Mos Def and DOOM

It’s always fun going to The Congress Theatre.  Isn’t it, Chicago?  I mean, who wouldn’t want to circle the block multiple times looking for parking, be frisked by on edge security guards, and enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of a once illustrious and now decaying building?  I mean, The Congress and the events that it houses share in one key quality, neither are as good as promised, nor everything they seem to be.  The building is large with beautiful high ceilings, an old decor, grand stair case, and roomy stage.  Yet, it is old, and falling apart.  The large stage and caliber of acts that grace it are muffled out by terrible acoustic, which quite honestly make some songs barely audible.  Yet, The Congress continues to draw talent and fans, both converged last night for the long-awaited DOOM and Mos Def show.

Sparked by viral homage-paying, DOOM and Mos Def created a string of shows in which the two appear together.  The accuracy of that statement is up for debate, as nobody ever knows if the real DOOM ever performs.  Stories and sightings of a “fake DOOM” are forever Hip Hop folklore, so there was a heavy amount of skepticism about last night’s concert. 

The Congress opened its doors at 7PM and people began to file in.  I DJ’ed in the lobby area from roughly 8:30-10, and saw many familiar faces.  After I finished my set, I caught parts of Qwel’s performance, before Mike Relm took the stage with his video DJing set.  I learned about Mike Relm last fall, and was intrigued to see his set.  It started out immensely dope, as Mike combined music and video in a way that most of the crowd had never seen before, as he controlled video images to coincide with his cuts and scratches.  The only fault with Mike’s set was that it was too long, and after about an hour of this, it simply wore thin.  The crowd was restless and they only wanted one thing, Mos Def and/or DOOM to hit the stage.

Anticipation grew to annoyance and agitation as DJ Intel played music following Mike Relm’s set.  Intel made perhaps the cardinal sin of stalling when he announced that Mos Def was not at the venue yet and that Intel was just “playing records, don’t get mad at me”.  His calls for sympathy didn’t work as one fan burst passed security and ran on stage, which was followed by concert-goers throwing bottles and cans (just clap your hands) at Intel.  At that point, Mos Def’s DJ hurriedly ran out and started the show.  

I’m not a die-hard DOOM fan, and really came to see Mos Def, who I missed while he was the House of Blues in ’09.  Mos took the stage wearing DOOM’ mask, and performed a few DOOM cuts.  It was perhaps the only time DOOM’s lyrics were actually rapped (more on that later).  Following DOOM cuts, Mos Def kicked all the bottles and cans (just clap your hands) out of the way, and reminded everyone to just “be cool”.  He then performed tracks off The Ecstatic such as “Revelations”, “SuperMagic”, “Auditorium”, “Twilite Speedball”, “Priority”, and “Quiet Dog”.  Mos’ set was guided in part by his DJ, Preservation, who interlaced funk and soul cuts into Mos’ tracks, and kept the show moving with various interludes.  Mos Def’s only old song was a remix version of “Hip Hop”, a stellar body of work from his first album, Black on Both Sides.  Mos ended his set the same way he started, by putting the DOOM mask back on and performing something from the catalog of his co-headliner.

After that it started to feel like we were trapped inside a bad insurance commercial.  A guy wearing a mask ran around the stage, with what appeared to be a turned off microphone and a show CD.  While Preservation cued Mos Def, and somewhat influenced the movement of the set, DOOM’s “DJ” just stood behind a computer… not touching it, the mixer, headphones, etc…  DOOM’s hypeman was the only one who talked throughout the set, and I believe his longest statement was “c’mon DOOM, let’s run through this set real quick.”  That they did, and it seemed as though DOOM’s was off stage just as quickly as he came on.  The crowd stood dumbfounded for a minute before hocking bottles and cans back onto the stage as The Congress turned the lights on.

I understand the artistic-side of all this, of how DOOM is moreso a character and a vessel than just one person.  It’s DOOM’s music that matters not the actual presentation of it.  But, c’mon, it’s still pretty ridiculous and I don’t understand why fans really stand for that.  I know that if Mos Def had sent a fake dude out on stage to lip-sync his songs, his career would never be the same.  But that’s the chance you take, and the ride you sign up for with DOOM.