on NY Rock:
Lauryn Hill I
Lauryn Hill II
Mary J. Blige
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Kid Capri opened the show with his "Wheels of Steel" (turntables) planted in front of a massive black curtain. He warmed up the crowd with some serious DJ skills, mixing songs such as "For the Love of Money" by the O'Jays, and other '70s and '80s jams.
Closing his set with the fastest scratching this side of the Bronx, Capri thanked the crowd for a career spanning more than 20 years, including a stint on HBO's Def Comedy Jam and the release of his own LP titled The Tape. In the end, however, it was the crowd who thanked Capri for some truly genuine sounds.
Next up was Busta Rhymes, the pig-tailed MC and ruler of the production, management and fashion design company, Flipmode Entertainment. Busta went one up on Spinal Tap for this night's show with an outrageous stage design: a huge skull-shaped castle with a pop-top cranium which soon opened to reveal the hiding place of Busta's DJ, Scratch. Also on the scene was Spliff Star, Busta's rhyming partner, who took the opportunity to make his latest stab at world domination.
For the record, both Scratch and Spliff Star are members of Busta's Flipmode Squad, another extension of Busta's empire which also includes the MCs Rampage, Serious, Lord Have Mercy and others.
A few debauched but somewhat amusing digressions during Busta's otherwise energetic set included a hilarious dance (while clad in nothing but a pair of yellow boxer shorts), a prolonged sex rant aimed at a woman in the front seats (which, I must say, got a bit crude) and a short scene during which he "wiped" himself with a towel (which, needless to say, no one touched after he threw to the crowd). Foul-mouthed rapping aside, Busta was a perfect act to pump up the crowd for headliner Puffy, whom the audience was noticeably eager to see.
The Grand Entrance...
Puffy delivered his first number, "Victory" for which a new video with Danny DeVito and Dennis Hopper just premiered on MTV with an earth-shattering bass-heavy mix. The tune contains a sample of "Alone in the Ring," an instrumental piece by Bill Conti from the Rocky soundtrack.
For the next number, Puffy performed "Been Around the World" (based on Bowie's "Let's Dance") with his latest rap protégé, Mase. The excited hometown crowd showed its appreciation with ovations fit for a king, eating up everything this rap mogul dished out.
The Lox proved to be a formidable presence, even outshining Mase, who popped out at one point wearing his trademark blue jersey and baggy jeans to guest rap during one of their songs. Dru Hill, bedecked in red matching suits, enthralled the crowd with songs like "In My Bed" and "We're Not Making Love No More," while 112 performed the slower numbers of the night.
For Puffy's tribute to his slain friend, Notorious B.I.G., he appeared as Preacher Puffy in the number "I'll Be Missing You" (a re-worked version of the Police's "Every Breath You Take"). Puffy ballyhooed about the power of the Lord and beckoned the crowd to respect loved ones and God. It had been one year (to the week) since Biggie's death and Puffy beseeched the crowd to love one another and to put an end to violence. Making his message all the more convincing, Puff Daddy and the Family were joined onstage by an immense gospel choir clad in white robes, a redux of his act on many award shows in 1997.
While Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" boomed from the sound system, the Family took their "Broadway production" curtain calls before an excited and appreciative audience. With a little help from a stage set, whose elegance rivaled those of the golden films of the '40s, Puffy and Company pulled out all the stops to perform one of the most ambitious and thrilling shows of the year.