Something special happened on Friday night at the National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Kansas. Call it a hip-hop Hallmark moment.
There were about 75 to 100 people, mostly teenagers, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Jacka, a Bay Area rapper who for several years has successfully tunneled his way through hip-hop's underground and who had come into KC for a series of events over the weekend.
In the three hours between the beginning of the event and the Jacka's appearance around 11 p.m., the audience witnessed a series of uneven minor performances.
A handful of local groups appeared, running the gamut from a Soulja Boy-inspired dance troupe to Punk Rock Girls (PRG), a lively girl group that commanded the stage with inspired choreography and youthful energy.
For some of them, such as the four-member rap group who failed to deliver on their brave promise to turn the small crowd out, it looked like their first time onstage. For others, like a rapping duo who boasted that they "turn 20s into 100s," the emptiness of the building seemed to have sapped most of their inspiration.
These performances, thankfully, stood in direct contrast to the Jacka's set. Joining the Clip Up Gang, a local rap group headed by Nelson El, for their last song, the Jacka immediately got things popping.
The rapper, who in both gruff sound and cherubic appearance is a dead-ringer for Jadakiss, seemed oblivious to the fact that there were few people in attendance. "Who is drunk and good?" he asked rhetorically after his second song. (Even though no alcohol was served at the all-ages concert, a good portion of the crowd cheered in affirmation.)
The Jacka's set showed off his lyrical dexterity. The rapper seamlessly transitioned from raps about street life to R&B-inspired odes to women -- the lyrics of which, it's worth mentioning, everyone seemed to know by heart.
In the middle of the set, a few of the young girls in attendance climbed on stage. When security invited them back down to the floor, the Jacka took issue, motioning to let the girls stay. As each song passed, the original handful of girls were joined by others. Soon, the fellas joined, too.
By the end, there were more folks on stage than there were on the floor. The entire audience had joined the Jacka, dancing and rapping in unison.
To truly appreciate the spectacle, imagine being invited to stand side-by-side and sing along with your favorite artist at a concert. Now imagine being joined by everyone else in the venue.
It was more than an of-the-people moment. It was hip-hop music at its most pure, simple and unadulterated: a post-millennial block party.
What had at first seemed like a steep price of admission -- $15, to be exact -- turned out to have been a small price to pay for the surprisingly intimate performance.