Last night (Feb. 22), acclaimed hip-hop producer Madlib (De La Soul, MF Doom, Kanye West) turned his set at San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival into a party for the ages, with the help of a few famous friends.
Billed as a Madlib DJ set, the show at 1015 Folsom was likely not the first of the evening for many in attendance. As Noise Pop descends on San Francisco each February, venues across the city play host to an eclectic array of musicians, often offering the opportunity to hop from one show to the next.
Those that made the choice to stay up late with Madlib were handsomely rewarded when he invited rapper Yassin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) to the stage about thirty minutes into his set.
Bey appeared to excited cheers from the packed house. He enthusiastically mimed along to several of his greatest hits before taking the mic to deliver what would turn out to be but one of the night’s many freestyles, including the memorable line “It was all a dream/ Madlib and Yassin.”
There was more freestyling when Madlib dropped Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones Part II,” and later an earnest plea from Bey for fans to see music as more than a way to kill an evening. “Please don’t just take this as entertainment,” he implored. “This is beyond entertainment.”
It was definitely beyond comprehension when Bey then beckoned Dave Chappelle to join him on stage, around 1:00 a.m.
Having played his third consecutive night of surprise shows at San Francisco’s Punchline Comedy Club earlier in the evening, Chappelle looked at home with the 1015 Folsom crowd, where the night quickly turned into a one night only indoor revival of the comic’s popular 2005 documentary, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.
Asked by Bey why he so frequently returns to perform in San Francisco, Chappelle shared the story of how Richard Pryor had once been told by Las Vegas brass that he’d never work again. “Then he came here,” he said. “It’s a kindness conspiracy.”
Together Bey and Chappelle danced it out with fans, calling on Madlib to serve by default as the world’s most talented jukebox as new tracks to spin came to mind, including cuts from A Tribe Called Quest’s latest record. They also took time off from showing their moves to offer nuggets of wisdom whenever the mood struck.
“Forgive yourself and forgive your neighbor,” Chappelle told the crowd.
Other highlights in the set, which lasted until well after 2:00 a.m., included Chappelle jumping from the stage to crowdsurf, Mos Def informing the audience that yesterday he’d “finished the first verse for the new Black Star [album],” and Chappelle leading all of 1015 Folsom in a sing-along of Prince’s “1999.”
“The day Prince died I was in San Francisco,” Chappelle observed with a genuine somberness when the final chorus finished.
Mostly though, the vibe was one of communal celebration. Bey and Chappelle weren’t performing per se, but in speaking their minds and feeling the music provided by their supremely talented friend at the turntables, it was clearly a joyous occasion for all three artists.
Towards the end of the evening, Chappelle asked fans to put away their cell phones and to try to live in the beauty of a very surreal moment. “These ten minutes are just for us,” he said. “This isn’t for the rest of the world.”
A second later, Chappelle launched into an a capella rendition of The Fugees’ Roberta Flack cover “Killing Me Softly,” Madlib occasionally punctuating the comedian’s words with record scratches.
It seemed like the show might be over, but Chappelle couldn’t stop himself from again channeling the artist he once famously embodied on television, as a blouse wearing, basketball obsessed, pancake maker. Another chorus of “1999” erupted, and with it, a fitting ending to a party that was truly out of place and time.
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