We got a chance to hit NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom for some of the rehearsals of our Hip Hop Honors show (which takes place tonight and airs on Monday night). It was a blast. Here’s a little report on who’s kneeling at Snoop’s throne, what Keyshia Cole did to Ciara, and who taught Nick Cannon some new dance moves.
It was a fairly casual vibe as WHODINI, the Temptations of hip-hop, kicked off their rehearsal on yesterday at Hammerstein Ballroom. The stage was lit up like a slot machine, and the group danced like live wires, practicing their moves. Nick Cannon has the first leg in the WHODINI homage, sliding onto the stage with his back-up dancers for “Funky Beat.” He was still messing with the lyrics. The performance move seamlessly into Nelly doing “One Love,” then into Jermaine Dupri, the group’s most obvious disciple (he got his start with them, dancing) performing “Five Minutes of Funk.”
Between takes of songs, Cannon, Nelly and Dupri sat on the side of the stage with WHODINI posing for pictures while Grandmaster Dee worked on some aerial scratching (wherein four guys lift him off the ground). At the end of the medley, WHODINI took the stage to perform “Friends” and “Freaks Come Out At Night.” Spinderella, Salt N’ Pepa’s MC, who happened to be sitting next to me, leaned over mentioned that this is the quintessential Halloween song. The group was joined by Nelly, Cannon and Dupri for the end of “Freaks,” and it evolved into a dance-off, with Jalil Hutchins imploring Ecstasy to “get sexy with it,” Nelly facing off against Ecstasy, and Nick Cannon picking up a few new moves.
Next up: Missy. Her dancers materialized on stage while Eve stands stage left sipping coffee, watching a pint-sized breakdancer who can’t be more than six years old do backflips. Ciara, looking all-business in skin-tight jeans, four inches heels and perma-sunglasses struts to the end of the catwalk, rehearsing her moves. Keyshia Cole, who’s fresh off having the second biggest record sales of the week, comes in, hands off her bags to one of her three mountain-sized attendants, and hops on stage. It’s the apex of hip-hop diva-dom. The crew begins its medley with Tweet, killing the “The Rain.” Eve’s wheeled out decked in beauty parlor gear to play on the classic line “get your nails done, get a pedicure, get your hair did” from “Work It” – then goes straight into “Hot Boys” – the first track that Eve and Missy ever worked on together. Keyshia Cole joins Eve on stage for “Get Ur Freak On,” before Ciara channels some Control-era Janet Jackson for “Lose Control,” 2005’s summer anthem. When the number ended, all the ladies connected, Keyshia Cole saying hello to Tweet and giving Ciara a hug.
As the final set started, an older gent descended from the stairs and began warmly extolling the merits of the “D-O-double-G” – Mr. Snoop Dogg. It was a minute before I realized that it’s Harvey Keitel. He told the genesis story of Bow Wow, before Wow took the stage and performed “Who Am I (What’s My Name).” Bow Wow’s family sat up in the balcony, beaming, while a few seats away Coco, Ice-T’s voluptuous bride, looked on.
Before you know it, the man himself materialized, graceful, impossibly tall and thin in a baby blue velour track suit, swaying to the music and easily performed the verbal acrobatics the song required. Pharrell slinked on to the stage for “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” the click-hiss ode to ladies getting low. By the time the song ended, Ice-T and Daz have crept out onto the stage for the finale. While everyone crowded around the DJ, the production team attempted to work out some technical issues, and Pharrell and Snoop launched into an off-the-cuff freestyle that sounded good enough to commit to record; Snoop rhymes in his silky-smooth drawl while Pharrell snap, crackle and popped along for a few minutes. It’s was time to take the performance from the top, so Snoop found his spot in his honoree perch, and smiled like a Cheshire cat as Daz and BG (members of Snoop’s crew) ran through “Deep Cover” – the hit that introduced Snoop to the world. Ice-T came in with “Murder Was the Case,” telling the LBC bard’s tale as if it were his own, and improvised on the last line: “Got my mind on my money and my Uzi by my side.”
We’ll be there tonight to see the action live, so check back for more updates.