If you like old school hip-hop, the I-X Center was the place to be Thursday night as the I Love the ‘90s tour made a stop at one of Cleveland’s newest concert venues on June 30th.  This tour features some of the best hip-hop artists from ‘80s and ‘90s.  Many of the fans dressed the part and several more were dancing in their seats, aisles and some even made a makeshift dance floor between the floor seats and the bleachers.

It was an old school hip-hop party.

The group that hit the Cleveland stage included: Tone Loc, Coolio, Color Me Badd, Kid ‘n Play, Rob Base, Salt N Pepa and Vanilla Ice.

After a 20 minute delay from the posted start time, Tone Loc came on stage to the familiar sounds of “Funky Cold Medina.”  Tone seemed very impressed by all the fine-looking female fans in attendance.  He said that he may move here, but then thought better of it once he realized it gets cold in the winter.

Tone then invited some of the ladies in the front on stage to help him do the “Wild Thing.”  It was two songs and out for Mr. Loc but before he left the stage, he congratulated Cleveland for winning the NBA Championship.  This became a common theme for each act, as every artist mentioned this in their set; which of course got a huge response from the audience.

It’s great to finally say Cleveland won something!

Coolio was the next artist to perform.  There was a very long delay between sets as they had to assemble an electronic drum set, guitar and DJ equipment for his band.  Once everything was ready, Coolio dressed in white (including a white Cavalier’s hat) hit the stage with “1,2,3,4 (Sumpin’ New).”  His guitarist paid tribute to Prince by playing a little bit of “Purple Rain.”  Then it was a string of hits: “Fantastic Voyage,” “C U When I Get There” and the Grammy winning “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

Next was the early ‘90s boy band Color Me Badd.  Now down to a trio; original members Bryan Abrams, Mark Calderon and Kevin Thornton look a bit different from their boy band days but still sounded great on their hits “All For Love,” and “I Adore, Mi Amor.”  They even did a nice cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.”  However, when came time for their biggest hit “I Wanna Sex You Up” the music cut out in the middle of the song.  They were then going to try it a Capella, but stopped.  After a confusing few seconds, they guys said “I guess they are cutting us off” then thanked the audience and left the stage to a chorus of boos from the crowd.  I can’t believe the promoters didn’t let them finish the song, or at least re-start it.   That was the biggest misstep of the night, and it wasn’t Color Me Badd’s fault.

Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin, better known as Kid ‘n Play were the next artists on the bill.  Both were dressed in matching blue suit jackets and black shirts as the duo kicked off their set with “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody” and “Last Night.”  After “Kid vs. Play (The Battle)” both took a little time out to jokingly thank their “sponsors” Just for Men, Ben Gay and Icy Hot, but not Viagra.  They ended their entertaining set with “Rollin’ with Kid ‘n Play” where they still demonstrated their patented dance moves.

Rob Base played a medley of old school songs which segued into his hit “Joy and Pain” which became a huge call and response with the audience.  His set closed with one of the biggest hip-hop hits of all time “It Takes Two.”  Everyone in the audience was on their feet and dancing to this iconic song.

The first ladies of hip-hop, Salt N Pepa with long time DJ Spinderella were next to grace the stage.  These ladies know how to keep the party going by opening their set with “Do You Want Me” and “Shake Your Thang.”  Salt wanted to make sure that there was an old school hip-hop audience in the house so she sang a couple of songs like “Engine #9” to see if they could finish the lyrics.

Of course the crowd responded enthusiastically to everything she threw at them.  The duo then went into a medley of songs “I’ll Take Your Man,” “R U Ready,” and “My Mic Sounds Nice” and finished up by playing the entire “Let’s Talk About Sex.”

Spinderella took a turn in the spotlight by playing some rockin’ jams like “Sweet Child ‘O Mine,” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  Salt then invited some ladies on stage to rock out to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” with them.  About 20 or so women took that opportunity to dance and take selfies with the Salt N Pepa and it looked like everyone was having a good time.

They closed their show with their three biggest songs: “Whatta Man,” “Shoop,” and “Push It.”  For the last song, the ladies broke out the multi-colored leather jackets that they wore in the music video.  It was like watching “Yo! MTV Raps” live on stage!

More than 3 hours from the start of the show, Vanilla Ice finally made his appearance.  He was only the second artist of the evening that had live musicians play with him.  He had a drummer, a guitarist and a DJ.  Oddly enough, he also had two sidemen dressed as scary clowns that would roam the stage and spray the audience with water bottles.

During his set he congratulated the Cavs for winning the championship and thanked us for letting Miami borrow LeBron for a few years so that the Heat could win a couple championships.  He then said that the curse is over and that it’s the Indians turn next.  He noted that he has been a fan since “Wild Thing” Vaughn from Major League.

Vanilla Ice played all the hits starting with “Play That Funky Music,” “Ninja Rap 2” and of course the song that put him on the map “Ice, Ice Baby.”

It was a great night for a dance party.  Everything seems a little bit more fun now that we finally won that championship!


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Greg Drugan has been attending concerts since 1982 and has seen everyone from AC/DC to ZZ Top. Classic rock is his forte, but he is also well versed in alternative and pop music. When not attending concerts, Greg can be found teaching history, psychology and the history of rock n roll at a rural high school where he also serves as the head track coach. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with his family.