Five feet from the Jeanius herself

On 6th Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets, there’s a small sign for Fat Beats record store, which is up a narrow staircase above the storefronts. I’ve walked on that block countless times without noticing it.

dsc011691Half an hour before the show is to start, there were still only about ten people in the store, which is only about the size of my apartment. We waited around, browsing the albums. It’s all hip hop, and mostly vinyl. It’s cool that this place is still in business, at a time when even Tower Records can’t stay afloat.

The place filled up quickly, and after a while we were all standing shoulder to shoulder and starting to sweat. My umbrella was still wet, my legs and back were starting to hurt, and besides the expectant crowd, there was still no sign of a show starting anytime soon. I was beginning to wish I hadn’t come.

Then DJ Evil Dee came in the door, unannounced (at least to us). After greeting some staff people like old friends, he hopped into the DJ booth and started spinning on the electronic turntables. With each new beat he put on, the crowd bobbed their heads in appreciation, and chatted excitedly with each other about their favorite obscure albums and mix tapes.

Two tall guys in front of me were blocking my view of the DJ, so I finally tapped one of them on the shoulder and asked to stand in front of him. That was a good move: I was now about five feet from the DJ booth.

DJ Evil Dee

Finally, almost an hour late, Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder showed up. They squeezed their way through the crowd to make it to the DJ booth, Talib did a bit on the mic, and 9th and took over the turntables.

9th Wonder

Finally, Jean Grae showed up. With a laugh, Talib introduced her as “the greatest lyricist in the world.” She crammed into the DJ booth with Talib and 9th and joked about how hot it was in the store. (Indeed, Talib had sweat streaming down his face and had already taken off his hoodie.) She chastised the crowd for not showing up to her Highline Ballroom concert and only showing up now because it was a free show.

9th and Jean did a few songs from Jeanius, including my favorite, “Don’t Rush Me,” which she said was the very first song they had made together, and that it was extra special because she even got 9th Wonder to sing a little bit on the track. Jeanius indeed.

Jean Grae

After a few Jeanius tracks, Jean did some a cappella verses. Talib attempted to do one of his new songs a cappella, but after some trite rhyme schemes (like fly/high) and stops and starts, he forgot the rest and gave up. Then they did a couple of Kweli’s songs, and Jean joined in on some verses.

The funniest moment came when Talib Kweli started his song “Black Girl Pain” and Jean Grae said, “Where are my black girls?” There was silence. So she was like, “Black girls? … Black girls?” (There were definitely some black girls in the room, but I guess they weren’t very vocal about it or they weren’t in Jean’s view.) Her directness was refreshing.

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One Response to “Five feet from the Jeanius herself”

  1. Ready for Summer? « DJ Jojo Says:

    […] Some of the best (or at least most memorable) concerts I’ve been to have been the free ones: the Roots on Pier 54 in July 2005, one of the best nights of my first summer in New York; Little Brother in Fort Greene Park in 2006, where they said hello to me before the show on my way to the bathroom, but I was too shy to respond; Cafe Tacuba in Central Park in 2007, where I was knocked around in a humid, smelly, dusty mosh pit; Girlyman at Madison Square Park in 2007, when we took awkward pictures with Ty and found out that Doris used to be a camp counselor of someone my girlfriend knew from college; Lauryn Hill at Wingate Park in 2007, even though she showed up three hours late, looked and sounded almost unrecognizable (and, well, not that great); Jean Grae, 9th Wonder, and Talib Kweli at Fat Beats in 2008, where I stood five feet from the Jeanius herself. […]

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