Day three of BET Experience brought some serious hip-hop heads to L.A. Live’s Club Nokia on Saturday night (June 27). Black Thought, Questlove and the rest of The Roots were joined by Erykah Badu and a grab bag of other artists to pay homage to their fallen friend James Dewitt Yancey, better known as J Dilla.
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The three-hour concert roared into the early morning hours and was full of surprise guests — including Lauryn Hill and Busta Rhymes — who were immeasurably influenced by the late producer’s music. Some offered stories about how they met the Detroit-native who died of a blood disease in 2006 and others just belted out the hits he helped them create.
Badu arrived on the stage with the help of a motorized skateboard that she stayed on for 20 minutes while she seduced the packed house with “Window Seat,” “On and On” and “Love Of My Life,” before bringing out the night’s first guest, Busta Rhymes.
The rapper battled a troublesome microphone during his performance of his 1997 hit “Put You Hands Where My Eyes Could See” and “Woo Hah!” and eventually ditched it before delivering a heartfelt monologue about Dilla. “Jump” and “Pass the Courvoisier” brought the whole crowd to their feet before Busta made his swift exit.
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Next up was The Pharcyde, the Cali-bred group that Dilla used to DJ for, who served up “Runnin” and “Passing Me By” before Slum Village shocked the crowd by showing up to share some hits.
Bilal joined the lineup and slowed down the room’s frantic vibe with his unique brand of hypnotic love songs before Badu revealed that Ms. Hill was indeed in the building. She introduced her a little too soon and ended up “anointing the stage” (aka stalling for three songs) until Hill was ready to come out. Luckily, they were good ones like “Bag Lady” and “Didn’t Cha Know.”
When Lauryn Hill hit the stage she seemed full of energy in high-platformed heels, jeans and a bright yellow sweater vest. She was joined by three backup singers who helped her through a few selections from her iconic album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
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Sadly, fans who have long awaited Ms. Hill’s return to the stage seemed a bit put off by the drastically rearranged delivery of hits like “Lost Ones” and “Ex Factor,” which were hard to recognize given the fact that she nixed the songs’ original beats and laid off every high note. She closed with a scaled back version of “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and by then it was clear that the dissipating crowd was losing interest now that it was after 2 a.m.
Badu re-energized what was left of the crowd with rousing rendition of “You Got Me” and “Telephone” before hanging up the mic and sashaying off the stage in her extra tall top hat and converse.
The show set the stage for Sunday’s 15th Annual BET Awards which should deliver some equally nostalgic moments.