Ever since the release of his debut album, The College Dropout, in early 2004, Kanye West has become the new voice for hip-hop. Just this year, West received three Grammy awards, released his sophomore album, entitled Late Registration (which is already approaching double platinum status), made it public that President George Bush “doesn’t care about black people,” and if that’s not enough, this past Tuesday, kicked off his Touch the Sky Tour at the University of Miami’s Convocation Center. To an almost sold-out audience from all walks of life (including Bush’s friend Michael Moore), West gave a performance that made it understandable why he’s the hottest thing hip-hop has to offer.
A&M Records recording artist Keyshia Cole started the show on time using her barely 20-minute set as a form of introduction by performing material off her debut album, The Way It Is. Singing over a pre-recorded tape, Cole performed her three singles “Changed My Mind,” “(I Just Want It) To Be Over” and “I Should Have Cheated,” but the highlight of her performance came with the song titled “Love.” Cole is like a modern day version of Mary J. Blige. Not only does she sing about the downside of love, but she has the ability to make listeners feel the pain she has experienced. As Cole belted out her heart, she proved to the audience how powerful her vocals are-and why she deserved to be on the bill.
Up next was American Idol winner Fantasia. If anyone watch the third season or bought her debut, Free Yourself, then you know she doesn’t disappoint. Raised in the church, it was made evident that Fantasia doesn’t stray away from her roots as she incorporated her gospel soul through her seven-song set. Backed by a band and three backup singers, Fantasia instantly captured the audience’s attention-everyone stood up while she performed the upbeat Missy Elliott produced cut “Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself).” During the a cappella version of her song “Ain’t Gon’ Beg You,” Fantasia and her back up singers took time to showcase how talented their vocals are. Playing to the crowd, she then went into songs that have been constant on urban radio:”Free Yourself,” “Truth Is” and her ode to baby mommas, “Baby Mama.” Ending on an unexpected note, she dedicated Aerosmith’s “Dream On” to those that have lost loved ones in recent tragedies.
After a short intermission, a video appeared on the curtain as West, Fonzworth Bentley and a few others were going through the initiation of the fraternity Broke Phi Broke. Making light of his own dreams of becoming a member of a fraternity during his short stint in college, West rebels against those ideals and opts to “touch the sky” with his life. Dressed in a gray suit and aviator glasses, West appeared from the smoke performing the song of the same title as the tour. Backed by a drummer, DJ, violin players and a keyboard player, West performed most material from his two multi-platinum albums. When the opening violins played for “Workout Plan,” the entire audience erupted.
After performing a few of his more fast paced songs, West decided to slow down his set which caused him to lose a little momentum, but it was shorlived when Common joined him for their duet of “Get ‘Em High.” Although mtv.com reported hours before the tour that Common had to drop off the tour due to the scheduling conflicts of a new film he’s about to star in, he confessed to the audience that “I couldn’t miss Miami.” Common had everyone’s hands up during his performance of the first single off his recent album BE, “Go.” The highlight of West’s set wasn’t when West performed the signature dance moves off his songs from “Jesus Walks” and the current number one Billboard single in America, “Gold Digger” or when the audience’s screams overpowered the music when he performed “All Falls Down”-it was when West took time out of his show to dedicate songs to the people who helped make him who he is today: his family. Taking a short break to talk to the audience, West told them that he was filming this show in particular so that his grandmother who was celebrating her 90th birthday could see the show since she wasn’t able to attend. Having the audience all say “Happy Birthday Chic,” West then performed one of his most moving songs, “Roses,” which is a dedication to his grandmother while she was in the hospital. West then performed “Hey Mama” to his mother, who was sitting in the audience.
Overall, West proved that hip-hop is not dead. At the age of 28, West has started a movement that will only get stronger as time goes on. If this tour is any indication of where West’s career is heading, one can’t help but be excited for the release of his next album, fittingly titled Graduation.
Marcus Washington can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.