This year is the 20th anniversary of HOUSE PARTY. I didn’t think 20 anniversaries were that big a deal, but I was told otherwise by…well, the world, because 20th anniversary celebrations of HOUSE PARTY keep popping up everywhere. There was one in New York at the Tribeca Film Festival, then I got a call from BOW LEGGED LOU of FULL FORCE.
He said there was going to be a 20th anniversary celebration of HOUSE PARTY on Tom Joyner’s FANTASTIC VOYAGE this year, and would I be interested in attending?
That question got a quick HELL YES from me because I love Tom Joyner’s FANTASTIC VOYAGE. I’m not a cruise person, but I like this cruise. I went several years ago and basically partied every night until about 5 in the morning. On a given night, you might see three different shows. For example, I remember one night last where in ONE night I saw an R&B show with Gerald Levert, a comedy show with Steve Harvey, and late night jam session with the P. Funk All Stars.
Plus the boat is huge – it’s the size of the Empire State Building tipped on its side. It’s got a shopping mall inside. Multiple places to hear music, party…I hate to sound like a pitchman, but if you like grown folks’ music and you roll with a crew, you WILL have a damn good time.
Tom’s annual trip is one of the best organized black events I’ve ever been to. Everything happens on time, the way it’s supposed to. It’s sad that that fact is notable, but let’s just be grateful that Tom, Oscar and their team know how to do things right.
I get on the boat, and it’s literally ON from the minute you step on deck. Folks are partying like they saved up they money all year and are gonna get it in. We haven’t even left the dock yet and folks of every age group are doing their damn thing – from smooth Chicago steppin’ to straight up grindin’ and slobbin’ down on the dance floor. You know it’s serious when you see black folks deliberately jump into swimming pools with their clothes on.
Every where I go, I see friends from every period of my life, from childhood in East St. Louis to folks I’m currently developing projects with.
That night, I hit the Ron Isley fresh out the joint concert from 9 to 11pm, Chuck Brown putting it down like none other from 11pm to 1 in the morning, then meet up with the very cool Mekhi Phifer and the fellas from Saffore’s barber shop in LA check out the first day of the old school hip hop show with Kid Kangol, Chubb Rock, Montell Jordan, Full Force and a special reunion performance by Kid ‘N Play.
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By the end of the first day I’ve lost my voice entirely. Which is not good because I’ve got the official HOUSE PARTY panel the next day.
I get there early and watch the last half the movie. It’s actually pretty good. It’s been so long I can watch it as a viewer. I see trims I need to make to tighten up the comedy, but overall I like it. Which is a relief.
I realize that the day I filmed the big party scene in the film was one of the happiest days of my life, and I need to make a musical to get that good feeling back in my life.
I can’t talk because my voice is shot, but Kid, Play, Full Force, Groove and Chill hold it down just great. We haven’t all been together in 20 years, but we’ve only gotten better in the time in between. These guys are funny and smart, and I really love them all. We did something great together, and when the inevitable “why don’t you guys get together and do another one” question pops up, I’m not against it. I even have a funny idea. Hmmm…
After the panel, I go with Play who is going to meet up with CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien. He’s going to interview her for his news show before he appears on part of a panel on black religion for the latest edition of BLACK IN AMERICA.
Soledad and I have friends in common, and she’s a few years after me at Harvard. She’s a smart, beautiful and fun lady. We chat backstage then she goes on to host a great show. I sit with the producer and I compliment her on a strong panel.
On the panel, Play talks about his life’s journey. After becoming a movie star, opening a retail shop for his clothing company and marrying a beautiful actress, he found that all that wasn’t satisfying. He lost it all, and considered suicide.
He’s found God, and now this high school drop out is teaching hip hop music appreciation at the college level with an offer from an even bigger school. To top it all off, he just became a grandfather that week. Now that’s a success story.
Later I run into Tyrese and we kick it for a while, discussing his comic book Mayhem. I compliment him that he’s got a Halloween costume deal for his character. I end up reading a couple of scripts and we discuss movies and other business deals. He decides he’s staying in for the night, but I’m hitting the last show of the night, part two of the old school hip hop night.
It’s an INSANE show. Doug E. Fresh is the host, and anyone who’s seen Doug E. live can tell you he is the embodiment of the phrase Master of Ceremonies. Tonight’s line up includes Biz Markie, EPMD, Naughty by Nature, Arrested Development, Common and … hell, I’m forgetting somebody for sure.
The acts rotate on and off, doing one hit song, then letting another group do their thing. It’s an amazing presentation capped off when Doug E. Fresh, at the peak of the show, stopped and said he was going to introduce a person who has always been there for hip hop. And at 2:30 in the morning, Louis Farrakhan walks out!
He addresses the audience for 20 minutes, talking about the lives of “black, brown and white” children being put in harm’s way in wars built on lies. He talked about the power of hip hop to change lives and for rappers to take their influence seriously. He reminded the audience (I’m paraphrasing all this) that our ancestors were the original people and that we had to take our inheritance seriously.
A 20 minute lecture that stopped a hip hop show cold. And the room was so silent you could hear a pin drop. Instead of a mood killer, it actually was the perfect finale. The audience left feeling…well, blessed that they could be there.
Pass out, start all over again the next day. That night was funk night with the masters of funk: Con Funk Shun, The Bar-Kays, Slave, Brick and The Ohio Players. They did a similar format to the night before, with basically all the bands being on stage and each playing three jams then turning it over to the next group.
Con Funk Shun kicked it off with FFUN, which I hadn’t heard in a long time, and damn it sounded good. The Bar-Kays ripped HOLY GHOST, but is that song really that song without the timbales break? The Ohio Players was basically a new band except for Sugarfoot, who makes Chuck Brown look like the picture of health, but damn they were perfectly on point and funky as hell. Sugarfoot freestyled some new lyrics that made me appreciate him even more.
After the concert, Kim Whitley said a gang of folks were going to the Club on the boat (yes, the boat has a club) so that’s how the night ended, at 6 in the morning, partying with Kid, Chill, Spinderella, and a few other folks I’m not remembering in the haze of the moment. It could have been 20 years ago. I had to go pack my bags and leave the boat that night so there was no point in going to sleep. But now, like it was back then, I was in the place to be.
The next day I chilled on the beaches of St. Maartin with friends before I headed home.
While there I contemplated the big questions raised by my trip. For example, what is the Black National Anthem?
No, not this song:
Nor is it this song, although it’s a classic:
You might think it’s the contemporary classic by Public Enemy:
But that’s not it either.
My firm belief is that if Black America had to vote for a favorite song, it would be this one right here:
Because you no matter how many times it was played on the ship, folks got happy when they heard it.