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Straight outta the Pond

Ice Cube's supergroup, Westside Connection, rules the stage, much to fans' delight. Set caps a four-hour showcase of R&B and hip-hop stars.

June 23, 2003|Soren Baker | Special to The Times

Even though his supergroup has not released an album in nearly seven years, Ice Cube wanted the capacity crowd at Arrowhead Pond on Saturday to know that he, Mack 10 and WC haven't gone anywhere.

"If y'all didn't think the Westside Connection wasn't coming back to wreck this ..., you better check yourself," the rapper exclaimed. Then, the catchy keyboards to Cube's "Check Yo Self" burst from the speakers and the excited fans erupted in support of their hometown heroes.

As headliners of KPWR-FM's (105.9) annual Powerhouse concert and the only West Coast rap act on the bill, Westside Connection, whose 1996 album, "Bow Down," was an adrenaline rush of hard-core hip-hop, tore through a 40-minute set that capped an efficient four-hour concert featuring some of hip-hop and R&B's most versatile artists, including the hyperactive BustaRhymes, the reflective Nas and the thugged-out Nate Dogg.

But there was no question that Westside Connection was the star of the show. From the moment the three rappers stormed the stage to the sound of Mack 10's thunderous "Connected for Life," they kept the crowd at a fever pitch.

Ice Cube, setting aside his stern public image and becoming a spry, animated figure, seemed to relish this rare concert appearance. Mack 10 cased the stage with a cool gangster strut throughout the 11-song set, while WC was the crew's anchor, alternating between his inviting and menacing personas.

Even though Ice Cube's career has been marked by incendiary, antiestablishment lyrics, his inspiring, optimistic "It Was a Good Day" is among his biggest hits. As he and his crew performed the song Saturday, it was somewhat surreal to see the king of gangster rap urging the crowd to "put your peace signs in the air."

Busta Rhymes delivered a rousing set that was just as effective -- while it lasted. His 25-minutes stage time was disappointingly brief for someone of his caliber.

The veteran Long Island rapper, who was joined on stage by his sidekick Spliff Star, is among hip-hop's most polished, energetic performers. Like the songs on his six albums, Rhymes' stage show is a charged affair that benefits from his electric personality and endless energy.

Nas, a deep-thinking rapper whose music is more suited for solitary reflection than the radio big time, seemed somewhat out of place during his 35-minute set. Even though he's one of hip-hop's most respected and engaging lyricists, he was met largely with indifference by a crowd that was geared to hear hits.

In an apparent acknowledgment of the tough time he was having performing such inspirational songs as "The World Is Yours" and "I Can," Nas commented: "Every year [hip-hop] gets more commercial, I'm going to keep coming with that anti-radio street [music]." It was a noble idea in the wrong arena.

Earlier in the evening, Nate Dogg struggled to generate much excitement during a 10-minute set, while Fabolous' impressive catalog of radio hits turned the trick during his crisp, 25-minute performance.

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