Ludacris, Nas Storm Heineken’s Red Star Soul Series in NYC
While New York City almost reached snow globe status on Friday night (October 16), those lucky enough to find reprieve from the weather inside the city's Gotham Hall got more than just a roof over their heads. Inside the illustrious dome, Heineken set up shop for the second-to-last tour date of the latest Red Star Soul concert series, which has for the past few months offered free shows top-billed by N.E.R.D. and Big Boi across the nation.
The Big Apple show was packed with sizzling performances by hip-hop's elite, including sets from Ludacris, Estelle, Biz Markie, Wale, D-Nice and a surprise appearance from Nas. D-Nice kicked off the evening's festivities, warming up the crowd by spinning the classics.
Wale hopped on the mic just shy of 10PM, using his 15 minutes of shine to rip through cuts off his heralded mixtapes and forthcoming debut, 'Attention Deficit.' Assisted by a hype man, the emcee fervently swung from song to song, dazzling the crowd with fan faves like 'Back in the Go-Go,' 'World Tour,' 'Pretty Girls' and, of course, the first single from the new album, 'Chillin',' which marked the end of his pint-sized set.
Next at bat was legendary emcee Biz Markie, who hopped behind his Serato setup to chop up the classics. As the audience nodded in unison to jams like Jodeci's 'Come and Talk to Me' and Puff Daddy's 'All About the Benjamins,' Grandmaster Flash emerged from backstage to pay his respects to Biz, who posed with Flash before abandoning his spin station to perform his staple 'Just a Friend.' Biz dropped the mic and returned to the wheels, this time riling up the crowd with more recent hits like Soulja Boy's 'Turn My Swag On' and F.L.Y.'s 'Swag Surfin'.'
British songstress Estelle soon stole the spotlight, injecting a needed dose of estrogen into the male-dominated event. Sporting a body-conforming black cocktail dress and backed by a full band and two backup singers, she performed a few numbers from her 2008 breakout hit 'Shine,' flipping between rapping and singing on album cuts "Shine," "Come Over" and "Substitute Love," during which she extended the breezy tune by ad-libbing venomous lyrics like, 'I hate you, so I put it on YouTube / F--- you." But thechanteuse toned down the sass for her final song of the evening, giving the audience what they were waiting for with a spicy rendition of 'American Boy.'
Comedian Godfrey followed Estelle's set with a slew of gags that didn't fare well with the audience, prompting one attendee to make his way to the front of the stage with the express purpose of sharing his distaste for the funny man. The crowd was soon pacified when a pair of promoters came armed with cases ofHeineken , passing out the green bottles to those in the front of the stage who refused to leave their post, even to grab a freebie from one of the many open bars in the room.
The night came to a climax when headliner Ludacris took the stage, running through tracks from his discography like 'Ho,' 'Pimpin' All Over the World' and 'Southern Hospitality,' and verses from guest appearances on songs like DJ Khaled's 'We Takin' Over,' Shawnna's 'Gettin' Some' and Usher's 'Yeah!' But while the crowd was getting down to the slew of Luda hits, the volume reached full throttle when Nas joined him on 'I Do It for Hip-Hop,' with the Queens emcee taking a few minutes to perform 'NY State of Mind' and 'The World of Yours' before ducking back out.
With the show wrapping up with two of hip-hop's greats, the Red Star Soul series' reputation for staging nights to remember is justifiably growing.