yasiin bey's Homecoming Show Was A Touching and Hopeful Meditation On Fame
Photo by Sinat Giwa for Okayplayer
“I’m too old for frontin’…and it does not go with my wardrobe.”
One time for the mighty yasiin bey FKA Mos Def AKA Black Dante AKA Pretty Flacco. Hours after releasing his collaborative project with Ferrari Sheppard, bey hit the stage of Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater for the first of his final four performances before retirement. The career-spanning set, covering his earliest to his latest, was not skim on the surprises, showcasing the evolution of the artist through two decades of dazzling, though he was explicit in his distaste for the life in several heartfelt asides.
Selections from his new album, Dec 99th, opened the evening, quickly transitioning into cuts from The Ecstatic, providing at least this writer a newfound appreciation for the 2009 release, even before Slick Rick joined in for a raucous performance of “Auditorium,” that left bey with audible exclamations of disbelief (“that really happened!”) The Ruler wasn’t the only friend in tow. Pharoahe Monch stepped out about halfway through to perform his bey x Nate Dogg collaboration “Oh No,” before “Simon Says” ripped through the system and had concertgoers rushing the stage.
There was even a little love for the A-1s with the inclusion of Black On Both Sides standouts “Hip-Hop” and “Umi Says,” a track that had bey visibly and audibly emotional before launching into its hopeful hook. Hope, ironically enough, is one of the central sentiments of this final run. He railed at the audience for their distance, hiding behind “robots” in their pockets (cell phones,) plead with us that our strongest and most reliable machines were our natural ones, pointing to his head, rubbing on his heart. In his return, bey just wants to remind us that we can’t duck our ills by distracting ourselves with four to five inch screens, that 2017 will be just as trying as this miserable year has been and that we are as powerful as we believe him to be.
Every moment of last night’s performance was as much a dedication to us, the listener, as it was a celebration of the time he’s shared with us. And as the curtain closed on bey and his red and white rose pedal adorned stage, just after previewing his genre-destroying final album, Negus In Natural Person, he made sure we knew it wasn’t goodbye. Just a fond farewell to a friend.