Beginning The F.O.R.C.E. Tour in Baltimore on the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop; LL Cool J obtained the “non-stop party” vibe, setlist and audience that understood and reciprocated the energy that is 80s and 90s Hip-Hop.
A few days after the stop, I still have a level of natural highness that is present when thinking about the show. Whether you’re a true Hip Hop fan or casual listener, this is a tour for everyone and anyone, but it will be felt more with an understanding of the culture.
The show started on time and each performer’s set flowed into each other with help from DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Roots and Black Thought and DJ Z-Trip. The first stop also included sets from Rakim, Queen Latifah and De La Soul, with some surprise guests and the continued acknowledgment of the men and women that helped and are still helping propel the genre.
An ode to classic LL Cool J, he stepped out during his first set with an Adidas tracksuit with accented black stripes that sparkled in the lights, as he’s not one to be average.
Ahead of kicking off the F.O.R.C.E. Tour, LL Cool J stopped by WBAL-TV to talk about the tour and announce that a new single is on the way with the same title as the tour: “The F.O.R.C.E.” Regarding Hip-Hop, the artist called it “a way of life, a game changer for so many people in the inner city around the world… It’s an art form, its a lifestyle, its many things.”
He said Baltimore, along with D.C. and Philly were three of the cities that really supported him early on, and felt it was right to start the tour here.
Still animated as ever, LL Cool J moved across the stage, using his whole body as an instrument, as well as his voice. Punching, kicking and engaging with the audience, I couldn’t help but be in awe as it transported me to being a child watching him on TV perform for the first time.
As soon as he stepped on stage, the audience erupted in a cheer that I was told could be heard from outside the CFG Arena. His energy stayed the same throughout both sets, performing many of his classic hits like “Round The Way Girl,” Rock The Bells,” “Headsprung,” “Mama Said Knock You Out” and more.
For about 40 minutes of each set, viewers could see and hear the rapper has maintained his ability to entertain effortlessly.
There was something for everyone on this tour and it was clear how the tour artists’ sets were set up in a way to emulate a well DJ’ed house party. With DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Roots/Black Thought helping to blend the sets from beginning to end, going from Rakim to LL Cool J, to De La Soul, to Queen Latifah, back to LL Cool J wasn’t an easy task. However, it was executed well with all the different styles and music the artists have.
Rakim has a certain grit, ability and flow that can be duplicated. There’s an energy Rakim emits through his songs in the delivery of his lyrics that spilled into his live performance and amongst the audience. While performing classic hits and a few deep cuts for about 25-30 minutes, Rakim showcased that his command of the stage has not wavered. An unexpected moment for me was having the MC go from “Microphone Fiend” to performing his verse in “Addictive” by Truth Hurts.
De La Soul created a different vibe during the set. The diversity in their catalog was on display with a range of songs varying from hype to low-tempo. The set definitely changed the tone from the previous set, however, that added to the uniqueness of the artists and their impact.
When the queen hit the stage, everyone rose to salute. In a fluorescent orange tracksuit with her iconic bone straight, long blonde hair, Queen Latifah gave it to us from the very moment “Latifah’s Had It Up to Here.”
Being thee queen, Latifah honored other women in Hip Hop during her set with a graphic with photos of female rappers in photo frames, going from one to the other. Latifah also surprised fans by performing the “Living Single” theme song and bringing out Monie Love.
Both on stage together, it was clear the girls are as in sync as they were at the beginning of their careers. The Jersey native also gave the city some love while playing Baltimore Club Music classics, mixed with house music going into “Come Into My House,” while giving us body in the process.
A prominent feature throughout all performances was a graphic with names of multiple artists, DJs and producers over the years, ranging from Biz Markie and Roxanne Shanté to Gucci Mane and Lil’ Kim, to Jay-Z and Big Daddy Kane, to Azealia Banks and Ice Spice. The acknowledgment of people in Hip Hop from all ranges on the stage could be seen off the stage as well.
The audience’s age range had people participating in family night outings with young children to older generations still knowing every song word for word. Many came in 80s and 90s attire, from Adidas suits and Kangol hats with rope chains to dawning various shirts of the favorite artist of the night.
Overall, The “Frequencies of Real Creative Energy” tour is a moment of unity and a throwback to the “golden era” of Hip-Hop, which had people break free and have fun.
Remaining Tour Dates can be seen below:
- August 21 – Atlanta, GA
- August 22 – Memphis, TN
- August 24 – Forth Worth, TX
- August 25 – Houston, TX
- August 27 – Albuquerque, NM
- August 29 – Denver, CO
- Sept. 1 – San Francisco, CA
- Sept. 2 – Las Vegas, NV
- Sept. 3 – Los Angeles, CA
- Sept. 9 – Charlotte, NC
- Sept. 10 – Raleigh, NC
- Oct. 15 – Washington, D.C.
- Nov. 19 – Boston, MA