Wyclef Jean & The Omaha Symphony at Omaha’s Holland Performing Arts Center

The symphony is usually a place for structure, proper concert etiquette, and polite clapping. However, last night there was little structure, dancing in the aisles, and lots of cheering and hollering with hands in the air at the Omaha Symphony. A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop with Wyclef Jean was a modern symphonic sound with the voice of a platinum-selling rapper at the helm.

Wyclef Jean and the Omaha Symphony at The Holland Performing Arts Center was a unique and amazing experience for concert-goers. Wyclef donned a full tuxedo with bow-tie, rapped in French, and managed to resurrect many old songs. These included renditions of the Bee Gees with “We Trying To Stay Alive,” and Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” while playing guitar. He performed “Gone Till November,” a song about his homies running drugs, and he even danced with an older white-haired woman in the front row. No, this was not a typical symphony concert.

The throwbacks to his days with The Fugees were plentiful. He played guitar as two lovely young ladies sang, “Killing Me Softly.” Also, “Ready or Not” was a hit. And from the Grammy-winning album, The Score. he rapped beautifully the song, “Fu-Gee-La,” which had interesting lyrics for a symphonic performance.

Yeah in saloons we drink boone’s and battle goons till high noon
Bust rap toons on flat spoons, take no shorts like poon poon’s
See hoochies pop coochies, for gucci’s and lucci
Find me in my mitsubishi, eatin’ sushi, bumpin’ fugees

Truth be told, the fusion of a full symphony with rap lyrics was incredibly unique and soothing to the ear. The concert itself felt like a neighborhood block party. Due to restrictions, video was not allowed at this performance, but listen in to his solo freestyle that he dedicated to the Omaha Symphony. Lastly, Wyclef is currently touring the U.S with his Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop, so get tickets when he is in your town.

Bone Thugs N Harmony at Lincoln’s The Bourbon

Bone Thugs N Harmony at The Bourbon, December 14th, 2017.

Bone Thugs N Harmony performed for a crowded theatre at The Bourbon in Lincoln, Nebraska on Thursday, December 14, 2017.  When Krayzie, Layzie, Wish, and Flesh-n-Bone were first introduced, no one noticed that one member of the group was missing.  However, later on two attendees were overheard talking.  One of them asked, “Where is Bizzy Bone?”  The other replied, “I have no idea.”  Apparently in December 2016, he stepped away from the group over infringement.  He has not returned since, and this has not been publicized widely.  More importantly, their Facebook page does still list Bizzy as a current band member.  It even includes him on their cover photo.  This was slightly confusing and what would have been an otherwise amazing concert, left a lot more to be desired.

Bone Thugs N Harmony did grace the stage at 10 pm and began the night with “Handle The Vibe” from their album The Art of War. They followed their opener with the next song on that album, “Look Into My Eyes.”  Opening with the two songs felt like a throwback to 1997.  Among others, they performed the classic click-click boom-boom of “Thug Luv” that featured Tupac Shakur.  This was an amazing feat, considering most lyrics from the song were by Bizzy and Tupac.

Despite Bizzy Bone being absent, the other four members presented well and gave attendees an entertaining night.  It ended with dozens of women being invited on stage to dance, and when one of them attempted to grind on Krayzie Bone, he simply turned away and lit up a cigarette.

Check out the video of their performance of “Crossroads” from their 1995 album, E. 1999 Eternal.

Snow Tha Product at Lincoln’s The Bourbon

On a Tuesday evening in October 2017 at The Bourbon in Lincoln, Nebraska, there was a crowded rap show with Snow Tha Product as the headliner.  There were a number of opening acts for this show. These included Johnny Bliss and Trey Vance, but one in particular that really stood out, Lincoln’s own Hakim.  He performed a relatable song called “Day Off” for the hard workers in the mostly female crowd and it was well received. [Hakim – Day Off @ The Bourbon Lincoln 10.17.17]  His performance almost stole the entire show.  Hakim was that exceptional and he tore it up.

It is one thing to have a few drinks before going on stage.  However, it is another thing to drink so much that the performance is a struggle. It was clear that Snow Tha Product was intoxicated when she first took the stage around 10:30 pm.  This was not just when she skipped lines of verses, but also when she later stated, “Yo Nebraska, I’m lit as f***!”  She downed two bottles of water back to back.  And took a short break to sober up while members of the crowd were invited on stage to slow grind.  Exactly what she did to get sober is not known, but she is a trooper and fortunately it worked.

When Snow Tha Product came back and took the stage again, she performed accurately and with fierce lyricism.  From her song, “Waste of Time” she flowed beautifully.

“But in the meanwhile you been talking to Penelope and Heather and Alicia and Stephanie and Melanie / And phone looking like a Petey Pablo song, offending me.” 

It was a great show all around, despite witnessing the main act overcome the hurdle of drunkenness, which was entertaining.  Check out her performance of “Hola” from the 2012 mixtape album Good Nights & Bad Mornings.  Snow Tha Product is currently on tour in the U.S.

Brother Ali at Omaha’s The Waiting Room

On Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017, Brother Ali visited Omaha, Nebraska as his first stop on The Own Light Tour.  His last visit to the city in 2014 was at the same venue at a sold out show on his Home Away From Home Tour.  Last night’s concert was certainly not sold out, and far from it with a much smaller crowd of a few hundred.  But according to Brother Ali after the show, “We announced the tour last week and didn’t have enough time to promote like our last visit.  A lot of people still came out though, and I am very appreciative.”

Brother Ali didn’t grace the stage until after a memorable set from Sa-Roc.  She is a formidable female emcee with fiery lyrics and a strong message of empowerment.  But once he grabbed the microphone, he brought a pleasant mix of new and old school material all night.  Early on, he performed “Palm the Joker” from his 2009 album The Truth Is Here, as well as “Tight Rope” from his later 2009 album, Us. He did not forget the song “Work Everyday” from the 2012 politically charged album, Mourning In America, that included the following lyrics.

People stressing here’s the question
How they get people drinking tea in a recession?
It’s deception how absurd is this
How are so many poor people conservative?

There was at least one moment that set this concert apart though.  Brother Ali found out that someone in the audience had a birthday, a little girl named Sadie.  He brought her on stage and the entire venue sang “Happy Birthday” to her.  It was a nice minute for Sadie, but all together a stellar performance from Brother Ali.  He is currently touring across the United States and Canada, so make sure to get tickets early, because future shows very well may sell out.  Lastly, check out the video of Own Light (What Hearts Are For) from the show.

Ridgelines at Omaha’s Almost Music

On Saturday afternoon, April 22, 2017 over a dozen people gathered for an intimate show with Ridgelines, the electronic with hip hop influence venture of local musician Mike Johnson.  The venue was Almost Music, a quaint record and bookstore in the Blackstone District of Omaha.  Being surrounded by books at a concert felt educational as he performed “01.21.17” featuring Sleep Sinatra and Hakim.  Lincoln, Nebraska is home for them both.  In addition to the phenomenal beats, the song had some amazing lyrics.

Thirteen million in uncashed checks at the Health and Human Services
The white presidents back, we about to see the purge begin
Triumph over dirt within
Get right where your work depends
Circumvent them obstacles lurking
When you out here trying to work to win

Another song performed at the show was “Good Luck” from EP II.  The song involves a lot of loops, timing, and sets a refreshing tone.  The premise of it comes from watching real-life crime shows and news stories.  This refers to if you fit a certain description and someone accuses you of something (that you did not do), you will get caught up in the justice system, then “good luck.”  Check out the video from the show and be sure to catch Ridgelines at more shows scheduled in the coming months.  These include Duffy’s Tavern in Lincoln on Wednesday, April 26th, Milk Run in Omaha on Sunday, April 30th, O’Leaver’s in Omaha on Saturday, May 13th, and Reverb Lounge in Omaha on Saturday, July 8th.


Tech N9ne at Lincoln’s The Bourbon

On a Thursday evening in January 2017 at The Bourbon in Lincoln, Nebraska, there was a sold out rap show with Tech N9ne as the headliner.  The openers included two acts that are touring with him currently, Krizz Kaliko and the duo CES CRU.  Both entertained well and hopefully gained some fans.  CES CRU performed the hit “Say You Love Me” and it was great.  By the time they finished up, the crowd was certainly hungry for the main event.

Around 10:30 pm, a man dawning a mask reminiscent of MF Doom took the stage and performed .  This was a different Tech N9ne from the past, because he used to only use face paint.  He added the mask last year (in 2016) as his “way to the future” and it works well. This is even though he did take it off at times for a closer look at the pack of people.  His mask did feel more sincere and intimate when it was off as opposed to on.  Maybe because it was easier to see him sweating and working hard to please his fans.

Tech N9ne resurrected a lot of songs at this show, but he certainly did not forget material from his latest album, The Storm. From that album his set included “I Get It Now” and he ended the night with “Erbody But Me.”  Lastly, check out his performance of the song “Unfair” from his 2011 album Welcome to Strangeland. 

Vince Staples at MAHA Music Festival

Wearing a Child of Hell shirt, Vince Staples finally graced the Weitz stage of MAHA Music Festival around 7:30 pm on Saturday, August 20th, 2016.  Considering he is from Long Beach, California, this was his first visit to the state of Nebraska.  He opened with a well known song and got his brief but impactful show underway.

Granted, it should be known that Vince Staples is not your typical rapper.  He gets very little radio play, if any at all.  And last year in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he was asked, “Do you think you’ll change the world?”  He explicitly replied, “Hell no.  I’m not changing sh**.”  At least we know where he stands.

Throughout his set one couldn’t help but notice his intelligence on stage though.  With plenty of mental dexterity in his rap performance, most of his lyrics flowed beautifully. Fortunately, the crowd was well behaved while he performed “Loca” and “Lemme Know” from his most recent 2015 album Summertime ’06. Albeit, there was at least one awkward moment during his set.  In the crowd a younger white bro yelled out, “I’m just a n*****” just after he opened with the song “Lift Me Up.”  It felt amiss, but the on stage performance eclipsed it.  Check out the video of the opener and make sure to see Vince Staples live next time he is in your town.

Ridgelines – EP II

Omaha musician Mike Johnson is set to release his second EP today for Ridgelines titled simply, EP II.  With his influences ranging from hip hop to electronic, the beats on this new album are incredibly unique.  It starts with a symphonic melody on the song “Bad Man” and then jumps to the hymnal song “It’s Okay” with lyrics from Marcey Yates and Mola-B.  The rapping on this track complements the soul of the instrumental quite well.  The first few bars fit beautifully on a great beat.

Look what was brought to me
thirteen grams of a raw from a key
Lord knows I had to make that cream
back to my beats and my old dream
now tell me how it go?
celebrate a touchdown, carry out goals
feeling good she got a crush now
all them hood boys pimps looking for a bust down
on the corner where its six deep
yellow tape news cam out on sixteenth
bullets holes grandma can’t sleep
all she really wanted was a good beat

“Deep End” picks up the pace of this EP, while “Good Luck” slows it down slightly.  Then there is the spoken word by Jade Lucy on “Who Wakes Up” that is careful, but magnificent in its delivery.  The vocal gives a rare poetic taste and acceuntuates the exclusivity of the music.

There is a chance you might be able to witness Ridgelines perform live in Omaha, Nebraska at some point soon.  Until then follow and listen over on Soundcloud (http://soundcloud.com/ridgelines) and Facebook (http://facebook.com/ridgelines) for updates.


Too Short at Omaha’s Sokol Auditorium

After thirty plus years of being in the game, the rapper Too Short is still touring and working hard to please his fans.  On Friday evening, May 13th, 2016, he performed for hundreds at Sokol Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska.  In classic fashion, it took him a while to get on stage due to the onslaught of over a half dozen opening acts, some of which were halfway decent like Nikko McFadden.  At one point there were over twenty people on stage and it was chaotic to say the least.  By the time Too Short took the stage, the crowd seemed a bit restless.  He opened with an old classic and got his show underway.

Throughout this old school hip hop performance, there were throwbacks to the late 1980’s and 1990’s.  The song “Freaky Tales” from the 1987 album Born to Mack was brought back and resurrected.  Too Short also performed “Sliding Down the Pole,” “Bossy,” and “Money Maker” among others.  Many of these songs were raunchy, lecherous, and sexually explicit, which were expected and well received by the crowd.  This was a completely different message and atmosphere than the Toby Mac Omaha concert attended just last month, but it was still fantastic to say the least.

Check out the performances of Too Short’s songs “Blow the Whistle” and “On My Level” from the show.


TobyMac at Omaha’s Baxter Arena

On Friday evening, April 8th, 2016 there was a Christian music concert held at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska with TobyMac.  It included opening acts like Capital Kings, Finding Favour, Building 429, and others.  There were notable performances throughout the evening by these openers, like when Colton Dixon sang “Our Time is Now.”

At around 9:30 pm, the main act took the stage along with his band DiverseCity.  TobyMac opened with the drop of a curtain and a bang of lights.  The show was high energy and the set mostly featured cuts from his latest Grammy winning album, ***THIS IS NOT A TEST***, which featured Capital Kings as well.  There were also a few notable songs that he performed at this concert from his older works like the ballad “City On Our Knees” and “Funky Jesus Music,” both from his 2010 album Tonight.

While the songs at this concert were exhilirating, the message itself was positive and uplifting for the dominantly Christian crowd.  However, despite these facts, in the crowd there was a four year old girl who managed to fall asleep midway through.  So while TobyMac was working hard on stage, trying to touch the hearts and minds of every attendee there, he certainly did not get everyone.  Hopefully, her mother will remind her later in her life of his message.  Check out the opening song from the show, “Til The Day I Die.”