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Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theater was abuzz last Saturday night in San Diego with over 4,000 hip hop fans eager to enjoy their first large scale live concert in over 16 months.  Not surprisingly, the outstanding hip hop bill featuring the legendary Cypress Hill celebrating their 30th anniversary, veteran hip hop due Atmosphere, and mashup pioneer DJ Z-Trip were up to task and delivered an energetic entertaining show to quench the thirst of a loud and appreciative crowd seemingly thrilled to once again see a live show.

DJ Z-Trip started the show emphatically declaring how happy he was to be back performing after 16 months “locked in his apartment”.  His mashups are so creatively and interesting, combining many music genres into slick remixes “through the lens of hip hop”.  Remixes included a tribute to the late Biz Markie, an ode to San Diego with a jam incorporating Mexican folk music, and my rock sensitivities quickly caught samples from Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Alice in Chains, Audioslave, Linkin Park and even Devo

Next up was Atmosphere, composed of rapper Slug (Sean Daley) and DJ/Producer Ant (Anthony Davis), who were greeted by an inspired crowd fired-up and on their feet from the first beat.  Slug was captivating from the start, delivering intense insightful lyrics and compelling stories that clearly connected with the audience. 

A highlight of the show was Slug’s inspiring message to the audience perfectly summing up our collective pandemic mindset; “I have missed you. It was only 18 months ago the last time I was in San Diego.  Why does it feel like it was 5 or 10 years?  I’ll tell you why, because of what we have here. This is f---ing special and I am grateful to be here being a part of this experience with you.  This shit is special, this is as close to church as I ever get.”  Just like their lyrics, Atmosphere once again beautifully articulated feelings into words we can all relate to.  

Capitalizing on the momentum established by the opening acts, Cypress Hill took the stage and drove the energy up a notch.  Rappers B-Real and Sen Dog proved why these cats were the first hip hop group in history to sell multi-platinum and platinum albums and were the first hip hop group with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Longtime band member Eric Bobo provided the group’s rhythmic flavor rotating between the acoustic drum set and an array of Latin percussion, while Public Enemy’s DJ Lord commanded the turntables for this tour. 

On a stage adorned with marijuana leaves, I felt a contact high watching world class rap flows on hit tune after hit tune.  The back-and-forth vocal volleys between the intense Sen Dog and the nasally B-Real is as entertaining as ever.  As expected, the show reached peak crescendo on mega hits “(Rock) Superstar” and “Insane in the Brain” as the crowd vibrantly sang out the familiar choruses. The audience was clearly ready for this night, and they were not disappointed.

While it was a glorious night to celebrate the legendary Cypress Hill’s 30th Anniversary Tour, it was very clear there was something bigger to celebrate in San Diego – the gratefulness and excitement for the return of the communal live music experience, the magical energy that cannot be replicated listening at home in a lockdown. To borrow from Slug’s declaration noted above… live music “I’ve missed you!”

Rock on and be well!


Greg Vitalich

Photojournalist - San Diego

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