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POP MUSIC REVIEW : 'Summerfest': Tapping Into Primal Urges

July 05, 1993|HEIDI SIEGMUND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Talk about your summer of love.

Eros was certainly in the house Friday night as Naughty by Nature, LL Cool J and Silk headlined a marathon hip-hop and R&B "Summerfest" at the Forum that tapped into the crowd's libido with a vengeance.

By the end of the evening, the arena seemed like the set for some kind of giant "Love Connection" episode--with as many young fans exchanging phone numbers as watching the action on stage.

Naughty by Nature, the New Jersey rap trio whose 1991 smash "O.P.P." was an irresistible celebration of infidelity, closed the five-hour affair by working the near-capacity crowd into a frenzy with blush-worthy verbal foreplay.

Treach, the band's 22-year-old frontman and rap's reigning sex symbol, taunted the crowd with Dear Abby-like advice on the subject of sex. Sorry, it was just too naughty for us to repeat here. But be sure to ask anyone who was at the show about the chain saw.

Naughty by Nature does touch on social issues in songs such as "Ghetto Bastard," but the trio mostly just wants to have fun onstage--and they did a good job of entertaining the crowd. While they don't benefit from the urgency of a Chuck D., Treach and Vinnie are skilled rappers, who have a lightning-like delivery.

*

Rap music's other resident Adonis, LL Cool J, also appealed to the crowd's primal urges with songs such as "Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Getting Crushed by Buildings"--an ode to condoms.

LL Cool J has been one of rap's most stirring performers since the mid-'80s and he did wow the audience with an exceptional rendition of "Mama Said Knock You Out," complete with an almost punk-edged anger.

But his set generally was sabotaged by a poor sound mix. Unlike Naughty, LL performed to live instruments and was forced to scream the lyrics over his horn section. The entire chorus of one song was drowned out by the trumpet and trombone players.

The evening's R&B acts also employed live musicians, but their slow, sultry grooves fared much better with the sound system.

Much to the delight of the screaming fans, Silk, H-Town and Shai (pronounced shy) also played their brand of horizontal music. Sexy songs like Silk's "Freak Me" and H-Town's "Lick U Up" left little to the imagination. And Shai proved to be anything but. The group's stage antics during their smash single, "If I Ever Fall in Love . . ." had hundreds of fans swaying in the aisles.

Although the Forum was nowhere near as intimate a setting as the music required, the fans didn't appear to mind. Perhaps Silk's purple tear-away suits kept viewers too distracted to notice. Initially, the quintet, who offered the evening's most enchanting harmonies, was wearing a full suit and dancing Temptations-like to the upbeat "Happy Days."

By the time their set ended, each member had stripped down to their see-through skivvies and was singing the refrain, "I wanna get freaky with you" while face down on the stage.

H-Town, a Houston-based foursome handpicked by 2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell, also managed to blow a few sensory fuses. When the trio began singing "Knockin' Da Boots"--a metaphor for, you guessed it--three female members of the audience were selected to participate in a form of pantomime foreplay that was so erotic even Madonna might have blushed.

Backed by dancers who could give "In Living Color's" Fly Girls a run for their money, SWV (Sisters With Voices) started out their set with a powerful, streetwise stance, but eventually Eros again took over.

The only voice of (sexual) temperance came from opening act Jade, a female trio whose current hit, "Don't Walk Away," is not an ode to instant gratification. Sample line: "Baby, don't misunderstand / I still want you for my man / I just need a little time / Before I invest my love / Don't walk away."

As the fans walked away from the Forum some five hours later, they weren't talking about Jade's message . . . but how cool LL looked when he peeled off his Laker jersey and about phone numbers they had scored.

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