You’re pretty much guaranteed a good time when Doug E. Fresh shows up. So it’s no wonder Reebok tapped hip-hop’s greatest entertainer to set off the proceedings at their celebration of the Classic Leather sneaker's 30th anniversary at S.O.B.'s Wednesday night. “For everybody 30 or better, how many of y’all remember?” he shouted to the crowd of tastemakers, photographers, and open-bar hunters before launching into a medley of rap classics, quickly bouncing between decades without missing a beat. His two sons, who rap as duo Trips N’ Slim, soon joined him on stage and kicked some bars over his trademark beatbox, setting the tone for a spontaneous evening of quick sets and free drinks.
After a hasty introduction, Freeway materialized onstage and launched into “Rock the Mic” before anyone realized what the hell was going on. With a swinging chain and sturdy beard, he didn’t have to do much heavy lifting, racing through State Property classics and leading the crowd in a “Free Beanie” chants between cuts. Kirko Bangz shifted the vibe, opening his set with his recent Meek Mill collaboration “Young & Gettin’ It.” I may have been the only male in attendance belting every lyric to “Drank N My Cup,” but the single hit as potently as it did radio over a year ago, still propping up the career of Houston’s young Drake-lite. Former Cam’ron sidekick Vado followed, and bounced through his uptown anthems “Speakin in Tungs” and “Hey Muma” with Jim Jones bopping along in the audience.
After the blur of openers, OG Chase B hopped on the tables and dropped “Blood on the Leaves,” the cryptic centerpiece to Kanye’s latest release, Yeezus. The dark, grating sounds on Ye’s new project came as a shock to many, but those who’ve been paying attention to Travis Scott weren’t the least surprised: the young producer/rapper has been G.O.O.D Music’s best kept secret for some time, crafting much of the grinding basslines and sharp vocal stabs that have come to define the camp’s aesthetic since “Cruel Summer.” If he’s learned anything as Ye’s understudy, it’s that presentation is everything: alongside Mike Dean on keys and guitar, Scott barked and bellowed through his flagship “Quintana” engulfed in thick smoke and an elaborate screen display. It was clear he’d sat in on more than a few Yeezus sessions: “Now me and my niggas rocking chains and whipping slave ships, now who the slave bitch?” he rhymed as crew of diehards at the center of the floor tweaked so hard that one dude fell out like Chief Keef in the “I Don’t Like” video. But most of the crowd was unfamiliar with his material and seemed put off by Scott’s ambitious stage production. He closed with his latest cut “Upper Echelon” and won over a few holdouts. Soon after, Ace Hood proved that “Bugatti” should’ve been the theme song to Man of Steel. He took the stage to the grind-time anthem “Hustle Hard” and showcased some new material off his upcoming Trials & Tribulations, but it was the white-hot electricity of his Future collaboration that jolted the crowd and provided the highlight of the night. Ace was all smiles on stage, enjoying the spoils of a certified hit. He rapped the dense double-time flows with precision and wilded out with the audience every time that invincible hook rolled around.
As grainy footage of subway cars and graffiti artists projected throughout the venue and brightly colored kicks lined the walls, the evening's lineup spoke to just how zany things have gotten in the decades since Doug E. and co were doing it in the park. Hip-hop's tropes have expanded and characters have ballooned, but not too much has changed—it's still just about throwing a good party.