TAMPA — On a sun-soaked Sunday afternoon, hip-hop had a pool party at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa.
Fans of the genre came out en masse for Wu-Tang Clan and Nas’ New York State of Mind tour, with special guests De La Soul.
After waiting in a long line that crawled throughout the casino and took about an hour to finally get poolside, a grown-up pool party commenced.
Hip-hop turned 50 this year, and this felt like its local celebration. DJs Deacon, Sandman and Kraze set the party off, playing all the classics and setting the vibe.
The crowd was largely middle-aged, which makes sense, given the ages of the acts. As a person celebrating her 48th birthday, it was refreshing to be among peers and see that the OGs are aging well.
Shade was scarce, but people cooled off in the pool or took a break in the poolside restaurant. Lots of people wore multiple varieties of Wu-Tang T-shirts.
The legendary DJ Scratch took over before the show got started. Up first was De La Soul’s Posdnuos and Maseo, opening with “Potholes in My Lawn.” The group’s other member, Dave Jolicoeur, aka Trugoy the Dove, died earlier this year.
It was a delightful surprise when Talib Kweli jumped onstage to join them during “Stakes Is High” and stayed on through the set, performing his own “Just to Get By” before going back to the De La Soul catalog with “Buddy.”
When Wu-Tang took the stage, RZA set things off by chanting “Wu-Tang killah bees are on a swarm” while animated insects buzzed around on the screens over the stage. The crowd vibrated with energy.
Raekwon and Ghostface Killah came out during “Bring Da Ruckus” and were eventually joined by GZA, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killah and U-God. During “Da Mystery of Chessboxin,” the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s part was performed by his son, Young Dirty Bastard. He sounded so much like his dad.
When Method Man emerged, the crowd responded, singing along with his eponymous song.
After that set, Raekwon and Ghostface stayed on and were joined by Nas on “Verbal Intercourse,” who then took it away, accompanied by DJ Green Lantern and a live drummer. He ran through “The Message,” “You Can’t Stop Us Now,” “Got Ur Self A..,” “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” “Represent” and “One Love.”
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They weren’t done yet. Wu-Tang came back out to bring “Ice Cream,” “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Protect Ya Neck,” while Nas returned with “The World is Yours,” “Oochie Wally” and the iconic “If I Ruled the World.”
But it was during Nas’ first set, before he performed “New York State of Mind,” that he said something that crystallized the entire vibe of the party.
“The name of the tour is New York State of Mind,” he said. “Listen, hip-hop started there but it’s a mind state. It’s not just about New York, it’s about Florida. ... It’s about knowing who we are and speaking truth to power while they try to sweep us under the rug because we think alike.”
He ended the song with: “It’s a Tampa state of mind!” And the crowd lost theirs.