With local support, Raekwon and guests play packed Cat’s Cradle

by Ryan Snyder

Winston-Salem natives Brother Reade open for Raekwon at the Cat’s Cradle. (photo by Ryan Snyder)

If hip-hop artists applied a similar set of precepts as those in medicine, their first rule would also be to do no harm. The Sunday night Raekwon show at the Cat’s Cradle saw one misguided attempt by TYG’s ( Fatal D to live up to his own handle, as the rapper’s attempt to solve his DJ’s technical glitch nearly ended in disaster. Amidst mild confusion resulting from the night’s brisk performance timetable, the littleknown Fayetteville-based MC sent his DJ’s laptop spilling onto the stage’s hardwood surface. The resulting crack elicited a collective groan from several hundred in attendance and it seemed that the audience had their mind made up about the quintet of pseudo-crunk party rappers from that moment on.

It didn’t help their cause when Fatal D opened the show commanding the audience to give them love simply because Raekwon himself had signed them, as a chorus of jeers plagued them all the way through opener “Supa Clean.” One could have almost been driven to feel sorry for them — if their unjustified bluster didn’t sink any inkling of empathy — as claims to be “representing NC” only amped up the audience’s revulsion at the last-minute additions.

The show’s deep bill was still more hit than miss, as Los Angeles-via- Winston-Salem duo Brother Reade was warmly welcomed by the home-state crowd. Leaving their drum kits on the West Coast, MC Jams F. Kennedy and DJ Bobby Evans have been debuting new material that denotes a heavy dubstep and experimentalist bent during their current NC mini-tour. The physical contrast between the burly and intimidating Kennedy and the slight, bespectacled Evans aside, their live performances are the unlikely meeting point between the blue-collar Dirty South verse and hip, indie electro beats. Leaving out their signature session of funky drum breaks moved the brief opening performance down a purely hip-hop path and affirmed that this single facet of the duo is more capable than most.

Wearing a Carolina blue Santa hat, he Triangle’s own DJ Forge gave the gift of original mixes of NAS, Busta Rhymez, Onyx and Mobb Deep in between sets, while engendering a scrap of admiration for Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3.0. Between practically beating their hooks to death and their manager feigning his turntable skills, Washington DC’s Like Blood did their best to prop up the already considerable talent of Brother Reade by comparison. That is, until TYG came along and furthered the evening’s divide between good and bad taste.

With the Brother Reade set seemingly so far in the past, DJ Forge held the night together until the guest of honor would arrive with a handful of very special guests in tow. With hundreds of hand-made Ws in the air, the Chef of the Wu Tang Clan took the stage alongside long-time Wu Tang associate Cappadonna. Raekwon opened up with classic Wu Tang joints “CREAM” and “Da Mystery of Chessboxin,’” as it quickly became apparent that his voice might not hold up through the entire show. “That’s what I got my man for,”

Raekwon said pointing Cappadonna. “To pick me up.”

Having played three shows in four days might be the easy explanation for his hoarseness in the midst of the longawaited Only Built For Cuban Linx Pt.

II tour, but a pair of guests indicated otherwise. Currently touring as CNN, killer Queens duo Capone and Noreaga offered Raekwon a breather by revisiting tracks from God’s Favorite and The War Report. Noreaga displayed a scratchy voice of his own on “Nothin,’” but gave a bit of insight into his — and consequently Raekwon’s — condition. “I know my voice is a little off, but we been smoking that Granddaddy Kush all day,” he said with utter sincerity. “My bad.”

With consistently one of the more knowledgeable, friendly and attentive crowds you’ll ever see at a hip-hop show, Wu Tang is a building a Grateful Dead of Hip Hop-like appeal. It may be an individual member’s show, but count on a heavy dose of the group’s classics paired with often-brilliant solo work.