Lauren McEwen reviews the D.C. installment of Rock The Bells Present: Reflection Eternal at Club 9:30.
Disappointed fans were greeted with signs that read, “Slaughterhouse will not perform tonight due to injuries,” upon arriving to the 9:30 Club for the Washington, DC installment of the Rock the Bells tour, last night. Although this news was met with some frustrated hisses, within five minutes of the actual show, it was clear that the other acts were more than capable of giving the audience their money’s worth.
The first performer up was legendary DJ, Pete Rock. He entertained the crowd throughout all of the show’s transitions, by serving u p old school hits that almost every person in the room seemed to know, line for line. From Pharcyde’s “Runnin’” and “Passin’ Me By” to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum” and Wu Tang Klan’s “C.R.E.A.M.,” Pete Rock did a virtual roll call of 90’s hip hop favorites, keeping the audience calm during the rough patches of the show by demonstrating his skills with the turntables.
Next to take the stage was improvisational freestyle artist, Supernatural. For anyone who had never witnessed a well-executed freestyle in person, he delivered it—creating a poem that incorporated three words from the crowd, rapping about random items that audience members pulled from their pockets and spinning around and becoming a “different MC” by doing impressions of hip-hop greats from the past.
Once Supernatural was done wowing the crowd, Slum Village took the stage. After tragically losing group member Baatin, the remaining members, T3 and Elzhi, performed a lot of new material off of their upcoming album, “Villa Manifesto”, seeming to want to avoid the pain of performing songs in that had included their fallen friend, as much as possible. When they did perform some of their older music, they did it well. They led the audience through the high-energy “Raise It Up”, the smoother sound of “Disco” and their more mainstream hits “Tainted” and “Selfish” with energy and enthusiasm to spare. During their performance of “Tainted” they respectfully turned down the music and whispered Baatin’s verse together, a sweet gesture that the audience appreciated.
Talib Kweli was last to perform, welcomed to the stage by excited fans chanting his name. He came onstage filled with excitement, dapping up the crowd as he sailed into his set, taking the audience through many of their Kweli favorites, including “Eternalists,” “Hostile Gospel Part 1 (Deliver Us),” and “Memory’s Lane”. A born solo artist, Kweli commanded the stage, keeping the audience’s collective heads bobbing throughout every number.
Real hip-hop seemed to be the theme for the show, and true lovers of the music almost gravitated to 9:30 Club. If they were in search of lyrically-driven songs and good production, they were not disappointed in the least.