By Dashaun Simmons
Photos by Shino Yanagawa
It all started with two guys who decided they didn’t want to be nervous anymore. Buckshot the young artist and Dru Ha the intern joined forces to control their future by creating Duck Down management. Starting with two groups (Black Moon and Smif-N-Wessun), Duck Down provided an opportunity to leave their first home of Nervous Records. The new company found a fresh start in the shape of a label distribution deal with Priority Records. 15 years later minus a few original soldiers, but with the addition of many new artists like Rustee Juxx, B-Real of Cypress Hill, and Pharoahe Monch, Duck Down Records has much to celebrate.
The location for the celebration was B.B. King Blues in Times Square, NYC. The lineup for the night was packed to the brim with label mates who call Duck Down home. Like any hip hop show there was the looming promise of “special guests” to add mystery to the evening. The first act was a new signee to the label named Team Faceless. They are the first all white group on the label. These guys are born and bred Manhattanites, and their song “Re-elect Dinkins” is a throwback to the old NY we all miss so much. It appears that Duck Down is diversifying their portfolio.
As other acts take the stage like Rustee Jux (with his son as the best hype man ever), and Kidz In The Hall I notice the audience is a little different. During the era of Duck Down’s first release from a hybrid group called the Fab 5, you would find a mass of blunt smoking dudes. These guys would typically wear Timberlands and Champion hoodies and, MAYBE have a down girl or two in the mix. However in this new fan base, if someone were to call a Timbs and hood check there would be a ton of failures. Hearing a few blonde–haired Saturday night party girls say “We’re here for Duck Down tonight” let me know times have changed.
DJ Evil Dee of Black Moon was on the mix (come on kick it!) playing a ton of underground and commercial heavy hitters from both the east and west coast from the East Flatbush Project to 2 Pac. Brooklyn’s own Skyzoo represents the label well during his performance. He’s on stage backed up by a DJ and trumpet player to mix things up. These three factors keep the crowd entertained as they await the main event of the night, the Boot Camp Click set. The celebration continues on with performances by the new crop of Duck Down artists like Torae, who damn near threatens the crowd jokingly when they miss a cue to rap along his chorus. On the other end, vets who have been in the game for years like Pharoahe Monch now call the label home and put down a serious show. Sprinkled with a few special guests like Large Professor, Talib Kweli, Masta Ace, and Jean Grae, the audience was very satisfied.
Once the Boot Camp Click took the stage class was clearly in session. The first phrase out of the mouth of the Buckshot “I’m gonnna make yall work tonight” let everyone know that playtime was over. After nearly seamless sets by Smif-N-Wessun and Black Moon (yes 5Ft was in the building) the new marquee artist of the label took the stage. Sean Price, who as one-half of the group Heltah Skeltah and one-fifth of the Fab 5 is now arguably Duck Down’s biggest draw. As soon as he steps out the crowd goes crazy. Just by performing a couple of mixtape verses (that the whole audience knew verbatim) Sean P captivates the entire B.B. Kings. The energy only goes higher when his seldom seen partner Rock joins him on stage to perform some Heltah Skeltah songs.
Watching Boot Camp trade songs and verses with other members playing impromptu hype men you can see the love still present. Even with none of the members of O.G.C available to perform (Starang hold ya head), it felt like 1995 all over again. The speakers were blasting everything from Black Moon’s “How Many Emcee’s” to Smif-N-Wessun’s classic “Bucktown” which finished with both members in the crowd. The evening came to an end with Black Moon performing “Who Got Da Props”, their first single on Nervous, which started everything. As seen by the level of support and love shown on this 15-year anniversary, its clear Duck Down still has the props.