Gospel Hip Hop Explosion concert crumbles

Last week’s Gospel Hip Hop concert was expected to be uplifting. Unfortunately, the artists and the coordinators couldn’t seem to pull it off.

Six minutes until show time Thursday night, and there were only 17 people inside Los Medanos College’s spacious Recital Hall. The room could have easily seated 200. Despite the small audience, there was some excited chatter going on as a few more people shuffled in.

The chatter dissipated as the crowd waited for event coordinator Kareem Bennett to show up. In the meantime, DJ Howie T blasted gospel rap music to fill the silence. Though the show was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. it didn’t get under way until 8, and by then only slightly more than two dozen people were seated – including the performers.

Bennett finally arrived, apologized for the delay and got started. The first performers were Bay Area gospel rappers the Conscious Brothers. There was just one microphone so they had to share. In the first song, one of the brothers seemed to forget the lyrics and the music in the background was louder than the actual words.

The second song went smoother but the crowd was still dead. Up jumped a hype woman to try to get audience participation going – it seemed to work as the clapping increased.

The crowd appeared hopeful by the time second act Young Hollow appeared. He spoke about how the word of God is “supernatural” and explained that when he was a teenager, he experimented with Satanism, which got a few gasps from the crowd.

It appeared that Bennett and the DJ were experiencing some difficulties with the CD, so while they worked to fix this glitch, Young Hollow continued to speak-awkwardly. He talked in circles for a few more minutes until the DJ gave the signal the music was ready.

The crowd’s energy seemed to pick up as Hollow ran through a quick two-song set. Even another fellow performer got up and danced to his songs while concertgoers clapped loudly.

Next up was Oakland native Jesus Peace, also known as Word Nerd. His first song was “Renew Yur Mind” and he gave a charismatic performance as he simultaneously rapped and danced. Some members of the audience seemed highly amused as he went into the aisles and danced right next to them.

Halfway through his second song, “Waterworld,” the lights went out. It seemed no one knew what was going on but that fact only distracted Jesus Peace temporarily. He continued to preach until the lights came back on. This didn’t spell the end of the technical troubles because even though the lights came on, they started to flicker again. Still the preaching continued and after a few minutes, the flickering lights stopped.

When it came time for Kareem Bennett himself to perform, he made a speech about changing himself into a godly person then attempted to get the crowd to stand. Only half of the audience stood but he continued to perform anyway. After his set, which featured his wife and singer Shanelle Bennett, he preached about what it’s like to be a child of god as the next performer showed up.

This man was introduced as Brother Influence. After a few funny jokes and some terrible words about sex and “killing your enemies with kindness,” he gave up the mic to DJ Howie T who then introduced his cousin — or does it count as an introduction when the name of the performer isn’t announced?

Though his performance wasn’t bad, the night seemed to drag on. Even another concert attendee had a few remarks about how long this thing was taking to end.

After the unnamed rapper’s song, Jesus Peace came back up to do an encore of “Waterworld” and though the audience was exhausted, his excited demeanor actually got more people to sing along and stand for his song.

There was still a lot more to be said even after everyone had performed. Bennett preached some more and Jesus Peace told a story about past abuse and how it affected him mentally. Even after this there were two prayers — one for the general audience and one for those who accepted Jesus into their lives. Even after the DJ assured us we’d be set free “in a minute,” Bennett took an extra 10 minutes or so to thank LMC and all his supporters.

Attending this event was supposed to be inspiring and uplifting but for more than a few, it was an exhausting endeavor.