Okayplayer Tour featuring Dead Prez, Talib Kweli

Positive vibes, hi-octane hip-hop and hypnotic R&B...

Lest there is any doubt whether quality, thoughtful hip-hop could fill arena-sized venues, The Roots-organised Okayplayer Tour should prove everyone wrong.

On Saturday, October 7, New York City‘s Hammerstein Ballroom – with a capacity of about 3,000 – was the scene for Okayplayer’s sold-out show. The crowd was mixed, the vibe was positive, and the music was nothing but hi-octane hip-hop and hypnotic R&B.

The organisation of the set’s first 40 minutes was a bit misleading: after The Roots opened the show, the artists – Talib Kweli, Jazzyfatnastees, Dice Raw, Dead Prez, Bahamadia, and newcomers Jaguar and Flo Brown – performed only one song each. Soon enough, though, it became clear that this was only the rotating first half of the show.

During the second half, each act returned to the stage to perform their latest material as well as classic tracks. Black Thought, who served as the show’s ‘host’, showed off songs from his upcoming solo release, as did Roots protégé Dice Raw. Then Flo Brown – a fearless, young, Newark-based MC who will no doubt be blowing up in the months to come – added a heavy dose of griminess, rapping over Dr Dre‘s ‘Guess Who’s Back’ hook. For a minute there I was transported to the cavernous auditorium of Wetlands, a New York City venue where Flo often performs as part of the Black Lily set.

But the starz of the show were Dead Prez, who, despite incessant mic problems, delivered a soul-searing performance of ‘Mind Sex‘ and ‘Be Healthy‘, while the Jazzyfatnastees provided back-up harmonies.

The climax of the show was the finale, for which the entire roster of performers joined Dead Prez onstage for a supercharged version of the duo’s single ‘Hip Hop’ – an appropriate and uplifting closure for an all-round solid show.

Stacy Gueraseva