Notes from the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

I watched the Hip-Hop Honors pay tribute to Def Jam Records for the same reason I bought the Def Jam anniversary box set: sometimes you just need some old school, right? Here’s some scattered thoughts:

* Tracy Morgan couldn’t have been less appealing if the SNL writers had scripted his material. What are the odds some PA was sent to Chris Rock’s balcony seat to quietly beg for him to step in?

* Speaking of comedy, no screen-time or acknowledgement for Def Comedy or Def Poetry Jam? Sad.

MethnMary1 * Drinking game of the night: take a shot every time a rapper-slash-actor appeared: L.L. Cool J, Ludacris, Ashanti, Eminem, Redman, Method Man, Sticky Fingaz from Onyx and DMX would’ve given you … well, more than a buzz. Flavor Flav, of course, was worth a bottle.

* If there was a mention of Shakir Stewart, it must’ve been in the credits.

* Kid Rock likes hip-hop again? Did the National Guard money run out?

* Getting The Roots & DJ Jazzy Jeff to anchor the bigger numbers was a solid move. And go fig, Gym Class Heroes didn’t botch things up, either.

* Line of the night was definitely from ex-Def Jam Island Music Group head Lyor Cohen, on making the label an Aamco-like “blue-collar” alternative for their artists: “You think Death Row, with their swollen muscles, can squeeze underneath that car; or Bad Boy, with their shiny Versace suits, are gonna risk getting some oil dripped on them?”

* “Regulate” without Nate Dogg … sorry, Trey, just too much for you to live up to.

* Admit it, we all wanted to see Ja Rule rock the cardigan again.

* The show-closing medley hit an Epic Fail trifecta: Flat, Abrupt and How do you not get Jay-Z to close it out after all the ads for the new album, and Russell Simmons talks about him preserving Def Jam’s “foundation” in the final interview? Any fan could’ve given them this simple two-step alternative to Wale muffing a Kanye West riff:

1) Trash the medley and give the time up for full versions of “You Gots To Chill” and “The Rain.”
2) Close the show with the Public Enemy/Street Sweeper Social Club number posted up top. Their assault on “Rebel Without A Pause” brought home the point of Def Jam’s early artistic ferocity more than the interviews we saw during the show. Except for Lyor Cohen, of course.

* One final note: as you might imagine, we got a lot more of self-congratulation than self-analysis from the various Def Jam figures who appeared during the show, but these (slightly nsfw) comments from KRS-One below might ring more true than Cohen or Russell Simmons or Rick Rubin might want to admit:

So, anybody else catch the show? What did you think?