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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Rappers OD on Glitz During Marathon ‘Say No’ Jam Tour

Times Staff Writer

Remember when rap was a simple, honest expression of humor and anger--a rousing, rhythmic way of sounding off? Now rap is headed in the wrong direction, and its bad side was exposed Monday night at a marathon show at the Universal Amphitheatre.

Glitz has taken over. You can overdose on production numbers, laser shows and gaudy sets and costumes.

Two of Monday’s acts, Kool Moe Dee and Doug E. Fresh, even did elaborate disappearing acts. Unfortunately, the wrong things disappeared. It’s all this glitter that has got to go.

The show--billed as “The Dope Jam Tour--Say No to Drugs"--was also intended to fight rap’s “outlaw” image. But though the show had an anti-drug theme and some of the rappers preached against substance abuse, you wondered how well the message was getting across: The odor of pot was strong in certain sections of the 6,000-seat theater, which was about two-thirds full. It was the first anti-drug show I’ve been to where you could get a contact high.

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Kool Moe Dee was the evening’s most rousing rapper. He has it all--wit, insight, magnetism and terrific rhythms. His “Wild, Wild West” was the most compelling piece of the evening. Now if he could just pare some of the obnoxious excesses out of his show--including that ridiculous flowing, flowery costume.

Doug E. Fresh is possibly L.L. Cool J’s strongest rival for the title of rap’s No. 1 sex symbol. Though he perhaps relied too heavily on his sex appeal, he did deliver some stinging raps. But again, the production flash too often overwhelmed the star.

Ice T. and Boogie Down Productions are to be commended for their relatively simple shows. L.A.'s Ice T. has anger to burn, but he spent it frivolously--mainly on sophomoric sexual raps. Boogie Down Productions, which offered just run-of-the-mill raps, may have carried simplicity too far.

This group’s show was so stripped down that it wasn’t distinctive.

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The headliner, Eric B. & Rakim, wasn’t worth the long wait. Even a glitzy laser show couldn’t compensate for Eric B.'s woeful lack of charisma. The passion that explodes from his sterling “Follow the Leader” album doesn’t come across on stage.

The “Dope Jam Tour--Say No To Drugs,” with Eric B. & Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, Biz Markie and Boogie Down Productions, comes to the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim tonight at 7:30 and 11. Tickets: $17. Information: (714) 999-9536.


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