Legends that included Rakim, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh and Big Daddy Kane took the stage, giving Cincinnati performances it will never forget.

By Joshua Medintz

Cincinnati Music Festival got off to a hopping start Thursday night with the 50th anniversary of hip-hop celebration at Andrew J. Brady Music Center.

Legends that included Rakim, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh and Big Daddy Kane took the stage, giving Cincinnati performances it will never forget.

The festivities continue at Paycor Stadium this weekend, with Al Green as the headliner on Friday and Snoop Dogg closing things out Saturday. But before then, here are the highlights from Thursday’s outstanding performances.

Lyrics Take The Lead

Big Daddy Kane wows the groups at the Cincinnati Music Festival

Lyrical genius was on full display in Cincinnati last night. Big Daddy Kane wowed the crowd with his signature, speedy witticisms, while Slick Rick added unforeseen energy to his story-filled bars. Rakim then made it all look so easy, even letting the beat run out, and poeticizing a cappella. Each artist elevated hip-hop’s lyrical game in their own way, and brought a wholly unique and electrifying performance to Andrew J. Brady.

Doug E. Fresh Plays Show Host

The original Human Beat Box himself, Doug E. Fresh, hosted the festival’s hip-hop celebration.

He brought the energy and positivity that wove the whole show together. In between performances, Fresh asked the audience uplifting questions, like “How many of you came here tonight with someone you love?” and “How many of you are happy to be alive?”

He would then break out in smooth dance moves and wildly realistic beatboxing before introducing the next act.

Big Daddy Kane’s Advice

Toward the end of his set, after an especially enthusiastic run of rhymes, Big Daddy Kane took a seat on a speaker right in front of the audience. He held a mic in his right hand, and gestured to the crowd with the other.

“I told y’all, I’m 54, bear with me. But I’m proud. Be proud. I’m 54, but I’m still that motherf—–.”

Then it was time for some advice: “If you happen to be working at Micky D’s, flipping burgers, I wanna give you one piece of advice: Flip those burgers as best as possible. Stick to your grind, and you’ll be successful.”

And with that, the “Smooth Operator” stood right back up, and brought out his last bits of gusto to finish off the set.

Signature Suave From Rakim

Rakim is best known for his flow. People often say it was his smooth delivery that introduced the concept of flow into the hip-hop lexicon as a measure of a rapper’s delivery.

Last night, performing for the sellout crowd at the Andrew J. Brady Music Center, Rakim’s signature suave flow was in full form. Intricate bars seemed to ooze from his being, each rhyme bouncing off the last, and perfectly sliding into place.

But it was a short set, or maybe it just all flew by too fast. Before long, the God MC had to make way for the next act.

The Grand Finale: Slick Rick Brings the Energy

Doug E. Fresh introduced Slick Rick as the greatest storyteller of all time.

“And he must be wearing a million dollars around his neck,” Doug E. narrated as Rick stepped into the spotlight, displaying the diamond plate that hung from a chain around his neck. Combined with the oversized, pale green blazer and shoes, a white fedora and his eye-patch, Slick Rick looked, well, extremely slick.

And his performance lived up to the look.

In recordings, Rick almost always sounds relaxed and laid back, like you’re sitting next to him at the dinner table and he’s telling you an old story. But last night, Rick brought a whole nother level of energy to his tracks. At one point, it even seemed like he was screaming. The energy uptick was surprising and much appreciated.

Slick Rick also delivered the highlight of the night. Backed only by the rhythm of Doug E.’s beatboxing and two backup singers, Rick’s rendition of “La Di Da Di” was something to behold. Arguably one of hip-hop’s most legendary tracks, it was a truly special moment for the audience to hear the song performed live almost exactly as they’ve heard it on the record for almost 40 years.

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