10 September 2019

West Adams Block Party featuring...Big Daddy Kane!

We had no major plans over Labor Day weekend, so we stopped by this block party in our neighborhood, as it seemed like the perfect opportunity to hang out for a couple of hours with some good food and good music.  In fact, there was a particular reason that Mike wanted to attend, so Charlene went along for the ride...

I will go to street fairs from time to time, mostly if there is a special performing act I want to see or if I just want to spend time with family, but I'm not necessarily a huge fan.  It's usually the same sights, the same entertainment, and the same food.  I usually prefer walking around a mall to looking at booths and waiting for food truck grub, but this was a unique event that caught our attention and we arrived in the early evening.

The West Adams Block Party was presented by Delicious Vinyl, a landmark record label whose founders went on to open a "hip hop pizza shop" known as Delicious Pizza.  The restaurant was the host of the party, so I figured the one major thing that I had to do was try some of this pizza!  But of course, there was a long line at the shop, which was enough of a deterrent for me.  We ended up getting some garlic noodles at the Bleu Truck and I was not at all disappointed - their food was delicious.  The outside of the truck advertised that they had participated in an episode of "Guy's Grocery Games", which was another reason I was drawn to eat here.  But I'll save the HoneyNerd's mutual love for Guy Fieri's cooking game show for another post.

The block party itself was minimal - a handful of booths, a few stages with different artists, and a sprinkling of food trucks.  Unfortunately, the stores along the street had closed (I didn't realize they wouldn't be open after 6) but the vibe of the block party was fun - people were dancing and seemed to enjoy the musical performances, and it wasn't too crowded to make walking around a hassle.  Despite my indifference to block parties, I had a good time, with some good food and great company.

The year was 1989.  After fully immersing myself in the "hair metal" scene for a few years prior, I found myself drawn toward the world of rap music.  After all, this was the "Golden Age of Hip Hop", and there were plenty of artists to follow - from the hardcore street knowledge of N.W.A to the fun antics of Kid 'n Play, I pretty much liked them all - but there was one that stood out the most.  Though he was a mere 21 years old, Big Daddy Kane had already made a name for himself and was quickly rising up the ranks in the music world.  My timing was impeccable, as I learned of his existence just as he was hitting his apex.

Kane was an enigma: he was both a ladies' man that could seduce with his "smooth" persona AND he was a furious battle rapper that could put other MC's in their place with his dynamic wordplay.  He hardly ever cursed and he didn't typically objectify women - he was just straight cool and he knew it.  The year that I discovered him saw the release of his second album It's a Big Daddy Thing, which was propelled up the charts on the strength of two contrasting singles: the captivating slow jam "Smooth Operator" (which reached #1 on the Rap charts) and the up-tempo dance hit "I Get the Job Done".  The music videos for each single were in constant rotation on Yo! MTV Raps, and I loved them both!

As the years went on, I distanced myself from rap music and started listening to alternative rock amidst the "grunge" scene, but Big Daddy Kane continued on with varied levels of success and I never stopped listening to him.  I was fortunate enough to see him twice - once at the House of Blues with The Roots, and once at another street festival where he performed with a funk band.  The man can still rock a party, so I knew I had to go see him and convince Charlene to join me.

Kane took the stage just as the sun was setting and delivered a solid 25 minutes of glorious hip hop, enlisting the crowd to sing along at multiple opportunities.  Though most of his songs were truncated in order to fit as many as possible into his short set, he still managed to hype up the audience while touching on virtually all of his early string of hits - the aforementioned "Smooth Operator" was a highlight, while "Warm It Up, Kane" and "Raw" showcased his signature lyrical domination.  He would close with the crowd-pleasing "Ain't No Half Steppin'" before departing into the night, leaving the fans in awe.  It may not have been a long performance, but it packed a real punch and was a perfect way to wrap up the night!

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