS-One came out as a surprise guest. No, really.

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t recognize him when I saw him, but he is an incredible performer and rapper to this day. I feel really lucky to have seen him.

After that, Murs and 9th Wonder came on. (9th, of course, is my boy, because we’re both from North Carolina. Near the same area, too.). In addition to being very talented, they’re really funny and entertaining. For example, during “Bad Man,” Murs picked on a girl in the crowd to be the girl that he was singing about, and at one point he did a highly exaggerated strip tease for her.

Next was Blackalicious. I hate to say it, but this set was pretty dumb. A lot of the appeal of Blackalicious is that Gift of Gab rhymes really quickly with really good time, which is already dumb because his lyrics are butt (to quote Phife Dawg) as a result.

But then live, his flow wasn’t even good, and I couldn’t even understand what he was saying. So it was pretty boring and useless. Also, they were bigger nerds in person than I expected. The one cool thing was that they opened with “Alphabet Aerobics” and closed with “Chemical Calisthenics.”

So the last act I saw was the GZA. For some reason, I have seen the GZA three times before tonight (twice as a solo performer, once in the Wu-Tang Clan). This is especially weird because every time he has been at best bad and at worst terrible. (Disclaimer: I’m a huge Wu-Tang Clan fan, and I like the GZA in the Clan a lot. But his rapping has really gone downhill.) But somehow I keep seeing him, because he keeps performing with other people I want to see.

(I remember before I had ever seen him, in high school, he came to my town (Chapel Hill) but I missed him. At the time I was disappointed. Now that seems ridiculous.)

Anyway, my expectations were of course as low as low can be. But he was actually pretty good. He nailed his verse in “Bring Da Ruckus,” “Liquid Swords” was almost flawless, “Duel of the Iron Mic” was perfect–there wasn’t a lot to complain about. He was very entertaining, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Another telling sign that this was a backpacker crowd: During the GZA’s set, there was an inexplicable group of about ten white middle-aged people seated backstage to the side. I have no idea why they possibly would have been there.

Unfortunately, I had to leave near the end of his set, because the last train of the night was leaving New York to take me home. So I completely missed Rakim. Oh well.

It was a really good time. If you have a chance to see one of the other dates for the festival, you should do it.

By the way, I’ve been listening a lot to Tha Carter III after it leaked. So expect a review of that soon (after I release this mashup, I assume).

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