by Ben Johnson/Staten Island AWE
STATEN ISLAND, NY– Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and his brother Kay performed on Staten Island Aug. 12 at Mahoney Playground, as part of the summer concerts put on by the City Parks Foundation. The show, opened by Phil Anastasia’s established local group The Outfit, and up-and-coming rapper Ceasar, a young dude from the North Shore currently under Rae’s wing, it was an evening with plenty of police presence but no known incidents.
The Chef, who just returned to his home borough after a closingRock The Bells date and and already famous scuffle with rapper Joe Budden, seemed happy to be home, giving plenty of love to the crowd of 500 or so (plus what seemed like a veritable legion of police, some of whom were brought in from Manhattan). And they gave it back, too.
“C.R.E.A.M.,” “Heaven & Hell,” “Clan In Da Front,” and plenty of other recognizable Wu-Tang classics, performed as truncated versions, drew big responses from the crowd. Local New Brighton families, hipsters from across the water, and even some older folks seemed to share the careful pen of barricade fencing with a healthy dose of unity and appreciation.
Read the full review here, but in the meantime, check some of the video I took from the evening.
Sometimes you prepare for the worst and get the best.
That seemed to be the takeaway from Wednesday night’s free concert at Mahoney Park in New Brighton, which drew an estimated 550 diverse fans to see a performance by Wu-Tang Clan’s cinematic storyteller Raekwon the Chef, a.k.a. Corey Woods.
The police presence at the event was multitudinous, either in anticipation of a large crowd or in response to recent violence in the area — just last week, a stabbing victim died blocks away. But despite a foreboding presence, the crowd trickled in past metal detectors and bag checks to watch up-and-coming acts prepare for the main event, which went off without incident.
“Every summer I look forward to this, and I always see friends I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Wanda Sewell of New Brighton, who had brought her young daughter and a friend’s children to the event. “Rap music is positive for our kids. They learn from it, it teaches them about real life.”
After opening sets from The Outfit and Caesar, real-life stories hit the stage via Raekwon and his brother Kay, as they tore through a set of classics for some 45 minutes. From the Wu-Tang ode to capitalism, “C.R.E.A.M.,” to dark and smooth solo street commentary “Heaven & Hell,” the two rappers, flanked on stage by a crew of connected artists and extended family, delivered a loud and proud salute to their hometown.
“This is a big privilege for Staten Island,” said the Chef, who repeatedly professed his love for the home borough and encouraged concert-goers to act responsibly and peacefully. “No matter what neighborhood you from, we all move as one.”
Raekwon even trotted out a preview cut from “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II,” the long-anticipated sequel to his critically acclaimed 1995 solo album, called “Walk With Me.”
Police barricades criss-crossing the park had left a wide open space between the City Parks stage and the crowd, but early on Rae and Kay hopped down and broke the barrier, performing close enough to fans to slap hands while rapping into their microphones. Toddlers sat on parents’ shoulders, teenagers threw their hands in the air, and everyone — even a security guard working the event — sang along to the words they knew on early beat-bangers.
“Our goal in bringing him here was to have him come do something positive in his community,” said Emily Elliott, a production assistant with the City Parks Foundation. Ms. Elliott, who will return to Mahoney on Wednesday for a show with golden age rap group Naughty By Nature, said the police presence seemed a little much, and might have scared some people away. Backstage, the sentiment seemed similar, but Raekwon was unfazed.
“This meant a lot to me,” he said to the security guard who had been singing along all night. “Wait till you see the next one.”
— Contributed by Ben Johnson