This tour transported me back to my youth, when rappers battled with words, boy bands tore up the charts, and loud, obnoxious colors were in vogue
Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis
There are so many things to love about the ’90s: Beverly Hills 90210 ruled the airwaves; Kate Moss broke all the fashion rules; we finally partied like it was 1999—and then there was the music. While the ’70 s had disco and the ’80 s had hair metal, the ‘90s served as a Benetton ad of musical styles: Nirvana (and the rest of Seattle) gave us grunge; Britney Spears took pop music to the next level; and hip-hop finally achieved mainstream success. Throw in the fact that Ricky Martin kicked off the Latin music invasion and the ’90s were a full rainbow of musical styles.
When the announcement came through that the “I Love the ’90s” tour was making a pit stop in St. Louis, I had to marvel at the list of artists on the bill. With tastemakers such as Young MC, Coolio, and Kid N’ Play set to take the stage, I knew this was going to be a night to remember. What made me drool with anticipation was none other than the manifestation of Salt-N-Pepa with DJ Spinderella. Now this, children, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I was not going to miss.
As DJ Born filled the Chaifetz Arena with dope ’90s beats (that’s how we use to talk in the ’90s) the crowd appeared to be in the mood to party. The whole audience moved and grooved to jams from the ’90s and even showed off their vintage dance moves. At the stroke of 7:30 p.m.—thank you for starting on time!—the lights dropped and the nostalgia train left the station.
Young MC took to the stage first. While his claim to fame, “Bust a Move,” debuted in 1989, this talented rapper definitely had an effect on the course of hip-hop in the next decade. As he ripped through “Gonna Make You Move” and “Feel the Love,” both of which came out after the ’90s, his lyrical flow was unmistakable. His vocals are still as rich and engaging as they were when he first burst on the scene, which proves that true talent never dies. When he kicked off “Bust a Move,” the crowd went all in with him, chanting every word back at the vocalist. St. Louis was treated to an extended play of the song, as the rapper performed several other verses to the famed rap. Wrapping up his set with his legendary track, “Fastest Rhyme,” Young MC slayed the crowd with his mad rhyming skills.
After a short DJ break, Coolio made his appearance. For me, Coolio always walked a fine line between hip-hop and gangsta rap. He was tough as nails in image and vocals, but his tracks always had enough charm and suave beats to draw in the mainstream crowd. Wasting no time, he kicked off his set with the club favorite “It’s All the Way Live (Now).” While the rapper looked great, his voice told another tale. He still has his edge, but his vocals were a bit on the rough side. His pipes warmed up during “Fantastic Voyage” and really came to life on “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New).” The obvious highlight of his set was his iconic track, “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Clearly the crowd favorite, this track was an excellent way for Coolio to leave the crowd: with them wanting more.
During the next short DJ break, I saw the crew pull out four microphones. I deduced this was going to be the All-4-One set and I debated on getting a hot dog. While I am a fan of mixing pop and R&B, the whole manufactured group thing never really appealed to me musically (sans the Spice Girls). But I decided to hang tough and I was rewarded handsomely. Starting off with “I Can Love You Like That,” the unique and enjoyable harmonies of the four men filled the arena. As they segued into a medley of other “guy groups” such as Boys II Men, and Bell Biv Devoe, I appreciated the tight harmonies these four men produced. Capping off their short set with their #1 hit, a cover version of “I Swear,” the love was palpable in the arena. With promises of coming back for a full concert, I may just have to see what else these talented singers have to offer.
Next up on the bill: lyrical pranksters Kid ’n Play. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of their legendary movie House Party, the dynamic duo kicked off their set with the upbeat “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody.” Here’s the charm about Kid ’n Play: While Play is an extremely talented vocalist, it’s Kid’s devilish charm that really elevates the act. Make no mistake, Kid has mad rhyming skills, as well, but his persona is so engaging and lighthearted that he makes you want to party with the band. As they clowned around with the crowd, talking about their “sponsors” Just for Men and Ben-Gay, it was refreshing to see them embrace their maturity. They ripped on each other during “Kid vs. Play (The Battle),” which is very reminiscent of the iconic scene in House Party. Finishing up their time on stage with “Rollin’ with Kid ‘n Play,” the talented twosome followed suit and left the crowd begging for more.
The rhythm of the show was moving at a quick pace, much in the style of the ’50s revue shows where artists only had a short time to impress the crowd. That said, the next set change seemed to take just a tad longer as the DJ taunted the crowd with hints of who was coming out next: Salt-N-Pepa. As mentioned earlier, not only was it going to be Salt-N-Pepa, but they had the legendary DJ Spinderella with them, as well. Millennials, let me try to impress upon you how trailblazing Spinderella was in the ’90s: While the hip-hop game was dominated by men, the hip-hop DJ game was exclusively male. Spinderella broke through the glass ceiling and paved the way for all those Coachella lady DJ’s to follow in her path. This iconic musician needs to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I was wondering how Salt-N-Pepa were going to cram all of their chart-topping hits into a small set like their predecessors, but this was not going to be the case. The ladies performed a full set that included several of their hits. “Do You Want Me,” “Shake Your Thang,” and “I’ll Take Your Man” got the crowd into full swing as the ladies rocked them with their signature sound. While they addressed the crowd, the ladies kept the hits coming with “Express Yourself,” “Let’s Talk About Sex,” and “Whatta Man.” Spinderella captivated the crowd with her own megamix, which only reinforced my love for the amazing turntablist.
The set was capped off with an amazing performance of their iconic hit, “Push It,” complete with those legendary jackets. Their entire set was fascinating from start to finish, and only reinforced how influential and important this group was, not only to the ’90s, but hip-hop overall. The only low-point of the set was when Salt indicated that we might be ready for a woman president which was initially met with cheers but then doused with boos. I had forgotten for just a moment that we were in the conservative state of Missouri.
I should have taken those boos as foreshadowing.
After a much-too-long set change, including bringing on another DJ table, a drumset, and more pointless props than I cared to count, Vanilla Ice took the stage. The audience will probably disagree with me on this one, but being the sober reviewer I am, this set was a huge disappointment.
While he was hyped all night long, I was in shock to learn he would be closing the show. Really? Vanilla Ice closes the show over musical legends Salt-N-Pepa? With only one of his six albums cracking the music charts and only two singles to make the top 10, I found his credentials to close the show lacking.
Vanilla Ice was trying to create a rock ’n’ roll atmosphere with all the stage props and hyped-up energy, but his set just didn’t fit the vibe of the night. While he had two Insane Clown Posse rejects pointlessly walking around the stage, he tried to work the crowd up into a lather with some high-energy tracks. While the partially inebriated crowd bought into the hijinks, I found his set to be unfocused and needlessly erratic. After he ran through his hits, such as his rap for the Ninja Turtles movie, “Play That Funky Music” and the ultimate VI hit, “Ice Ice Baby,” I wondered where he was going to go musically. DJ Dirty Chopsticks played other artists’ tracks, such as “Ice” by Kaskade, “Pony” by Ginuwine, and “Turn Down for What” by DJ Snake, while Ice halfheartedly rapped over the songs. It just all seemed too gratuitous and ego boosting. One high note of the set was when Ice paid his respect to all U.S. service members, his speech genuine and heartfelt. But overall, this set needs to be put into the deep freeze.
Overall, the “I Love the ’90s” tour is a monumental success full of massively talents artists and amazing music from days gone by. I wish St. Louis had been fortunate enough to see the likes of Kool Moe Dee and Rob Base, seeing how they are also phenomenal hip-hop pioneers, but sadly, they were not on the ticket. Nevertheless, this tour transported me back to my youth, when rappers battled with words, boy bands tore up the charts, and loud, obnoxious colors were in vogue. This is a tour for both Gen X’ers and Millennials to come together and just dance to the music.| Jim Ryan
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