“I’ve been to a lot of charity events, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Old-school rapper Heavy D surveyed the sold-out Hollywood Palladium crowd gathered for the second annual “Common & Friends,” a star-studded affair that featured appearances from a seemingly endless cavalcade of A-list hip-hop stars to benefit Common's Common Ground charity.
The audience had already seen a series of highlights. De La Soul opened the show with a quick, high-energy set, punctuated by a surprise appearance from masked rapper MF Doom, who ferociously ripped through his verse from “Rock Co.Kane Flow.”
Black Thought and Amir “Questlove” Thompson represented for the Roots, and Ludacris ignited concertgoers with a crowd-pleasing set that culminated with “I Do It for Hip-Hop.” The latter allowed him to introduce Nas, who appears on the recorded version (video here
After a simmering take on “One Mic,” Nas looked on in appreciation as the night’s host, Common, proceeded to spit most of Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind” verbatim.
The crowd was also treated to an impromptu Black Star reunion, with Mos Def and Talib Kweli hitting the stage together. The two galvanized the audience with solo hits “Umi Says” and “Get By,” respectively.
But it was Heavy D who offered up one of the most surprising highlights of the show. Among the many unbilled performers of the evening, even those too young to remember Heavy D's late '80s/early '90s hits such as “We Got Our Own Thang” and “Now That We Found Love,” responded to his showmanship and the enduring qualities of the songs.
Word had been circulating throughout the day that one Kanye West would also be among the surprise performers, a fact that Common teased the audience with briefly.
“He’s still going through some things, trying to deal with everything that’s happened because of a choice he made, so he couldn't make it tonight” Common said, obviously referencing West’s meme-generating mike grab from Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV VMAs. “But he still wanted me to send his love to everyone.”