Cross another off the concert bucket list.
I’ve been a fan of The LOX since 1996. I’ve wanted to see them perform live for years – decades even. Long before Verzuz and the rise of old man rap and nostalgia tours, I wanted to see The LOX.
I’m not sure if this is an accurate statement, but it feels like there are many more hip-hop shows than there were in the ’80s and ’90s. More specifically, there are more midsized concerts. Perhaps it’s because I was young and far from New York City or L.A., but it always felt like rap shows were either huge or tiny.
There were always the big shows with multiple acts like the Fresh Fest in ’85 or Smokin’ Grooves in ’98, and of course there was the Apollo and the small club shows that new artists performed at, but I don’t think there were many rap shows at the two thousand seat theater that featured Michael Bolton the week before.
For most people, if they wanted to see The LOX live, they’d have buy a ticket to something like Puff Daddy’s No Way Out tour, which in addition to Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch, included other members of Puff’s Bad Boy roster like Mase and closely affiliated artists like Lil’ Kim and an unhappy Jay-Z as the opening act.
Although I have all of the monthly bills of the typical middle aged man that I am, I decided a few years ago that I would not miss out on shows I’ve always wanted to attend.
I’ve seen Wu-Tang multiple times and have seen Raekwon and Ghostface individually. I’ve seen Nas and I’ve seen Jay-Z. The LOX were still on my must see list, along with Eminem, Tha Dogg Pound, and others, so when I saw that they would be performing at the Ritz Theater, which is not too far away, with State Property on October 7, 2022, I was not going to miss it.
I have email alerts set for Ticketmaster so when sales opened up, I was ready. I booked immediately and was able to snag second row seats. I was extremely happy with the second row, but I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the Ritz Theater’s seating is laid out in a crescent shape, meaning that there is no first row on each side so our second row seats were actually front row.
The time on the ticket was 7 pm and while almost every hip-hop show I’ve ever attended has started hours late, I thought this may be different since all of us – performers and fans – were old and needed to go to bed at a different time. I was extremely wrong.
After seeing the line wrapped around the block at 7, my friend and I took a walk, had some (bad) drinks, and made our way back to the Ritz at 8. The line had barely moved. After an interminable wait, we were inside. As we walked into the main theater, we could see the cloud of weed smoke hovering over everything. Ironic considering the next thing my eyes saw was a big NO SMOKING sign on the wall.
We made our way to our seats and I was not disappointed. We were on the far left side, in a row of four, with no one in front of us. When I stuck my foot out, it hit the front of the stage. That would come in handy later when old drunk heads tried pushing their way past me.
We began to wait some more.
The DJ knew it was a crowd of grey beards and he played his part, keeping the music almost strictly ’90s classics. Every so often, he would call out the name of a member of State Property being “in the building,” as if he were taking attendance in homeroom.
There were several opening acts and they were fine.
I’ve written before that before rap shows became great, they “consisted of deafening bass that distorted the speakers while a probably-not-sober rapper rhymed along to his backing track as two hundred of his closest friends loitered around the stage.”
Sadly, much of that is still true for unknown artists.
Every live rap opening act sounds the same – and I say that as someone that once dreamed of beginning my career as an opening act. When you don’t know the artist or the song, it’s hard to get a feel for the music, particularly live rap where the sound mix is often terrible. The final opener was D-Block affiliate Tony Moxberg, who was good but had the misfortune of performing hours after the show was scheduled to begin.
Sadly, we still weren’t there yet.
Technician the DJ, who became celebrated for his performance at the LOX/DipSet Verzuz, came out to check the equipment and was not happy, to the point where he was yelling the names of engineers into the microphone for them to fix things. He did it in a funny, caustic way, but it was just more waiting.
Finally, at 10:30, three-and-a-half hours after the show was scheduled to begin, the lights finally went down.
The unmistakable beat for “Takeover” began and the State Property DJ kept looping the chorus where Jay names each member:
“Freeway, we runnin’ this rap shit/O and Sparks, we runnin’ this rap shit/Chris and Neef, we runnin’ this rap shit”
Then out came Freeway. He ran through a few tracks, including “Free” and some others. Then came Peedi Peedi, Sparks, and finally the Young Gunz, Chris and Neef. They ran through their best known songs including “One for Peedi Crakk,” “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” and “Flipside.”
The entire time I was wondering if he would show and, sure enough, the general of State Property, Beanie Sigel, appeared on stage and the crowd truly went crazy for the first time.
Beans performed his verse for “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)” then took a break to let everyone catch their breath. He then asked the crowd if they knew his name before launching into “Beanie (Mack Bitch).” Then, he asked to borrow someone’s phone and pantomimed dialing until the opening horns of “1-900-Hustler” kicked in and Freeway delivered his career-making verse.
From there, Beans and Free closed with what are probably their two most notable tracks, “Roc the Mic” and “What We Do” (where they even performed Jay’s middle verse).
Considering the fact that he hasn’t sounded the same since being shot – his strong delivery now closer to a menacing whisper – and getting parts of his lung removed, I wasn’t sure Beans could still perform, but he was terrific. He didn’t have the commanding voice like he used to, but he wasn’t drowned out either.
Finally, they all came back out to salute the crowd.
State Prop Chain Gang!
Then came the main event.
As their new track, “Terminator LOX” began blasting, one by one, with Technician announcing their names, Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch came to the stage.
They walked around a bit and soaked in the cheers before telling the crowd to put their middle fingers up as the opening repeating sounds of “Fuck You” began.
A few days before the show, I had texted my friend that was going with me that I was going to dap up Jadakiss since our seats were so close. She wrote back “Whatever,” but even before the end of that first song ‘Kiss came over and gave me (and some others) dap. Just before that, Styles had walked near us and I yelled out his trademark, “What up! What up! What up!” and he looked and saluted.
Just like on Verzuz, they went in a myriad different directions. They did “Wild Out” and some others from We Are the Streets, but also “Money, Power & Respect,” and even the mixtape classic, “Chest 2 Chest” where Styles remarked afterward that they recorded that at DJ Clue’s house.
There were several teases including the opening notes to his “Time’s Up” Remix, better known as “The Champ Is Here” and “Mighty D-Block (2 Guns Up),” where they had the crowd chant the opening chorus but before the verses, the beat switched to “Last Day,” their feature on The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death.
Each member was given time and space to shine at various points.
Styles did his “No Idea’s Original” freestyle and then later performed “Good Times (I Get High)” and “The Life” back to back, as well as “Come Thru,” his track from the Violator compilation with Noreaga.
Jadakiss did “All for the Love,” his solo cut from their first album and “Blood Pressure,” his solo from their second LP, as well as both his famous “Who Shot Ya” freestyle and his incredible (and slept-on) “Where I’m From” freestyle that I couldn’t fully enjoy because security was preventing a dude behind me from climbing on stage.
Sheek got to do “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye” from my favorite LOX solo LP [After Taxes] and “Good Love.”
At midnight, they said they were being told to shut it down (probably due to a city ordinance), but fortunately they realized their set didn’t begin until 11:30 and people had been waiting since 7, so they kept going.
While everyone stayed in their spots for State Prop, as the LOX set continued people kept pushing towards the stage and my friend and I had to basically push people away, particularly as they became more drunk and more ridiculous, like the woman who was desperately trying to give Jada her lighter for some unfathomable reason. I heard someone behind me complain they couldn’t see because I was so tall. I was tempted to say something about getting better seats but I didn’t feel like getting murdered so I just pretended not to hear.
To keep things moving, they didn’t stay on one song too long, so they hit a bunch of different cut. Of course, with a catalog that stretches almost thirty years full of deep mixtape cuts and incredible but little known features, there were bound to be some tracks I wanted to hear but they didn’t do. The most disappointing omission was “Dope Money,” one of my absolute favorite LOX tracks, but ‘Kiss and S.P. did do their back-and-forth thing on “Banned from T.V.,” so that was dope.
As the show was nearing its end, on came “Reservoir Dogs” from Jay’s Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life.
As Sheek’s verse was winding down, you could hear a ripple in the crowd as Beanie came back out to perform his verse. It was pretty crazy – and great – to see two incredible MCs – and two crews – that engaged in an epic battle twenty years ago now share the stage and show absolute love to each other.
The track cut off after that, which was disappointing because I love Jada’s (“Gangstas don’t die they get chubby and move to Miami”) and especially Styles’s verses (“I’m ten steps ahead of n—as/Shootin’ backwards just for practice”).
For the finale, they asked the crowd to put their fists in the air before the sounds of “We Gonna Make It” started. At the end, Jadakiss, now spitting acapella, changed the singular to the plural:
“I’m the reason n—as got deals the past few years/You sound anything like us then sign right here/And them n—as just talkin’, we doin’ it well/L-O-X, motherfucker, we’ll see you in hell!”
That’s when “Terminator LOX” again began playing and the three of them stood at the front of the stage, thanking the crowd and basked in the love. There was one beautiful woman in the center section that looked like a more materialistic, less bohemian Erykah Badu (the people behind us asked us at one point if it was her) who kept screaming for Jadakiss. She was shrieking to the point that Jada was stunned and could only smile at her.
Even as the house lights came on, the crew was cleaning up, and we were some of the final people filing to the exit, we could still hear her screaming for Jada.
As a fan for nearly thirty years, I understood her passion.
I’m grateful I was able to see the holy trinity up close and personal.
Christopher Pierznik is the worst-selling author of nine books. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Connect on Facebook or Twitter. Please feel free to get in touch at CPierznik99@gmail.com.