It was a night of retro at TD Place in Ottawa on Thursday night, both in music and in fashion. It was a night where generation gaps would be erased and people of all walks of life would descend on Landsdowne Park for one of the biggest 90s dance parties Ottawa has ever seen, headlined by 90s superstars Vanilla Ice and Salt N Pepa.
The time machine’s first stop of the evening was in 1989 with a young rapper from South Wimbledon, UK named Marvin Young, although you might know him better as Young MC and the man behind the smash hit “Bust A Move”. Young MC wasted no time getting the capacity crowd at TD Place warmed up, donning a Sens jersey was a good start. Although only a short 15 minute set it was packed with enough energy to light a fuse that would burn all night.
Color Me Badd
Following Young MC we moved a few years forward to 1991 for contemporary R&B group Color Me Badd kept the party going. For the duration of their set they kept the crowd pumped up and dancing with many of their uptempo hits and even tossed in a couple of their more mellow tracks like “I Adore Mi Amor” before capping things off with their monster hit “I Wanna Sex You Up”. It was a fun performance but not one of the stronger ones of the night.
Next up was a trip back in time again to the year 1988 for New York based rapper Rob Base. At this point in the night the arena floor and stands had turned into a giant dance party with people moving and dancing at their seats in the aisles, heck they were even dancing while waiting in line for more beer and food. Base brought along his massive hits “It Takes Two” and “Joy and Pain” and the crowd was singing along note for note, word for word.
Salt N’ Pepa
Between acts the party continued with a DJ spinning the best dance tracks of the 80s and 90s and even a few from the early 2000s before we all jumped in the time machine again for a trip all the way back to 1986. All the way back to a group that is celebrating 30 years this year. A group that led the way for other female rap groups and changed the face of hip-hop forever. Backed by one of the best DJ’s in the music business, DJ Latoya Hanson aka Spinderella, Salt N’ Pepa were in the house ready to “Push It” in Ottawa. With zero disrespect to the always entertaining Vanilla ICE who was headlining the night, Salt N’ Pepa’s set was out of this world. The set was so well orchestrated and choreographed that it felt natural.
Over the course of their set they brought the audience on a musical journey featuring some of the biggest hip-hop hits as well as a surprise appearance by Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and even some Michael Jackson. From “Shoop” to “Whatta Man”, for which they invited some of the gentleman in the audience to join them on stage, it was an hour of energetic fun. Hard to imagine that any of us in the audience had any energy left for their big closing (especially since most of us in attendance haven’t been to a dance club in about 20 years, myself included) but, surprisingly, everyone was on their feet, dancing and singing along for “Push It”.
Anyone who has been following the evolution of the music industry over the past few decades has to admire what Salt N’ Pepa has done, not just for hip-hop but for women in music in general. Watching them in action was magic.
The final trip in the time machine brought us to the year 1990. A young man named Robert Matthew Van Winkle was about to hit the big time in hip-hop with a rap song set to the tune of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”. The song was called “Ice Ice Baby” and the Van Winkle would become Vanilla Ice. “Ice Ice Baby” would become the first ever hip-hop song to top the Billboard charts.
His set looked a little bit more like something out of an Alice Cooper show and his entrance was only second to that of Salt N’ Pepa’s. But his set was nothing short of a 90s block party. After about two songs in he invited as much audience as he could possibly fit on the stage to join him and that’s where the party began.
From a recording aspect you’d wonder why an artist best known for one (“Ice Ice Baby”), maybe two (“Ninja Rap”), songs would be the headliner on a tour featuring some of the biggest hip-hop acts of all time? That answer is simply style and swagger and Vanilla Ice has them both. Not only does the man know how to put on a show, he clearly has fun in the process. Last night was my second time seeing Vanilla Ice perform live, the last time was about 20 years ago, and unfortunately it seems that one of us has aged 20 years since then (in case you are wondering which one of us, I’ll give you a hint…it wasn’t him). At the start of his set he tossed a water bottle into the crowd, well it was more than a toss because that bottle soared over the general admission crowd and up into the stands all the way up to Row H to yours truly…it’s an interesting souvenir but a souvenir nonetheless.
At 48 years old Vanilla Ice commanded a stage filled with women, and men, of all ages who all had one simple intention party like it’s 1999 (or at least 1990) and that’s exactly what they did.
The night, overall, was nothing short of amazing. You’d never know it today but I was big into the 80s and 90s hip-hop scene growing up. I used to have all the Rap Trax cassettes and listened to them on my Sony Walkman on the walk to school. It was fun to go back to the good ol’ days and seeing that some of my favourite old school hip-hop acts still have what it takes to put on a party. Based on the turn out last night I’d say if someone opened an old school hip hop nightclub in Ottawa it would be packed every night!
Still plenty of action to come over the next month at TD Place, Our Lady Peace and I Mother Earth are rocking out as we speak and next week it’s back to the 80s again as Culture Club and Platinum Blonde ride into town. For a preview of all the shows coming up at TD Place check out our preview post here!