When Doug E. Fresh hits 5th Element on Thursday morning, March 1, to do his human beatbox thing, perform a little "Dougie" dance and maybe break into a few Get Fresh classics like "The Show," CIAA partiers over 40 will dutifully mouth all the words and shake their middle-aged booties. It'll be a nostalgia-fest, for sure, but what's more important is that the veteran rapper's regular appearance at the annual basketball bacchanal kicks off a music-celebrity roster that includes perhaps the widest spectrum of hip-hop history jammed into three days that CIAA week has ever seen.
The Fresh man and other rap old-timers have become staples at CIAA festivities since the tournament moved from Raleigh to Charlotte six years ago, but for the event's 100th anniversary this year, organizers seem to be covering even more hip-hop territory than ever. A full 30 years of rap descends on the city this week, from the pioneering funk of D.C. go-go legend Chuck Brown (whose hypnotic breaks and raspy "raps," most notably on 1979's "Bustin' Loose," helped usher in hip-hop) to Fresh's N.Y.C. golden-age cohorts Slick Rick, Biz Markie and Salt-n-Pepa; from West Coast mythmaker Ice-T straight up to current hip-hop innovators like Raleigh's 9th Wonder and Fayetteville-born J. Cole.
For thug-hugging hip-hop fans, Miami's Rick Ross and Atlanta Gucci Mane protégé Waka Flocka Flame will appear together at Bojangles' Coliseum on Friday, March 2. And for the more poetic-minded, Common will spin his lyrical magic at Lux that same night in South End. Those who just want to watch one of the world's greatest turntablists do his thing on the wheels of steel can catch legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff close things out on Saturday, March 3, at an event sponsored by Charlotte R&B singer Anthony Hamilton inside the glass-enclosed Urban Garden between the Ritz-Carlton and Bank of America Center.
When the CIAA came to Charlotte in 2006, bringing more than 124,000 fans to week-long parties across the city, the tournament also brought a rare musical treat to a city that previously saw only the occasional great hip-hop show. During the 2007 event, Markie performed at the Charlotte Convention Center on a bill with Trey Songz and N.C.'s Little Brother, the trio that launched 9th Wonder. Other golden-age rappers came that year, too: MC Lyte, Slick Rick, Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock.
Over the next four years, the Biz and 9th Wonder became regulars, but the celebrity events and after-parties were also attracting bigger names like P. Diddy and budding stars such as Nicki Minaj.
To show how the CIAA will tell the story of the past three decades of hip-hop for some 200,000 revelers in just three days this week — without one Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC, De La Soul, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z or OutKast — we've provided a little idiot's-guide breakdown by era and style. Don't take it too seriously. And take note: By the time you read this, even more artists may have signed on. Also remember: some of these folks are just hosting parties and not performing, so don't go with unreasonable expectations. Besides, it's their collective vibe that will be permeating the downtown area, and that's what counts, right? Right.
Old-school: Chuck Brown. OK, so Brown isn't technically old-school hip-hop — he's the godfather of D.C. go-go. But he and the go-go scene of the '70s and early '80s were inextricably tied to what was going on due north of the nation's capital in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. After all, if there had been no Brown, there would have been no Trouble Funk or E.U., and if there had been no Trouble Funk or E.U., who would have told Stetsasonic it was OK to rap over traditional instruments? And if Stetsasonic had not rapped over trad instruments, the Roots would have had precious few predecessors. So, for our purposes, Chuck Brown is representing old-school hip-hop this week.
Golden Age: Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Biz Markie, Flavor Flav, Salt-n-Pepa. You have a human beatbox, an eye-patched ex-con, a novelty jokester (who also happened to be an astonishingly great rapper), another novelty jokester (who's embarrassing when no one's shouting "Bring the Noise" with him) and one of hip-hop's earliest and best female rap groups. Who needs Chuck D. to show up and bum everybody out with his politics when you have Doug E. Fresh making noises with his mouth, Slick Rick relating a creepy "Children's Story," the Biz waxing poetic about "Pickin' Boogers," Flavor Flav acting like the Pips without Gladys Knight, and two of the fiercest females in all of hip-hop history telling you to "push it real good"?
West Coast: Ice-T. Poor guy. So much great vintage West Coast gangsta shit and G-Funk — Cube, Dre, Snoop — and here's Ice-T, in Charlotte, representing the home of the bodybag all by himself. Who knew Detective Tutuola from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit even still rapped? Maybe he doesn't. Maybe he's just throwing a party. Or maybe he's promoting a follow-up to his 2006 album, Gangsta Rap. (Didn't remember that he had a 2006 album, Gangsta Rap? Yeah, me neither.) But in all seriousness, no West Coast hip-hop ever topped the song cycle that was O.G.: Original Gangster.