Backstage with Lloyd Banks, Busta Rhymes, NORE, Nina Sky, Rock Steady Crew and Miri Ben Ari

I know you all have been following these stars, waiting to see what they do next, what they say, or what they should have done. Ill leave it up to VIBE and XXL to post their readers opinions on what should and should not have happened. In the mean time I go behind the scenes at the Daddy Yankee concert to meet the other acts and tell you how they felt and how they responded to each other.

First off, here is the list of stars: Lloyd Banks, Busta Rhymes, N.O.R.E., Nina Sky, Rock Steady Crew and Miri Ben Ari. Here is a little info on them and a little on how they are backstage.

N.O.R.E. arrived in a sharp blue suit with a small group of friends. Keeping his smile permanently attached, he slipped into the room with a sign NORE and ripped his tie off. Its f—ing hot in here was the only thing he said. Before too long, he changed into a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, grabbed an iced bottle of water and fell into the nearest chair. After a long day at a photoshoot, he wanted to relax with his boys and he did just that. The room filled with those, who felt comfortable enough calling him by his real name, Victor, in just a few. Passing a freshly rolled blunt, QB native didnt care much about anything other than getting some peace. He wasnt thinking of his latest album One Fan A Day still not being on the shelves 2 years after he finished it. Nor was he thinking of the fact that just a few feet away was the sister duo, Nina Sky, who collaborated with him on making the first reggaeton-Hip Hop hit, Oye Mi Canto. The smoke filled the room, his lungs and his mind and time departed. Only friends remained. He spent his pre-stage time chatting up, laughing and just being himself.

In the mean time, Nina Sky, were getting their makeup and their hair done. A tad panicky at the site of a camera, the beautiful girls both exclaimed Let us finish up first. Afterall, they wanted to look their best for the audience and the camera. About 30 minutes past and they gladly welcomed the attention. Common, Natalie Nicole exclaimed, Come here. They were dressed up, their hair looked flawless and their makeup would have left those 5th avenue wannabes jealous. Nicole posed for a few shots, with a slick peace sign and the look in her eyes, just asking Whos the prettiest girl of all? Natalie was pacing the room, impatiently thinking of the fans outside. Then she finally wiped off the look of concern and annoyance off her face and joined Nicole for a shot. Posing came natural to these girls, whose fans think of them as not only beautiful artists but also beautiful ladies. With competition like the Pussycat dolls, Rihanna and Christina Milian they certainly come on top. Avoiding the questionable wardrobe choices and actually singing, Nina Skys dominance is clearly obvious to those who care to pay attention. Passionate about music since the pre-teen years, the sisters sing, smile and spread their love throughout their fans. They even took the time to step outside before the show to give some autographs to their fans. Nina Sky ladies are certainly beautiful, classy and true to their Latin roots.

While Nina Sky was leaving this reporter in awe of their gentle presence, Miri Ben Ari made her own preparations right next door. Certainly representing a very different background, Miri is an Israeli-born violinist. After moving to the US, shes recorded tracks with a number of reggaeton favorites like Pitbull, Zion Lennox and Don Omar, as well as the Hip Hop stars from P. Diddy to Kanye West to Styles P. and even a Hip Hop/R&B man, Akon. Clearly excited and a little temperamental, she is impatiently looking at her make up artist unsatisfied with the final touches. A few more strokes of the brush on the cheeks and a few more touches of the pencil highlighting the lip lines and Miri is feeling better. Posing for the picture she immediately jumps: Let me see now. Getting a close up on the shot, she is relieved. The make up is impeccable, the dress makes her look like a delicate doll and her hair is under control. Time to concentrate on the music part of the performance. After her work on Kanyes last album, Miri is no longer a novice to attention and to being on stage with big stars. Her musics taken her from classical to Jazz to Hip Hop to Latin genres and she sees no reason to limit the exposure. A tad temperamental, she makes it seem elegant and remains a true lady. Her father awaits in the hallway, together with her assistant, while her manager is running around, arranging the final steps before Miri comes on stage. Her father, himself a violinist, recognizes the importance of being mentally prepared before a performance. He doesnt personally care for the music genres of the night. He is there to support his daughter. Knowing that he is just steps away, Miri is as peaceful and calm as she can be before appearing in front of thousands of fans.

Away from the ladies and to the next room, where the legendary Rock Steady Crew is warming up. Crazy Legs is proud to be the leader of the bunch. He is satisfied with the way his crew is feeling and shares in on their emotions. While, no doubt, the most serious of the bunch, he makes an effort to look constantly serious. Afterall this is a party for him as well. Ive been doing this for 29 years, he says. At the age of 40, he looks young enough to pass for a 25 year-old and the years of experience leave more of a mental than a physical mark. From Tony Touch to Rahzel, to DJ JS-1, the Rock Steady have a full roster of members, which spans over a long period of time. The truest original b-boy, Crazy is warming up early. The only difference between these kids and me, he nods toward the other 3 members, is the fact that I need to start my warm-ups earlier. He jumps up and down, getting into the rhythm, while Smerk is all smiles. Eagerly waiting to get on stage, the bunch jumps from looking at the fans downstairs through the window, to just pacing over the dressing/rehearsal room. The time is almost here and they are waiting on the side of the stage exchanging the moves with the other dancers to pass the time. Daddy Yankee is going through Rompe his last song before its Rock Steadys turn to jump on. Busta Rhymes is chilling by the sound board, while Lloyd Banks is sitting down on an equipment chest. The are both in their zone, right before getting on stage as well. Then the moment is right and everyone pours on in an artistic medley. Daddy Yankee, Busta Rhymes and Lloyd Banks on the mics and the Rock Steadys showing off the real b-boy mastery. The dance style has been an integral part of the very Hip Hop movement and they know it. The set is done and they run back up the stairs into the dressing room. Lets do 2 more [sets], They excitedly exclaim. Closely pressed together, they immediately go to review their video footage. Thats nice, B!, Thats the move!, Look at you!, they continue to exclaim as blood clearly rushes through their veins much faster after the stage time. Weve done an hour and a half off-Broadway show about 10 years ago. That was intense!, shares Crazy Legs. Before too long, they depart through a back entrance, avoiding the fans.

Roll it back about 2 hours and walk into Lloyd Banks dressing room. His personal shopper/stylist Lauren is sitting there alone. She is enjoying that moment of silence before Lloyd and his crew walk in. The room is spacious, but anyone whos ever seen Lloyds crew knows that they need a mansion to fit in comfortably. 50s built a real tight ship, she says, Some of us get to ride it now. A few of his buddies stroll in shortly, immediately followed by Lloyd. Before too long, the room is filled with about 20-25 guys, who are happy and quite content. They smile, crack jokes and look around in disbelief, realizing that 10 or so chairs are just not enough for them. So they stand, passing through the latest gossip and discussing the post-concert plans. Very much along the lines of the star of the room, Lloyd Banks, they are just chilling. Lloyd himself establishes his presence instantly. This 62 rapper seems to be spending more time at the gym lately. His frame has expanded, his biceps have grown but his demeanor has changed little. Lloyd stands tall, the Mr. Calm, Cool and Collective himself. Posing for the camera, he is assertive and comfortable with his authoritative charisma. How does it feel to be the bigger star than the man behind this concert?, I ask. It feels good. A lot of work went into this Lloyd doesnt want to toot his own horn. He looks down and avoids further questions. His mind is far away. He is in his comfort zone of being appreciated as an artist, supported by friends and respected by fans. His face still shows no emotion even moments before he gets on the mic. Being in front of thousands of eager fans, surrounded by other stars and his entourage is just another day for him. He says what he must, does what he loves and reps what he is. He is like very few other artists in the game and he knows it.

Busta Rhymes made an unusual comeback from nowhere. Perhaps best known for his 97 hit, “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See”, Busta got his name from Public Enemys Chuck D. Moving away from the sharper lyrics of his earlier years, hes lost some popularity but still remained one of the central New York Hip Hop figures. He cut his crazy dreads, took a more commercial approach to his music and decided to re-enter the NY music scene with a bang. The Big Bang is the title of his new album. Attempting to get more popularity from the Hot 97 and his latest hit NY S—, he got more attention for failing to attend his bodyguards funeral. Instantly becoming a more controversial figure than 50 cents himself, his entrance to the venue was rather predictable. Unlike Lloyd he didnt have a large crew of friends. Instead he was surrounded by about a dozen of bodyguards, establishing himself as royalty at the top of the stairways dressing room. Perhaps his Hollywood career wore off on him a bit, as he saw one person at a time before his performance. Reporters and others were called into his room for only a short while, reminding of Don Corleones daughters wedding in Godfather. Surrounded by all the protection, it reminded of the Hip Hop secret service. He was fully content with it thou. Quickly changing and departing after the show, Busta spent no time sharing with the fans. In any case, the folks waiting outside as they couldnt afford a $2 dollar ticket, certainly wouldnt buy his $15 album. Why even bother then?

This was a true and accurate narration of what took place. Amazing, inspiring and at times awkwardly flavored, it was all that Hip Hop represents right now.

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