Calgary can kick it: Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Maseo turn it up [Review]
Calgary, AB – On July 24, legendary producers Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest and Maseo from De La Soul, brought their duo DJ set to Commonwealth Bar & Stage in Calgary. The Calgary crowd showed so much love for the renowned pair of hip-hop pioneers—the show turned into one of the biggest, bumping parties of the summer. The DJs dropped beats and the crowd responded with enthusiastic screams, raised beers, and booty drops.
Commonwealth typically gets a lot of patronage. But this weekday show left the inner-city bar more packed than on most weekends. By 11:30 p.m., the audience was up on their feet and grinding: no holds barred. There were attendees of all ages, from the barely legal to approaching-mid-life-crisis, strutting their stuff on the dance floor. Arms were flailing, heads were bobbing, and hips were swaying. It was full embodiment of that “Can I Kick It” line: “If you feel the urge to freak, do the jitterbug. Come and spread your arms if you really need a hug.”
The set list was a serious schooling in fine music. The golden De La Soul and ATCQ oldies were a mainstay, and the Native Tongues collective was solidly represented. The crowd sang along to De La Soul’s “Me, Myself and I,” and shouted lyric-after-lyric during “Can I Kick It.” Newer tracks like Pusha T’s “Numbers on the Board” also dropped, as well as classics like Mos Def’s Aretha Franklin sampled “Ms. Fat Booty.” Maseo got the audience chanting, “A Tribe Called Quest,” on repeat, several times. He bantered back and fourth with the audience and occasionally dropped a jolly belly laugh into the mix— you know, the laugh that was popularized on “Feel Good Inc.” by the Gorillaz. That’s your boy, Maseo. Midway through the set, the boys played “My Girl” by the Temptations and Maseo crooned along, in true lady-killing style.
Watching Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Maseo on stage is such a baffling experience. The two of them are complete opposites, but their onstage chemistry is infallible. Maseo— a man of class— had his wine glass propped up on the decks, along with a bottle of red wine. He frequently filled it throughout the night and even took pause at 2 a.m. to refill the cup. This was no champagne shower— this was a proper old school party.
Ali Shaheed Muhammad is a dedicated Muslim, and therefore doesn’t drink or smoke. But he didn’t need anything except his music to stay buzzed during the evening. Ali and Maseo never perform the same set twice, so everything they do is improvised. The duo would glance over at one another before dropping a beat, and erupt with giddy wide-eyed smiles. They may be in their fourties, now. But when they bump their jams, it feels like they are 19 years old again and rediscovering the world of hip-hop with pure delight.
Towards the end of the evening, Maseo called one of the fans on to the stage: a cute little twenty-something in a Wu-Tang hoodie and a sweet pair of Nike kicks. She had fixed herself right in front of centre-stage and sang along to all of the tracks throughout the set. The girl accepted Maseo’s invitation and leapt on to the stage to rub her hands all over Ali. It was a true caress of fan infatuation— and may very well be the highlight of this lucky girl’s summer.
Ali and Maseo played their set right up until closing time. The set went on for almost four hours, with no break in between. The last hour of turn-tabling was mostly instrumentals. It included several Samba-worthy Latin beats, as well as some slower wind-and-grind jams. The set came to an end just before 3 a.m. Although most of the crowd had headed on home for the evening, Maseo took the time to thank the “music fans.” He told the remaining handful of hip-hop heads that they were “true music fans.” He thanked the Commonwealth bartenders and security personnel for putting up with the crowds’ “drunk asses.” And, of course, he thanked his brother Ali, for being Ali.
Photography by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada