Photo By Karen “InchHigh” Dabner McIntyre
Venue: The Jazz Cafe, London Date: 4 March 2012
I’m going to cut to the chase here and go on record as saying that legendary duo Nice & Smooth’s one-off show at London’s Jazz Cafe was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a long, long time. The undeniable chemistry, animated rhymes and party-starting beats heard on so many of the Bronx pair’s late-80s / early-90s classics always seemed tailor-made for the stage, but the question many heads might have been asking themselves as they entered the venue was whether Greg N-I-C-E and “the black Blake Carrington” Smooth Bee could capture that same infectious energy from some twenty years ago?
Arriving onstage to the sound of Doug E. Fresh’s timeless 1986 anthem “Play This Only At Night”, Smooth Bee (dressed in white felt bowler hat, dress shirt and suit jacket) and Greg Nice (in similar attire) immediately launched into the 1991 banger “How To Flow”. Before the audience even knew what was happening, Greg Nice had jumped offstage and was in the crowd, dancing, rapping and giving out high-fives to anyone within arm’s reach. “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow” soon followed, with the track’s trademark Tracy Chapman sample drawing cheers from the crowd and Nice putting an amusing x-rated spin on the song’s hook.
The pair’s contrasting personalities worked just as well onstage as they have done on wax over the years, with the rambunctious Greg Nice bursting with energy as he jumped and shouted across the stage, whilst Smooth Bee chose instead to saunter through the performance, smiling widely and delivering his rhymes in his inimitable slick vocal tone, clearly enjoying the fact that the crowd knew his verses from cuts such as “Cake & Eat It Too” and “Return Of The Hip-Hop Freaks” word for word.
Aside from the beats and rhymes, the duo’s constant flow of industry stories and amusing exchanges kept the audience upbeat and entertained. From recalling their early beginnings as beat-boxer for T La Rock and ghost-writer for Bobby Brown respectively, to Greg Nice telling career tales involving Mary J. Blige, Chuck D and Jay-Z with Dolemite-like style, the pair held the attention of the crowd with apparent ease.
With the good times rolling, what happened during the duo’s performance of their 1992 Gang Starr collabo “Dwyck” was as unexpected as it was moving. Halfway through his verse it initially seemed that Smooth Bee may have forgotten his own lyrics, with the emcee faltering during certain lines. But it quickly became apparent that the NY legend was overcome with emotion. “Guru was my motherf**kin’ heart,”said Smooth, fighting to hold back genuine tears as he reminisced on one of Hip-Hop’s greatest talents. It was a poignant moment, with Greg giving his man a supportive hug before Smooth then said he wanted to perform the undisputed classic again from the top which sparked rapturous applause.
Following this memorable scene, Nice & Smooth then proceeded to lead the crowd in singing along to the brilliant “Hip-Hop Junkies” and first album favourite “Early To Rise”, before they returned to drop an acappella version of “Harmonize” as an encore and take their final bows.
It’s always difficult to fully communicate the atmosphere and feeling of a live event in a written review, something which is even more apparent in this instance. Part old-school house party, part stand-up comedy routine, part gospel church sermon, but all Hip-Hop, Nice & Smooth delivered a spectacle of a show that will surely be remembered vividly by all those in attendance for a long time to come.
If you weren’t there, you missed a night destined for the history books.
Smooth Bee delivers an emotional tribute to Gang Starr’s Guru while performing “Dwyck”.