Raekwon 4/15/12 The Haunt – Ithaca

I’ll go out on a limb and say that Sunday Night Hip Hop in Upstate, NY should be mandatory. Whether for purely selfish reasons or not, nothing sets off the beginning of a workweek like a solid dose of skull crushing bass and urban poetry. So when Dan Smalls brought Raekwon and the Victory Mix tape H2O Tour to The Haunt in Ithaca, NY on April 15th, there was no passing it up.

As a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon’s reputation precedes him wherever he goes. The Wu entered the game with zero competition… None. This isn’t to say that there weren’t MC’s who threw it down and made their money in a difficult hustle, but Wu-Tang was unstoppable. They came onto the Rap scene as a mob, literally. And even after all these years, the group’s legacy and influence remains as strong as ever. And Raekwon is, to this day, one of the most prolific performers in Hip Hop. His shows are always tight, typically offering a dense mix of group and solo output.

His Ithaca performance was no exception…The set included several tracks from Raekwon’s personal arsenal, including “Ice Cream” and gems off arguably the best follow up LP to share a name, “Only Built For Cuban Linx II.” But the classics were the highlight of the performance, and cuts like “Protect Ya Neck,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta Fuck Wit,” and other 36 Chamber hits kept the crowd rowdy!

Shockingly on time (if you’ve seen Wu-Tang or affiliates before, you know they’re notorious for tardiness), Rae opened with “C.R.E.A.M.”, a surefire guarantee to get ANY crowd ready to party. While one can always expect Wu members to rock the group’s back catalogue, it really doesn’t matter… We are all glad to hear the hits. Many times, it’s why we still attend. The rhymes were right and the energy stayed live, peeking during a rambunctious rendition of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” honoring the late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

A businessman through and through, Raekwon also shared his stage and debuted some new talent at The Haunt. He brought up Toronto based MC JD Era for his Ithaca debut. Rocking “Payday,” his new joint, Hip Hop appears alive and well in Toronto! Dropping the music out of the mix, he also graced us with one of the best live freestyles I’ve seen in a long time… Just sick! He stayed onstage for a jam after that. His “No Handouts” mix tape is out right now, and is definitely worth picking up.

26-year-old R&B singer Kofi Black, another Staten Island artist, also made an appearance onstage. Obviously schooled in Gospel chops, he offered a wide range and some good vocal runs during his brief time at the mic.

The fun mix of artists onstage kept it diverse and exciting… Ice H2O seems to be turning into a business, for sure. Ending his set with “Triumph,” Raekwon shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. “It ain’t where you from, it’s where you at.” Damn right.

Brooklyn’s own Maino provided direct support, and he hit the stage like a bomb, quickly filling the floor right up. Solid beats and nonstop rhyme spitting whipped the crowd into a small frenzy, and he and his hype man kept it going strong throughout his set.

Currently pumping his new album, “Day After Tomorrow,” Maino proved he can drop some dope rhymes and is doing whatever he can to stay current in the perplexing world of Rap. Though I could not his most popular song, “Hi Hater,” when it dropped, it translates very well in the live forum. The guy can spit. Egocentric as you’d expect, tracks like “Bigger than Niño Brown,” as hype-fluff as they are, will definitely get the attention of suburban teenagers trying to act hard.

Recent Ice H2O records signees Reason and Caezar brought a harder sound to the stage. Wasting no time on the mic, the duo had great presence on their opening track and excellent interplay between them. Street styled NYC Hip Hop will never go out of style, and the Brooklyn and Staten Island boys repped downstate well. Caezar, just about to release a new mix tape, produced by DJ Whoo Kid, kept the “Real Hip Hop” message a running theme throughout their solid 5-song set. Make it a point to check Datpiff.com to see when the mix drops.

Second opener Sammus threw down some good stage energy and a positive vibe during her short set. Though a little bit tame on stage during her opening tracks, the girl clearly has skills and a passion for Hip Hop, keeping true to her art form. Sammus offered a positive, forward thinking set of jams.

Highlight of her set was the closer, “Mayhem.” Changing up the style and flow of her performance, albeit a bit late, the track’s thumping bass line was an excellent backdrop as Sammus cut loose a bit. The crowd dug it!

And while her banter between songs needs some work, Sammus and her DJ had solid back and forth going on, and it kept the set interesting. It’s always cool to see an solid partnership between performers.

Local Hip Hop upstart The Rapper H opened up the show. His flow is alright, not what you may expect from a small white guy in Ithaca. His beat selection and rhymes were solid, but the lack of choruses and inability to get the early crowd amped took away from the set. But hey, it was his 3rd show… Dynamics will come with time if he keeps it up. Word of advice, though… Find a new Hype Man, and don’t bring preppy friends onstage with you, bro.

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