I walked into Jill Scott’s Summer Block Party concert with high expectations. I walked out with an unforgettable memory of music, life, love that soared above my imagination. The soulful pageantry of Jill was underscored by Anthony Hamilton’s gritty performance, infused with Doug E. Fresh’s timeless excitement and layered with DJ Jazzy Jeff’s legendary mixing. The show transported me through my youth, coming of age and grown man status in a magical, melodious way.
Doug E. Fresh must be a vampire because dude has not aged and he has not lost a step. As the official emcee of the evening, his duties were to keep the crowd engaged and hype. From his booming voice to his trademark beatboxing skills, the packed Reliant Arena hung on his every word. When he broke out the old school dances, you could see the massive silhouette of hip hop heads swaying like they weren’t going to be sore the next morning.
We were in the presence of historical greatness as Doug E. Fresh kept the crowd jumping with accompaniment from the greatest brother to spin the 1s and 2s…DJ Jazzy Jeff. This was my third time seeing Jeff this year and it never gets old. His mastery of scratching and song selection is surreal – which is evident by how the crowd is hypnotized (no one left for the bathroom, to get a beer, check their makeup, etc.). The coup de gras was when DJ Jazzy Jeff chopped up a Doug E. Fresh song and original beatboxer broke down THREE different versions of the Dougie…if you didn’t know before, he taught you how to be a certified Dougie practitioner.
Things got rough, rugged and raw at the start of Anthony Hamilton’s set. Three husky gentlemen, who resembled a Boyz II Men / Levert hybrid group, hopped out onstage wearing a black vest, jeans, white shirt and black tie. The award for Showstopping Vocal Antics went to the biggest (and most animated) of the brothers – rocking a Mohawk afro and Ray Ban glasses. This dude was James Cleveland, Eddie Levert, Kirk Franklin and Teddy Pendergrass rolled into a big, black supportive ball that set the tone for Anthony’s entrance.
Despite Anthony’s small frame, the man delivers a gigantic performance. As he crooned against the backdrop of a brownstone stoop, Anthony proved that he is our generation’s Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Al Green..compacted into this all white dressed country-boy from North Carolina. The beauty of Anthony’s soul-stirring set is how his backup singers complimented instead of overpowered. He gave them room to shine while taking you to the front porch, the jook joint and the church altar one song at a time. It’s no secret that Anthony is anointed and he reminded the audience that all the emotions, trials and challenges of life –portrayed in his songs- are all manageable through the power of God. He was funk. He was soul. He was R&B. He was love. He was pain. He was spiritual. He was Anthony from start to finish. By the time he said “thank you” – his white shirt was soaked, the tie disappeared and the crowd was saturated in audible truth.
The amped histrionics of Doug E. Fresh and DJ Jazzy Jeff, combined with the deep fried flood of goodness from Anthony, set the ultimate tone for the queen to take her throne. We were all spent, but when Jill Scott stepped onto the stage – everyone got their second wind. Her smile literally blinded me. I know I’m going to sound crazy but I could see her aura and watched it grow bigger as the crowd poured their energy and love towards the stage. The first four minutes of Jill’s presence felt like a group hug shared by thousands of loving people. She went through dynamic renditions of songs from her new album and previous favorites. The crowd cheered as she went from heels to sneakers and door knocker earrings. We damn near leaped at the affirmations in her poetry. My hip hop spirit got a workout when she vibed with Doug E. Fresh’s beatbox and Paul Wall’s cameo verse. And when she welcomed Anthony Hamiliton back to the stage for “So in Love” – the arena turned into a colossal “stepper’s set.”
I admit that Jill’s physical body represents everything that is right and beautiful about black women: voluptuous, statuesque, sexy, natural, bold, strong, soft, mesmerizing and enchanting…but it is her spirit that transcends my adoration from carnal to essence-inspired. If I never saw her celestial smile or drooled at her ample features – my soul continues to connect to the life stories resonating in her lyrics. My ears are enamored by the girlish-power in her voice. As she bellowed, whispered and moaned onstage, my mind travelled through the past eleven years I’ve been blessed to witness her gift.
I walked into Jill Scott’s Summer Block Party concert with high expectations. I walked out with four seasons of memories, feelings and emotions defined by hours of anointed, musical excellence. It was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever been able to experience and I will carry its energy for years to come.