Coolio and Run-D.M.C. Wednesday, Nov. 13, EWU Pavilion
If the pairing of Coolio with Run-D.M.C. proved anything at Eastern Washington University Wednesday night, it’s not that the marriage of the old guard with the new school doesn’t gel. Because it does.
What it conveyed, rather, is that rap, after all these years, still doesn’t fare well in the live arena.
From stage shows to the music, Run-D.M.C. and Coolio didn’t quite transcend their respective albums. In Coolio’s case, he couldn’t even equal the quality of music on his two CDs.
The stage was bare-bones and low-budget: no props, a couple racks of lights, a riser with turntables and several monitors. Worse, the lone smoke machine coughed out smoke like an asthma patient puffing on a cigarette. Indeed, the set wasn’t much to look at. Which is fine, because the music is the important part.
Yet, there was nothing to the two combos’ stage show. The rappers did little more than prance around and circle the stage like a pack of caged wolves.
For the most part, Run-D.M.C. gave a decent show.
Run-D.M.C. can still kick out the rhymes like a machine gun. And their old-school delivery is especially welcome in the era of the gangsta. The trio - Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jason Mizell - fired hardheaded, gutsy renditions of “It’s Tricky,” “My Adidas” and “Walk This Way.”
Even their set was marred by the pavilion’s poor acoustics. Unless you stood near the wall of speakers, Run-D.M.C. sounded like they were yelling above a car stereo blaring in a tunnel.
While those in Run-D.M.C. flaunted their Adidas footwear, Coolio and his crew (three additional rappers and one DJ) showed off their shiny new Nikes to the crowd. (So I guess there is a substantial difference between the two rap schools.)
Coolio, on disc, prefers the laid-back, player style, rapping in a mellow manner atop an elastic and funky bass line and a fat beat. Wednesday, he took a nod from Run-D.M.C. and belted out his streetwise rhymes with aggression.
And that’s where he faltered.
Coolio sounds best with actual music behind him. Four rappers trading verses like shotgun blasts, scratching and beat tracks didn’t quite cut it. “Magic Voyage” and “Too Hot” were performed with conviction, but they required a sonic punch from musicians.
The ideal vehicle to carry Coolio’s rhymes to a live audience is a funk band. This is true for most hip-hop artists in this genre. Why more rappers don’t utilize one remains a mystery.
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