Old School, New School

A crash course in the evolution of hip-hop.

By Craig Lindsey July 2, 2013 Published in the July 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The Kings of the Mic Tour pulls into Houston this month with a lineup that would have been unthinkable not long ago: LL Cool J, the rapper who introduced callow, cocksure swagger to the rap game when Kanye West was wearing Underoos; Public Enemy, hip-hop’s most vocal, most militant revolutionaries; Ice Cube, the snarling godfather of West Coast gangsta rap; and De La Soul, hip-hop’s original hippy-dippy crew. 

Kings of the Mic Tour
Bayou Music Center
July 3 at 8. $55–85. 520 Texas Ave.
713-230-1600. bayoumusiccenter.com

Twenty years ago, finding all these artists on the same bill would have been mind-blowing, not to mention dangerous—it’s difficult to imagine Cube-craving thugs and De La–loving bohos mingling in the same audience. But the year is 2013, and these performers are now middle-aged and mellowed, as are many of their fans. They’re banding together to show today’s young guns that they can still rock the mic.

Under the Influence of Music Tour
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 26 at 6:30. $32.50–59.50; $25 lawn seating. 2005 Lake Robbins Dr, The Woodlands. 281-363-3300.

Speaking of young guns, a group of them comes to The Woodlands later in the month for the Under the Influence of Music Tour. The headliners are Wiz Khalifa, the multi-tattooed rapper who brought “Black and Yellow” into the hip-hop lexicon, and A$AP Rocky, the Harlem MC-slash-French-braided style maven. Supporting them is B.o.B. and gold-toothed MC Trinidad James. 

DJ Bobby Phats of KPFT’s “The Groove” (Monday nights at 11 on 90.1 FM) says he’s psyched about bothtours but prefers the younger cats. “I’ve seen everyone on the Kings tour multiple times over the years, so I’m not as amped about it,” Phats says. “That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see them again. I just want to see the acts I haven’t seen before even more.”

All of this raises the question of why the newcomers and veterans can’t just join forces for a single mega-tour. The legends could co-sign on the newbies, who could pay their respects. “If Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and Ice Cube were still making hits and getting big airplay with their new records, the younger artists would be a lot more open to going out on tour with them,” Phats says. “That said, I think that with hip-hop’s competitive nature, there is the desire to show that you can rock with your peer group.” 

Of course, it’s easy to understand why a young MC wouldn’t want to trade rhymes with an old pro in front of a live audience. As Phats puts it, “The last thing any young rapper wants is to get schooled on stage by the old heads.”

Show Comments