The inaugural edition of Paper Ships was a party celebrating the release of Michael Rapaport's documentary, Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, which opens in L.A. and New York today. Featuring sets from frosty (Dublab), Garth Trinidad (KCRW), Madlib (Stones Throw, DJ set), Peanut Butter Wolf (Stones Throw, VJ set), Phife (A Tribe Called Quest), and Prince Paul (De La Soul, VJ set) and footage of countless rap giants influenced by ATCQ, last night was a tribute to Tribe's enduring legacy.
We missed frosty and Garth Trinidad's sets completely because of the massive line to get in to the venue. It was the kind of night where the guest list dwarfed the ticket-holder list, and both lines wrapped around the block. Stressed out security clearly didn't know how to handle the masses of people who showed up last night. We were repeatedly harassed and asked to leave for standing quietly in line for what felt like eons, and one staff member in particular was completely awful–he kept shoving me out of his way, and when you're a five foot tall lady being pushed around by a guy more than double your weight and a foot and a half taller than you, that's a bit scary, to say the least. Paper Ships/Exchange L.A. clearly have a thing or two to learn about managing large events–starting with investing in a competent security staff.
We finally got inside the venue, only to wait in another line to be allowed to leave the lobby, where we were told we needed to leave once again because we didn't have physical tickets. Nevermind the fact that we never received them in the first place–not everyone on the guest list got them, for some reason–and that we were personally escorted into the venue by Paper Ship's main man, Dan Benporat, who had to come rescue us once again from his own security.
We finally made it in, after almost two hours of waiting. Exchange L.A. is a beautiful space–the historic building was home of the original Los Angeles Stock Exchange, and now, at the new Exchange L.A., you'll find 25,000 square-feet of history. The colossal venue received a $5 million renovation before reopening, and now has a sparkling Art Deco interior that spans four stories, with private viewing areas and five bars. Paper Ships plans to hold shows there every first and third Thursday of the month.
Madlib was already on stage by the time we got into Exchange's main hall. The mysterious producer was tapped by Rapaport to score Beats Rhymes & Life, a task Stones Throw label head Chris Manak–aka Peanut Butter Wolf–says he took quite seriously. He performed an all-too-rare DJ set, his first in L.A. in quite some time, torturing the audience by playing everyone's shit but his own.
Peanut Butter Wolf dug deep into the Tribe archives for his VJ set, pulling rare clips and footage of ATCQ's first performance and syncing records to the video. Rapaport and PBW brought the crew of Beats Rhymes & Life out onto the stage.
Rapaport invited Phife–the main who inspired him to make his film–to the stage. Starting out with a moment of silence for his grandma who passed away exactly one year ago, he hit “Buggin Out” and “Check the Rhyme” before acknowledging the obvious: Those songs need more than just Phife. He performed his new single live for the first time after asking the audience, “How many of y'all like some fly ass sneakers?” He closed out with a reminder that Friday marks the 20th anniversary of Tribe's most celebrated effort, The Low End Theory–the album that inspired the club of the same name at Lincoln Height's Airliner–and that we should all go out and cop that on our way out to the movies.
Video problems plagued the first few minutes of Prince Paul's set. Once PBW got that settled, Prince Paul took us through over an hour of Hip Hop 101. The history lesson went from old De La Soul footage to Wu Tang to Gravediggaz, a densely packed VJ set of footage of rap titans spanning decades.