While many hip-hop aficionado’s were awaiting the arrival of this summer’s Rock The Bells tour, there were many lesser known fans who were eagerly anticipating its more Independent cousin, The Paid Dues Tour. Presented and hosted by Living Legends alum Murs 3:16 in association with Guerilla Union, this hip hop festival was supported by live performances from Sage Francis, Brother Ali, and Felt, among others. For their Red Rocks stop, all pariticipating acts were in rare form, but then you’d expect nothing less for a day long show at the best live venue in the world! Opening with the grassroots rap of Hangar 18, the debut solo show of Lucky I Am (possibly the least known of the Living Legends crew, although he is a founding member) and the bombastic blast of Rhymesayer’s own Blueprint, the show really got off to a pleasing start and pleased the already burgeoning crowd—few waited until late to arrive.
However, the show really got started when the indelible Mr. Lif took the stage. Rousing the crowd with tracks from his latest album, as well as well known favorites, the conscious MC did rap music proud, his trademark ‘locks a perfect backdrop for the home of Reggae on the Rocks.
Mr. Lif gave way to Cage, who unfortunately couldn’t match the wickedness of his records or the energy of his predecessor. Having Weatherman brethren Yak Balls on stage with him was helpful, offering needed diversion and added depth, but his set was by far the weakest link. Minneapolis son, Brother Ali, took the reigns from Cage and injected the bombastic juice that was missing previously. From start to finish, the albino MC had the crowd roaring, waving, and singing along to his lifesaving music. Not to be outdone, Sage Francis took the stage soon afterwards, shrouded in his own madness and a dime store cape for effect. As always, his antics were fever pitch—at one point he even lost his shoes—but balanced nicely by his unnerving commentary and scathing wit.
You could tell the show was reaching its crescendo, as the man of the hour (Murs) was joined on stage by good friends Slug and Ant (of Atmosphere), to run through a set of their Felt project material. The sad part was they only did a few Felt songs, opting instead to trade microphone stories of their own individual material. Murs’ ode to L.A. was much more rowdily received than Slug’s “Sunshine;” it would have been better to hear Atmosphere’s ode to Minneapolis from Seven’s Travels, but what can you do?
Capping the show off, as if you needed to be told, was the reunion of the Living Legends in all their splendid glory! Eight MC’s with distinct personalities, eclectic pairings, and a culmination of over a decades worth of material, came with standing ovations and plenty of chanting along.
In its favor, the show from start to finish wasn’t burdened by an long pauses between acts or outrageous egos. This made for an early closing, but all the acts did full sets and several—including Francis—hung outside the backstage doors rubbing elbows, signing autographs, and posing for photos with the fans. This was one of the more pleasurable events to come along in a good while. Hopefully it won’t be the last.