July 29, 2005 in Seven

KUBE SummerJam: We can do better than this

By The Spokesman-Review

Let’s skip the rookie showcase half of KUBE Summer Jam and get down to the nitty gritty.

Easily one of the most lopsided Summer Jams in the hip-hop festival’s 13-year history was all-but forgettable save for performances by rap-legend Nas and R&B old-schoolers New Edition.

New Edition’s choreographed Motown-esque dance steps might’ve seemed corny to anyone born after 1982, but N.E.’s class-act stage show made the prior acts seem amateurish at best. And seeing New Edition break down into sub-group BellBivDeVoe to sing “Poison” was hilarious and, somehow, kind of cool.

Really, with New Edition being has-beens playing an abbreviated, 25-minute set, Nas was the only artist worth the $50 ticket and road trip to the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday. Maybe that’s why the Gorge never seemed more than half-full throughout the seven-hour concert.

When Nas took the stage, most of the patches of spectators on the lawn flocked to the floor to see Queensbridge projects’ favorite “God’s Son” in a rare Northwest appearance.

Nas didn’t fail to satisfy, as he swiftly and seamlessly sprinted through 22 classics from his 10-album career, highlighted by chant-along anthems “If I Ruled the World,” “I Can” and “Got Ur Self A…”

The audience recited with Nas the lyrics to his most revered songs: “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” and “The World Is Yours” from his 1994 “five-mike” debut, “Illmatic,” and “The Message” from the follow-up, “It Was Written.”

In the midst of a festival that often is waterlogged with mindless thug-in-the-club lyrics, Nas’ political and inspirational rhymes were a welcome change-up.

While Nas is known for his sobering lyrical content, his set was tempered with lighter moments, such as the hip-hop 101 mini-set of pop quizzes sprung on the crowd via Nas’ DJ L.E.S. He used his turntables to creatively cut in songs from the likes of House of Pain, Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, Onyx, Luniz, Mobb Deep, Black Sheep, Wu-Tang Clan and more in just a three-minute segment. Nas also was quick to give props to Sir Mix-A-Lot for putting Northwest hip-hop on the map. Later Nas brought several fans on stage for a breakdancing battle.

Maintaining a humble persona, Nas was dressed in a Yankees cap, white polo shirt and camouflage shorts as he nimbly worked through his set in a tight, to-the-point fashion reminiscent of Run-DMC, moving from song to song with hardly any gaps.

By the time he kicked the final lines to his closer, “Made You Look,” any disappointment from the earlier acts had washed away.

And Nas had plenty of cleanup work to do, especially thanks to a shoddy set by his warm-up, Ciara.

She was a snooze. Even Bone Thugs-N-Harmony was more entertaining when performing its dead-rappers run of song collaborations with mentor Eazy-E, Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac.

Plagued with technical difficulties, Ciara’s set was so jumbled and sloppy that she apologized at the end.

Ciara’s last words as she walked off stage: “Sorry y’all, I’ll try to do better next time.”

Let’s hope KUBE Summer Jam organizers do the same.

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