Review: The perfect pair – Chuck D and Flavor Flav on Aspen stage |

Review: The perfect pair – Chuck D and Flavor Flav on Aspen stage

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesRap group Public Enemy, with Flavor Flav, performed Sunday night at Belly Up Aspen.

ASPEN – A few days before Public Enemy’s show at Belly Up Aspen, rapper Chuck D expressed some concern about the group’s performance. Public Enemy was not on tour, and the baNNed – the live-music component of the group’s show for a decade – would not be appearing on the date. Chuck D need not have worried. For at his side – often draped under his arm, even – was fellow rapper Flavor Flav. Flavor Flav has been a part of Public Enemy since the group’s beginnings, in the Long Island of the mid-’80s, and the signature clock around his neck and his gold teeth give the group an instant visual identification. More significant, he and Chuck D are a perfect artistic pair, up there with Lennon/McCartney and Laurel & Hardy, each supplying a necessary quality to the whole.Sunday night at Belly Up, Chuck D seemed like someone who had comfortably, smartly mellowed into middle age. The anti-authoritarian stance on which Public Enemy built its identity was evident in the words to “911 Is a Joke” and “Fight the Power,” but any anger that drove those songs was replaced, in Chuck D at least, by a calmer wisdom and forbearance. The transition has not sapped him of his stage presence – and certainly not of his skills on the microphone.Then there is Flavor Flav, who does not seem to have mellowed into anything. The question was once posed, How could anything other than jazz have produced someone like Thelonious Monk?, and the same goes for rap and Flav. He embodies something essential about hip-hop, especially the no-holds-barred emotional rage that gave early hip-hop its credibility. Complementing Chuck D’s intellectual vibe, Flav is unhinged, guile-less, a natural comedian and pure performing force. There were even moments Sunday night when Flav’s talk – about a crack Chuck D had apparently made regarding Dick (Cheney) and Bush (George W.) – got a bit loose for Chuck’s liking. But after a moment, Chuck D just let his partner go, until the joke turned into a pro-Obama rap.While Public Enemy made a solid connection with the audience – the show ended with Flav onstage alone, delivering an inspirational, off-the-cuff message against racism and about believing in oneself – it didn’t rely on the parrot-like crowd response (“Yo, what’s up Aaaaspennnn … ?”) that hip-hop shows often descend into. And while they sang their hits, the energy didn’t wane with less-known material. This was a performance built on thought-provoking material, the musical power of old-school rap, and the pitch-perfect chemistry between two charismatic leading men.Now just imagine throwing a live-music element into the mix. Let’s begin the campaign to get that show to

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