It was July, 2008. The place was then known as the Tweeter Center. The event; Rock The Bells 2008. An overall dope concert, but I’ll never forget the experience that made me change my mind on at that time one of my favorite emcees.
By 2008, I still hadn’t seen a lot of rappers perform live. So I was playing catch up. My guy Sam and I went to Rock The Bells 2008 and I was hellbent on seeing Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Q-Tip and Nas all perform live for the first time.
We pull up to the venue, park, get out and I hear “Move Something” playing. I immediately say “DAMN! KWELI ON STAGE!” So I wanted to take off running, but of course that don’t matter you got get to a line to get your ticket scanned before you can move forward. So, I took hip-hop L and just enjoyed the sounds from the parking lot.
Fast Forward: It was a lot of acts that did their thing! Murs, Pharcyde, De La Soul all put on great performances. Definitley glad I seen all of them and in some ways, those moments made me bigger fans and made me want to listen to more of their recent music as well as dig in the crates. Then, the mood drastically changed.
I had been waiting to see Mos Def live since “Black on Both Sides” dropped. So with this moment about 10 years in the making, I thought Mos was going to elevate in my top emcees list. Looking back, I don’t think I’ve been that wrong about anything musically, in my life.
While waiting for Mos, I was talking about how I was excited to see him and the homegirl Kristina, didn’t say much and a few people around us were just quiet. Chris, Sam and I were anticipating, but I wouldn’t discover why until later why no one else was as vocal about wanting to see Mos Def.
Rock The Bells is a music festival. Mos Def didn’t care. I don’t want to over estimate the time, but lets just say we had to have waited around 10 minutes for him to arrive on stage.
Mos Def hits the stage, crowd goes wild. It did kind of throw me off that he didn’t come out to Ms Fat Booty, Respiration, Definition, Ghetto Rock…or ANYTHING the crowd would jump up too. He could have even came out to the Lyricist Lounge Show Beat and I would have marked out, but he didn’t. He kind of just appeared to what was somewhat of a jam session. Then, I want to say he did do “Hip-Hop” and that is actually one of my favorite Mos Def joints so I wasn’t tripping, but it literally goes all downhill from there.
Mos Def felt like this is the perfect time to freestyle. So while the band is playing, he’s just rapping. Nothing that we know and we here to vibe to what we know. The crowd is seemingly getting restless and no one is really moving at all. Then after a few minutes of that, he goes in to his own version of Rappers Delight. No disrespect to the pioneers, but we don’t want to hear that ish when Mos Def is on stage. So now the crowd is starting to “BOOOO” and it’s even some people trying to throw objects onto the stage. Then Mos said something that made me change my opinion on him forever.
“I hear y’all saying you want to hear this and you want to hear that and we’ll get to that, but chill cause whatever we do is going to be hot, aight?”
And the BOOOOO’S got exponentially louder. So after about 10 minutes of his jam session freestyle of Rapper’s Delight, he wants to try to get into UMI Says. One problem, Sound man cut his mic. He had already “performed” for a very long time, yet we heard nothing, so when he wanted to get into his actual songs it was too late!
There was an odd mix of cheers and Boo’s when he left the stage. I’ll assume all for the same reasons. Either thank God it’s over and I paid to this ish!?!
Totally hurt by the lack of great hip-hop moment received, I shouted the only thing that would ease my heart. “FUCK MOS DEF!” Sam, Chris and I weren’t the only ones either and the exchange of the night that is still hilarious to this day is.
“Did you say ‘Fuck Mos Def?!'”
“Yup, did you?”
Then after his set, I hear how Mos Def is notorious for giving bad shows and not caring about what anybody thinks. I can’t deny or defend him because it just happened to me.
I don’t know what happened to him before he hit the stage, but all politics and behind the scenes stuff aside, you don’t mistreat the fans. The people that make the purchases and help build the buzz so you can travel and do shows. It’s just not right. I’d rather him no show than suck.
I don’t listen to Mos Def the same anymore. I don’t anticipate features, I don’t care if he drops another album and I will never spend another dollar if I see him on the bill. Why? Because I was that big of fan before he got on stage at Rock The Bell 2008.