By Daniel Paiz
Believe it or not, this free Civic Center concert in Denver with Busta Rhymes is my first Hip-Hop concert of 2022. It’s hard to pass up a free show with such a headliner, and the local acts sweetened the lineup as well. Kid Astronaut, Rachel Bailey, Colorado Myrical, and DJ Bella Scratch set the tone for the night, giving listeners a range of music and moods.
Civic Center Park is in the heart of Denver, and it was an odd yet very interesting setting for a show. The music fan in me certainly enjoyed this event put on by Denver’s 104.7 The Drop. The critical writer in me had something else to say about it.
Local Acts show out
Denver has a lot more musical acts out there than I think music fans here realize. There are plenty of jam bands, indie, folk, etcetera types of groups, but there are also a lot of Hip-Hop and R&B acts. Kid Astronaut started out the night, feeling very future retro with his mix of R&B and Hip-Hop aesthetics. Local acts such as The Grand Alliance, Kayla Marque, and CRL CRLL are who I think of as being musically similar to Kid Astronaut. I also get some Frank Ocean vibes as well.
After some out of this world tunes, Rachel Bailey brought us back to Earth with her R&B showcase. I can’t quite put my finger on who she reminds me of, because her sound is where R&B is right now. Tinashe and Snoh Aalegra come to mind, but there are only slight similarities between those two and Bailey. That’s probably a good thing, as this songstress delivered a solid set.
Colorado Myrical is the artist I had not heard before, not sure why. The Denver rapper sounds like what is popular on the Billboard top 200 and mainstream radio stations. Oddly enough, for me that is more of a takeaway than a positive.
Blame my overly critical reviews of Hip-Hop artists for this take. For me, to make it long-term requires lyrical prowess that doesn’t get lost in the sea of artists out there. Myrical has the sound and look, but the rhymes are a work in progress. Some artists make it based off of sound alone (take any popular Hip-Hop radio artist), which is likely the route Myrical is working towards. It’s a work in progress, but the future might show us an artist who has taken that next step.
DJ Bella Scratch did what all good DJs do: she absolutely got the crowd ready for Busta Rhymes. Selections ranged from today’s hits to some songs from each decade dating back to the 1980s. There was a particular “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” flip Bella served that was probably the best flip I’ve ever heard of that song. This longtime DJ is definitely the veteran of the local acts. I’ve heard her name around Denver for at least a decade (and I’m sure she’s been doing her thing longer than that).
After this myriad of sonic mixtures, it was time for the headliner to ask the crowd if we really wanted to party with him.
Thinking about it the next day, a free concert from a local radio station is a pretty awesome gift to give to Denver. It’s making me realize I should have tempered my expectations more. The veteran emcee delivered an abundance of hit records that were sure to please those who already realized that was the main point of his set.
The crowd seemed to know “I Know What You Want”, Busta’s huge hit with Mariah Carey and Flipmode Squad. The crowd also went wild for his “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and “Pass the Courvoisier” renditions. Fewer people seemed to know his A Tribe Called Quest “Scenario” verse surprisingly, and also didn’t seem to know the J Dilla-assisted gem “Enjoy da Ride”.
Something Busta did that I’ve only noticed a few older acts do is test the crowd’s knowledge of the lyrics from the opening song. It’s understandable to work on getting the crowd to give you even more energy from the jump; however, that approach at a concert seems to work better a few tracks into the set. It kind of felt like it lowered the crowd’s hype levels, initially set by Bella Scratch earlier. The show was still a lot of fun, the crowd enjoyed getting to see Busta Rhymes in downtown Denver, and it was definitely a memorable experience for all in attendance.
Shout out to the local acts who entertained and pumped up the crowd throughout the night, and Denver has to thank 104.7 The Drop for putting this show together.