by Steven Pisano
(All photos by Steven Pisano.)
The message to the audience at Brooklyn Bowl for the Rap Reunion on July 28 was that hip hop music in the 1990s was more socially conscious than it is today, with something to say beyond just bling, babes, and bennies. Again and again, the performers who took the stage rammed home the point that politics and social commentary is where hip hop began, and that in some ways the music had lost its way over time, focusing more on celebrity and the high life. But mostly, the show was nostalgic for the old days the Eighties and Nineties, when Queens reigned as one of the rap centers in the country, whether in Queensbridge (Nas) or Hollis (LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C.) or St. Albans (A Tribe Called Quest), though the borough would ultimately be eclipsed by the rappers from Brooklyn and the West Coast.
The evening's headliner, Rahzel (born Rahzel M. Brown), is a former member of The Roots known for his prowess as a human beatbox—in particular, his ability to beatbox and rap at the same time. Throughout the evening, he told stories of how things used to be back in the day, such as his wariness whenever he and his crew went to Brooklyn, not wanting to show off their jewelry.
In a nod toward the future, the emcee’s son Rahzel Jr. started off the show with his song “The Culture.” Professing his love for hip hop culture, he rapped: “I don’t do it for the fortune or fame, I do it for the culture."