Review: Amazing lineup of legendary talent delights Bay Area hip-hop fans

Review: Amazing lineup of legendary talent delights Bay Area hip-hop fans

It was like pages from the hip hop history book came alive right before our eyes at the Chase Center in San Francisco.

More than a half dozen legends of the game performed as the F.O.R.C.E. Live Tour unfolded over the course of some 3 hours on Friday night.

On paper, F.O.R.C.E. (which stands for Frequencies of Real Creative Energy) indeed looked like it was the best of the package tours making the rounds this year in honor of the 50th anniversary of hip Hop. And the lineup certainly did not disappoint, as it offered up headliner LL Cool J, the indefatigable Roots, always amazing Salt-N-Pepa and other historically significant acts who are still able to rock the house in 2023.

The concert was an absolute blast for longtime hip-hop fans, who got the chance to a steady stream of greats take the stage with really no breaks in the action. The Roots set up shop first and then played house band basically the rest of the evening, setting the table for each new MC to take the stage.

Of course, the Roots have their own mighty MC — Black Thought — who might’ve rapped more than anyone else on this night as he rocked the microphone with his Philadelphia troupe and then sat in during most of the sets that followed.

The first artist to join the Roots party was Rakim, who most remember for his wildly influential work as part of the golden age duo Eric B. & Rakim.

“Drop the mic when I’m finished and watch it smoke,” the Long Island native rapped during “My Melody.”

And that’s pretty much what happened as Rakim finished a set that included such gems as “Microphone Fiend” and “Eric B. Is President.” Indeed, nobody sounded better than Rakim on the mic on this night.

It was the kind of evening that was filled with can’t-believe-your-eyes moments, one of which came not long after Rakim left the stage. Minutes later, the sheer amount of hip-hop greatness onstage — as Slick Rick and Black Thought traded rhymes, while Doug E. Fresh was in full beatbox mode and DJ Jazzy Jeff rocked the ones and twos — was just staggering to behold as they moved through the sing-along classics “The Show” and “La Di Da Di.”

Fresh, in particular, was worth the price of admission alone, bringing us back to the glory days of beatboxing as he created all sort of wonderful noises and grooves with his mouth and throat. Truly, he’s nothing short of a national treasure.

Salt-N-Pepa took the stage next, showcasing exactly why they deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as they rolled through such hip-hop favorites as “I’ll Take Your Man,” “Whatta Man,” “Shoop” and, of course, “Push It.” Yet, the best song in the mix was the gospel-tinged “Stomp,” as the duo turned it up a notch to close its set with this memorable collaboration with Kirk Franklin.

“All my believers make some noise,” Salt cried out. “You know if it wasn’t for your faith, you wouldn’t be here right now.”

Then, finally, it was LL time, as the headliner took the


F.OR.C.E. (which stands for Frequencies of Real Creative Energy) is headlined by LL Cool J. — a Rock and Hall of Fame inductee, Kennedy Center honoree, two-time Grammy winner and mutliplatinum-selling hip-hop icon — who also personally curated the lineup.