Cheers erupted from the crowd as Raekwon asked “Who here loves that real hip-hop?” His performance alone brought Ithaca’s true hip-hop fans out to The Haunt on Sunday night, but it was just one of the strong acts that showcased the evolution of the genre over a decade.
First up was The Rapper H, a.k.a. Harry Ehrlich, a sophomore at Ithaca College. After meeting his roommate, who now doubles as his DJ, The Rapper H began writing rhymes and pursuing his dream of being an emcee. Despite first performing three weeks ago, The Rapper H had the crowd bumping to his set, finishing off with his single “Mr. Saturday.”
Next up was Sammus, a female rapper and PhD student at Cornell. Sammus describes her style as “20-credit rap,” and drew a series of “Oooo”s from the crowd with her clever wordplay and intelligent lyricism. She descried the preoccupation with image and “swag” in rap, and even dedicated a song to real hip-hop as being individualistic and free. Backed up by hypnotic, well-crafted beats, Sammus put on one of the strongest acts of the night, surprising many at The Haunt with her finale “Mayhem.”
Maino then took the stage, launching into the feel-good “Million Bucks” while the crowd waved their hands from side to side. Suddenly his DJ stopped the track, whereupon Maino asked the crowd to “put your hands in the air if you’ve got someone hatin’ on you, and if you don’t have your hands up in the air, then you a muthafuckin’ hater.” With all hands up, Maino had the crowd singing along to “Hi Hater.”
With the crowd pumped up, Maino demanded that everyone put their middle fingers up as he performed “Nino Brown” off his new album Day After Tomorrow. The momentum Maino had worked hard to build up did not stop the crowd from bobbing their still-elevated hands to “Let It Fly.” Saving the best for last, “All The Above” had the crowd ready for more hip-hop as Maino left the stage.
An unexpected moment during Sunday’s concert occurred between Maino and Raekwon’s performances, when the crowd sung along to The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” word-for-word. Besides serving as a barometer for the crowd’s excitement at this point, it was a reminder that only true hip-hop fans were in the building.These same fans immediately recognized the intro to “C.R.E.A.M.” as Raekwon stormed the stage. All of the tracks off Enter the 36 Chambers were extremely well received by the crowd, and the crowd was more than happy to rap along with Raekwon as he cut into “Ice Cream” from his 1995 solo album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ...
Throwing up Wu-Tang “W”s with their hands, the crowd gave out a cheer as the intro to “The Mystery of Chessboxin” came on. Having built up the crowd’s energy, the crowd began their first “Wu ... Tang” chant of the night as “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin Ta F’ Wit” began. After trading verses with the crowd, Raekwon paused to pay homage to Ol’ Dirty Bastard (O.D.B.). “We miss him,” Raekwon said, before starting with O.D.B.’s famous verse from “Shame On A Nigga.”Everyone at The Haunt was jumping to this track, and rhyming along in celebration of O.D.B.’s life and the decade-long reign of the Wu-Tang Clan. The crowd gave Raekwon a good deal of energy during the middle of the act and proved their knowledge of Wu-Tang lyrics by rapping along to every track. “Y’all are diehards,” Raekwon said of the crowd at The Haunt.
“Protect Ya Neck” added to this almost impossibly-strong core of Raekwon’s act. Taking the crowd back to 1994, Raekwon laid down his verse from Mobb Deep’s “Eye For An Eye” off The Infamous. Next up was “Verbal Intercourse” from 1995’s Only Built for Cuban Linx ... , which the crowd responded to by throwing joints onto the stage. “I’m saving these for later,” Raekwon said.
“Oooo baby I like it rawwww / Yeah baby I like it rawwww.” The crowd put on their best impression of O.D.B. for Raekwon as he rounded off his own performance with “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” Artists on the IceH20 record label JD Era and Kofi Black then came on and performed some hip-hop and R&B material off their own solo albums respectively.
Raekwon returned to the fore to perform his last song “Triumph.” It was a fitting end to a night of hip-hop that involved the crowd as much as the artists themselves. Raekwon gave some love to his fans before concluding the concert, “Ithaca, thanks for coming out and showing your support for real hip-hop. Peace.”