Review and photos: Fat Joe, Ace Hood, Dorrough make it rain at DJ Christion's Birthday Bash
It was probably evident from my Death Cab For Cutie T-shirt that I did not belong at Club Skye Sunday night. I clearly looked like I should be down the street at New World Brewery or the Orpheum.
But Club Skye was where I was, for Wild 98.7 DJ Christion's Birthday Bash, featuring Fat Joe, Ace Hood, Dorrough and more. Sean Kingston had been billed to perform, but he was a last-minute cancellation.
If you take only one thing away from this blog, make it this: At least once in your life, you need to be down in the pit when a rapper makes it rain. You need to experience what it's like to have more than $1,000 worth of $1 bills rain down all around you.
Add it to your bucket list. Thank me later.
I might not have been bold enough to get so close to the stage had it not been for my sherpa on the night, tbt* party photographer Luis Santana, who has shot so many events and celebrities at Tampa's top hip-hop club that he's like a member of the family there.
I waited for him to arrive and show me around, and once he did: Boom. It was on. Straight through the artist's entrance, VIP wristbands, right up to the stage. We got the good viewpoints, the good bathrooms, the good life*.
It is to Skye's immense credit that even though the club was crazy crowded with girls in miniskirts and dudes in Ed Hardy, the atmosphere wasn't stifling. They kept things cool with tons of A/C and CO2, and the emcee stayed front and center to keep the crowd amped. I settled for an elevated spot near a bar to the right of the stage; Luis, of course, hopped right up onstage and backstage with all the stars.
At about 1:15 a.m., DJ Christion came onstage to say thanks and get the crowd even more wild, and then it was on: Nearly two hours of nonstop hip-hop.
First up: Tampa rapper Hunt, who performed his mixtape single Pockets So Heavy. And the fun started right away, when he grabbed a stack of $1 bills about two inches thick and waved it around to the crowd.
Rain was in the forecast. Damn. Wish I'd picked out a spot to the stage.
But after only one song -- and minus what I'm sure was hundreds of dollars in cash -- Hunt handed the mic to Orlando's Javon Black and Tampa's Lil Kee, who did about three high-energy songs, including '09 summer jam Shawty Tear It Up. Much of the crowd was rapping along to every word.
Then came the first great performance of the night: Ace Hood.
It's tough to pinpoint exactly what makes a rapper great onstage. I've seen Snoop Dogg absolutely bring the house down in concert. I can only imagine what it was like to see Lil Wayne rip it up back before Tha Carter III made him a household name. I'm sure Jay-Z's up there, too.
Whatever it is, Ace Hood had it. Swaggering onstage with a bottle of Henny, the dreadlocked Hood ripped through a sizeable series of singles: Born an O.G., Loco Wit the Cake, the excellent Ride and Overtime.
The Deerfield Beach native didn't bring T-Pain with him, but the crowd was more than happy to sing the hook to Hood's biggest hit, Cash Flow. And on several occasions throughout the set, he went a cappella, just spitting bar after bar of cold rhymes without a beat. To me, that was seriously impressive.
I'll also say this: During Hood's set, I was perched near a velvet-roped VIP table, standing behind two women who might have been models. And when he stripped off his shirt**, they went absolutely nuts. I don't know if Ace Hood is the South's next great rapper, but he's definitely one to keep an eye on.
After a couple of so-so songs by Hatian sensation Papa Duck, Fat Joe took the stage. And after Ace Hood, I gotta say, the performance was a bit of a letdown. He led off with DJ Khaled's I'm So Hood, which was nice, and he threw out some shout-outs to the late Big Pun, including a cover of It's So Hard. He did the now-obligatory tribute to Michael Jackson, playing snippets of Billie Jean, Thriller and Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, and talked about how charitable Jackson was. Once, he said, Jackson visited a children's hospital and bought some kid a new liver for $140,000. Or something like that. I'm not sure Fat Joe had all his facts straight on that one.
Anyway, the set was okay, but it just felt a little stale after Ace Hood's electric performance. Plus, Fat Joe didn't play Lean Back. If you, as an artist, decide to big-time it and don't play your biggest hit, you and me are going to have problems.
After Fat Joe, I made my way down to the side of the stage for a better view of the show. This was where the action was happening, and it made for a hell of a lot better viewing experience. Hypemen were handing out CDs. People were tossing out T-shirts. And the energy from the stage was palpable.
So on comes this guy Bizzle, a rapper I can't say I've ever heard of, but whom I will never forget. He walks out onstage, and Luis (who's right there with him) passes me a note that says he's got $1,000 in $1 bills, bundled into stacks like this:
And then all that money went airborne, like so:
I was standing just on the periphery of where the money landed, so I didn't catch any of it. All I can say is: Pac-Man Jones, I totally feel where you're coming from. Making it rain is awesome, and I honestly couldn't give you a good answer why. It's not like you're going to get rich from this free money; at most, you might walk away with enough to cover your ticket for the night.
Oh, but it got better. This was toward the end of the night, so a ton of rappers and rapper-buddies emerged from the stage and the VIP lounge with bottles of Ed Hardy champagne*** and Patron tequila, and started handing THAT out to the crowd. One guy passed out plastic cups so everyone could get a taste. A couple of girls standing right next to me got full, unopened bottles of champy.
Brooklyn's Maino, a last-minute addition to the lineup, performed a few songs, including the popular Hi Hater. Much-hyped Dallas rapper Dorrough staggered onstage about 3 a.m. to perform his fantastic single Ice Cream Paint Job, and that was it. The club cut off the music, the house lights went on, and the emcee chanted from the stage: "You gotta leave the building. You gotta leave the building."
So we left the building. Some of us were $8 richer. Others (like me) left with nothing but a couple of promo CDs and a fond memory of getting caught in the rain.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photos by Luis Santana.
* During this process, a lot of complicated hip-hop handshakes were executed. I had about a 50 percent success rate with mine.
** Ace Hood also removed his considerable bling during his set, and handed it to a guy offstage ... who promptly dropped it. Looked like the chain snapped, too. Uh-oh.
*** God only knows what this stuff tastes like. My guess: Diesel cologne, kickboxing sweat and spray-on tan.
Below, check out some photos of DJ Christion's Birthday Bash. And click here to view Luis Santana's whole party gallery from the night.