Afrocipha takes on Meek Mill Homecoming Concert at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia
[Dedicated to Lil Snupe, Obuwale, Bajulaiye, French Montana, Ice Prince, WizKid, Davido, Jeezy, DJ Drama, Rick Ross, Eve, Lexxus, Akon, Buju Banton, Bob Marley, Hakim, Cheb Khaled, Grandmaster Nell and The Punk Funk Nation, Grandmaster Rasheen, Parry P, The Immortal B-Force, Schoolly D, MC Breeze, Lady B, Peter Tosh, DJ Khaled, Cheb Mami, Lady Saw, Jackie-O, Malaika Love, Kosmic Kev, Beanie Sigel, Haak Blast, Pastor Troy, Kool G, Redd Bull, Freeway, and The Postmodern Avatars of the Afrobeat(s) /Hip Hop Renaissance]
Me and Wale step out the rolls wit the #gunmanpose like Olamide.
– Meek Mill
Sonic bodies in motion as Gucci Mane’s anthem lights the air. Soundclashes in Trenchtown’s signal nightclub, Peedi Crakk speeding up his rhyme as Nicki Minaj slows hers down. We rolling through the Streets of The City as Twisted Tales fill the air. All moving toward the Wells Fargo with that sickazz Hip Hop cargo.
Mannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnne. Whut? What. Club Wha is over. Limelight hiding under the searchlight. Lights beaming in the sky. But out in Nigeria they moving inside as that Harmattan moves with the seasonal wind in the middle of the wheel. They entering the VIP section before going near the Cave (some folk wanna call it the tunnel). Whatever. This massive/missive crowd is about to enter the door on some ol milly ish!
Bajulaiye Anchors and Provides Color Commentary on Meek Millz Triumphant Return In the Presence of Dr. J, Allen Iverson, Kevin Hart & Beanie Sigel
Akinyemi Bajulaiye been waiting at the Welly Wale Fargo venue since last July because they told boy to go there instead of the Liacouras where the original show was slated. He’s been preparing for that show headlined by Ice Prince, Meek Mill and Wale out in the Lagos Soccer Stadium or Franklin Field. Here is what Bajulaiye witnessed Saturday night: “The crowd is erupting. 20,000 seats filled. The Wells Fargo Center is officially at capacity. White smoke permeating the premises like a haunted house on Halloween night, and Mr. Philadelphia himself gears up to take the stage. The lights dim, and on comes a film projector, capturing Legends of the brotherly love who are here to recognize a brother who is putting on for their city like never before. Julius Erving, the comical Kevin Hart, Allen Iverson. “We talking about practice?” Meek Mill ain’t need no practice! At the height of the anticipation, the projector goes off and the human symbol for the city is welcomed onto the stage, supported by his brother and hype man, with his currently acclaimed ‘Monster’ record.”
Ak continues: “Roughly two hours before, I am just arriving at the arena to immerse myself in the city’s celebration, as the clock hits 7:00 PM. The lines are out the door on this cool, temperate Saturday evening. A young female locking arms with her boyfriend, wearing a black dress and 6-inch heels, as if it were her high school prom night. I walk into the ground floor of the old Wachovia center, where on my left is a man with dreads, rocking a white tee, tight jeans and sneakers, standing in a photo-booth ready to immortalize the night. To my right is a table, behind which a man and a woman are standing, hoping to encourage ticket holders to purchase black shirts that read, “PHILADELPHIA.” In the middle is a man beside a car, with his arm resting on a handle. He looks zoned-out and bored, as his objective is presumably to promote the car to the thousands of concertgoers. Perhaps he is imagining walking into the concert space like the rest of the people getting their bar codes scanned at the door.”
Meek is wayblackbackstageeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. On some NP (North Philly) jawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwnnnn, surrounded by family, friends and a couple would-be enemies. This is his most highly anticipated show. Filling up the Wells Fargo, though? Come on. Let’s be serious. Few months ago he was all the way up north and tonight the high rollers among Philly’s elite and elan are jockeying for a special VIP pass. First they are told to walk right down to the VIP entrance. After all, they are VIPS. Suddenly, regulations shift to some old murky mall ish. Ha. Ha. Ha. But they still got Gotti and Milly on dey minds. Something like the Ft. Clarence Dancehall Concert. Promoters bout ready to be promoted. VIP hostess brings in music executives and hustle to find just the right seat. Wow? They even got them laced for the Shantytown Parade. Voices rise and panic-driven faces holler out, “Iverson is parking in Space X.” Oh No, he isn’t. You’ve got to have him move to a section reserved for The Answer. Not the question. Venue employees spot Dr. J and Jackie O, but not O.J. Nah, he out west thinking and thanking. It’s weird how this space is wired like that. Remnants of the Wizard of Oz and characters running this centre are bout to enter Sun Ra’s custom built space ship. Wonder if Gilmore is the driver for this NIGHT IN TUNISIA. With DJ Drama coming off Baring headed left to the ATL, gotta wonder if Bahamadia still has Drama’s first mixtape made while still at Central or was it after the mic Geronimo and O.C visitation?
OgaSilachi, Meek Mill, Davido, WizKid, Wale and ‘The Singer With Bars’- Ty Dollar Sign on The Same Track? STOP!!!
Baju still laughing at that Dramatic Nigerian soap opera as he checks for the latest instagram posts or is he bouncing to 2Face Idibia, Banky W and D’Banj’s hotazz delivery over those oven baked beats on some ol Jahlil type sonic intervention? Wait. Wait. Wait. A Ya Ya Ya! Yah Yah. The selector is still manipulating and using a dry paintbrush to get them standing. Wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
Getting closer to the moment they’ve been waiting for, Baju stands up and carries us to the scene: “It’s 7:45 PM and people are still slowly pacing in. Men and women squatting and leaning on the walls, idly, showing off the attire that they are sporting for the night. Fur coats galore. I pass by a woman in the hallway who is wearing a hot pink, flamingo-like fur coat, and another who is wearing a similar one in purple. The concession area is characterized by brown square-bricked walls, hard tiled floors and couples, clicks and individuals standing, chatting, performing, and killing time. A fan in all white is sitting in a wheelchair, being wheeled like a messiah by his boy in a black hoodie, white hat and gold chain. It looks like everyone will be in attendance for tonight”…..
Philly is the Aboriginal Hoooome of Hip Hop and Grandmaster Nell, Helping to Establish Its Groundation Before His Nephew Meek Grabbed The MIC
Meek been grinding to the top for a long time. Diligence, back checking, linking up and the audacity of thought and action moved him toward this special night. Philly set this Hip Hop ish in motion and Meek’s family played a key role in developing the social and cultural dimensions of what is now known globally as Hip Hop. Few artists can make the claims that Meek can. It goes way back to the womb, back when Meek was born. Hearing and seeing what it meant to be a star in the galaxy with so many African Americans who had set in motion. There is no doubt that Cornbread got this Hip Hop urban style graffiti started as he tagged everything from Michael Jackson’s plane to the Elephants in the Philadelphia Zoo. Mannnnneee, Bread got it up and heated up and resuscitated and heated up, writing like his ancestors up the Nile. And from Cornbread came that other Phillz kid who carried it to Harlem and finally to the Bronx seven years after it kicked off in Philly. Do we really need to explain to Hip Hop Headz how Grandmaster Rasheen, Grandmaster Nell, Cash Money, Jazzy Jeff (even before the Fresh Prince when they were killing it at the spot near 52nd and Baltimore that is now a church), and the legendary DJs that went on to dominate Hip Hop DJing in the U.S. and around the world? Much of this has already been documented in such books and films as Nation Conscious Rap, Rap et Islam, Twisted Tales in the Hip Hop Streets of Philly, Street Conscious Rap and that monumental tome, Tha Global Cipha: Hip Hop Culture and Consciousness.
Lady Bahamadia Remembers Grandmaster Nell and The Punk Funk Nation at Hotel Philadelphia
Back in 1984, before Mill’s was born, his uncle Grandmaster Nell performed before more than two million people over a two-week period at the Smithsonian Folk Festival. That great but still underexplored Hip Hop artist and total B-Girl, Bahamadia explains: “Grandmaster Nell. He was the first person that I saw scratching through the cue. I witnessed him doing this at Hotel Philadelphia. This was back in the days of Lady B and Bobby Dance. Grandmaster Nell of South Philly was the one that really stuck in my mind to the point that I could say, ‘I want to do that.’ Grandmaster Nell had a lot of style and stuff as far as his appearance. I mean really, just on some fly gear. He always looked nice in his Philly gear. He always kept himself really nice. He always looked immaculate, like he was just about to go to a fashion show or something. He was just fly like that. But then, people in North Philly and South Philly were known for that. They were known to wear fly gear.” Yeah, and Grandmaster Nell’s only challenge in stagecraft and working those elements of surprise was The Mighty B-Force coming directly out of The Black Bottom. Now, we talking about West Philly in the Hip Hop dayz before Cash Money and Jazzy Jeff got it on with Rasheen’s Transformer DJ technique at Mill Creek. It’s important to remember that Meek Mill is grounded in a rich history of Phillystyle, Hip Hop and African American mass based culture that goes all the way back to Sam Wooding who took the first Jazz group to Russia to perform in the twenties before Benny Goodman was either when or where.
It’s Levels To This Game: Dreams Worth More Than Money
And now Bajulaiye provides a Gertzian thick description of this special event: “Inside I am sitting in a maroon colored, soft padded seat at a primetime location on the floor. Again, though the stands have yet to fill up, I’m captivated by the heterogeneity, the diverse demographic here to witness an overdue Homecoming. For me, there is nothing like watching a large arena fill up with people, bringing the level of energy exuded from 0-100… It’s levels! Meek Millie continues his introduction by playing the mass appealing ‘Levels’ track. Blue and green rays are beaming out from the stage in all directions, yellow lights lining the borders of the projector. It feels like the arena is levitating from the decibels of sound Meek is forcing out into the microphone. At the far left and right of the stage, closer to the audience, are two posters being held by young men dressed in all white. They are both promotional tools for the DWMTM [Dreams Worth More Than Money) album. Also being marketed on the stage is Puma, with whom Meek has a sneaker deal, as the insignia is glaring white at the back- center of the stage. And we also see a green, ridged sign for monster — the company that produces Meek’s headphones — both at the back middle-left and middle-right….Soon after the opening set, Mill brings out French Montana, who has alongside him his Coke Boy signee, Lil Durk. It’s a good idea to bring French out at the beginning of the concert, as the rapper has a string of hit-records out right now, satiating the streets.”
BALL DROP ‘In My Bag’, Prolli
Since boy on some interplanetary motion and movement, it should not be surprising that he would light the galaxy with stars like Philly’s own, DJ Drama, all geared up in that Black and Orange Philadelphia Flyer gear, and a stack of those hotazz Gangsta Grillz mixtapes, and Fabolous as Baju rightly notes, ‘looking more New York than any one in the building, dressed in a green and white NFL jersey, black beanie, gold watch, bracelet and chain, green boots, and stylish gold-rimmed shades.’ Kevin Hart shows Meek and Philly love by paying homage to Philly Hip Hop and Millian. daswhat’sup. Fo Sho!
Ricky Rozay, DJ Khaled and Maybach Music
Moving toward the finality and the Miami anthem, ‘IMA Boss’ playing in the background, you know you bout to make some MI moves on the NI2. Ha Ha. Ha. Millz giving them all a taste for Philly. Bajulaiye says, “Ross is moving with a fluidity and lightness that proves the success of his Ross-Fit program.” And now all you need is for DJ Khaled to step forward. Baj captures it with these words,” Khaled prompts the audience to pray, shunning the weapons that shall not prosper against anyone present on this night.”
Lil Snupe Saluted as Fallen Soldier and Battle Rhymer from New Orleans as West Philly’s Yazz The Great Empire Builder Takes the Stage
Moving the narrative to a close, Bajulaiye states, “Meek has the audience light their phones up to his Lil Snupe tribute. The young rapper from New Orleans lives on indefinitely. Meek tilts his hat down, and it actually seems that he’s holding tears back. Ross stands directly behind Meek and appears to be consumed as much by the emotion. We all wish that Snupe could be present for this celebration.” An ancestor is present each time we call their name. And in his absence emerged another Philly rapper who is killin em. And Meek knows how to honor his own. That Afrobeat/Hip Hop scholar, Bajulaiye, concludes his color commentary with these words, ” …Meek recognizes an up and coming rapper from West Philly who has surprised the whole country with his acting and rapping this year. Yazz The Great, a.k.a Hakeem, from the record breaking series Empire on Fox, boldly takes the mic and performs his drip drop record, making the crowd go nuts….Meek gives DJBram his phone to record as he ends with one of the most memorable and recognized records in Hip Hop History, “Intro.” This demonstrates a perfect way to start a new wave in the life and musical journey for Meek and Philadelphia, as the crowd raps along, word for word, both through the Dream and the Nightmare.”
© James G. Spady and Akinyemi Bajulaiye 2015