Though the audience at the Breed Love Odyssey tour Friday was as diverse as a Benetton ad, I still can't drive with the windows down through Orange County while listening to Kanye West without getting strange looks. So when Jean Grae was up onstage instructing the audience how to do the two-step ("You go like this . . . and then you go like this again . . ."), I was startled by the amount of audience participation. The entire venue was dancing in unison with her, some better than others, from the left to the right (and then the left to the right again).
Jean even berated the front row for not moving enough: "This ain't no leaning-against-the-bar show! This is a hip-hop show!"
A former La Guardia classmate of Mos Def's, the South African native was in complete control of the audience, a majority of which was completely unfamiliar with her music. From the minute she launched into "Take Me" to the second she walked off the stage, Jean managed to charm and win the audience over in the span of a mere four songs.
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Talib took the stage next—and whenever he told the audience to repeat after him, we did. Whenever he told us to jump, we did. Whenever he told us to sway from side to side, we did.
The only complaint of the night, besides the drunk bro who couldn't handle his alcohol and repeatedly stumbled into my friends and me, goes to the person who decided it'd be a good idea to stick Pharoahe Monch in between Talib Kweli and Mos Def. He was unable to hold the attention of the audience; a clear shout of "Bring on the Boogie Man!" resonated throughout the venue six songs into his set.
When Talib joined Mos onstage for the only Black Star track of the night, "Definition," the two had the whole venue singing along in all the right places when the music cut, a sea of arms (or fists, whichever they asked for) continually bowing up and down, girls (and guys) of all ages squealing whenever the Boogie Man was, well, boogie-ing. The Mighty Mos even had mesquealing in a Def Poetrymoment when he quoted jazz musician Charles Mingus ("Love is a dangerous necessity," he breathed into the mic).
The amount of audience involvement and overall unity of the night only added to the solid sets all four acts had put on—and it even managed to impress an inexperienced hip-hop fan like me enough to (or attempt to) dance and sing along.