City Winery celebrated an auspicious hip-hop-iversary, the release of The Beastie Boys’ Hello Nasty album 20 years ago.
The officiants were the kick-ass B-Boys tribune band She’s Crafty, formed after co-founder Adam “MCA” Yauch died in 2012, and named after a track from the 1986 album Licensed to Ill. The song is misogynist, about a purported gold digger, but these femme fatales, in their on-point patter, confirm that, later in their career, the Beasties declared their music a safe space. These Beastie Broads made the same guarantee. In 1994’s “Sure Shot,” from Ill Communication, the Boys had rapped:
I want to say a little something that’s long overdue
The disrespect to women has got to be through
To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends
I want to offer my love and respect to the end
Chicago-based comedians, mostly from the long-running ensemble The Kates, were the 3 MC’s and 1 DJ. Avid runner Maggie “MagRock” Tomasek took the AdRock riffs, high-kicking Amy Sumpter was MCAmy for MCA, upside-down mic-rockin’ Kendra Stevens was Ken D (in lieu of Mike D), and the equally effervescent Erica Reid was DJ ENRG on the laptop. Their mad skills kept them present, genuine and audience-focused as they shared their profound respect for the source material, localizing and feminizing lyrics as appropriate (also in response to the query, “why not cover Salt-N-Pepa or En Vogue?”).
The trio stormed the stage wearing empire-waisted dresses and bike shorts, sneakers and striped sweat jackets (quickly shed once they started rhymin’ and stealin’). ENRG wore a Don’t Tread on Me t-shirt at the beginning (and “What up, Brochachos?” after intermission), over killer kitty cat leggings, and plied the music, samples and Will Ferrell-worthy cowbell.
The first act set list included “The Wine was Delicious” sample intro, “The Move Drop,” a Licensed medley including “Brass Monkey,” ending with “Skills to Pay the Bills” and “Intergalactic.”
“Sure Shot” kicked off part two, as well as other high-energy hits “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” and “Root Down.” Other faves included “Get It Together,” “Paul Revere,” “Finger Lickin’,” “Body Movin’,” “So Watcha Want,” “Check It Out,” and finally, “Sabotage.” They seemed a bit surprised to get asked for an encore, but delivered a solid “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego” from Paul’s Boutique.
She’s Crafty has cred, chops and provides a welcome dose of estrogen with this hip-hop homage.