A Night of Symphonic Hip Hop featuring Nelly Review by Columbus Dispatch

Monday, July 11, 2016

Columbus, Ohio • Jul 10, 2016 • 77° Scattered Clouds

The Columbus Dispatch
Concert review | Picnic With the Pops with Nelly: Symphony plus hip-hop? It's a surprise winner
You heard it right. Hip-hop star Nelly made his orchestral debut Saturday night with the Columbus Symphony at the Columbus Commons. A capacity crowd packed into the Downtown park to hear the first performance of TCG Entertainment's "A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop."

While hip-hop struggles for more widespread legitimacy, symphonies struggle for more widespread relevance. Combining the two is a bold move. Past examples, such as Nas' appearance with the National Symphony and the Young Musicians' Foundation's Yeethoven, have met with mixed reviews.

The obvious question, then, was "Did this actually work?" The answer is yes. Nelly's songs and delivery were so catchy, they held their own against a stage full of musicians. A small, acoustic pop combo was the framework of the accompaniment, and the orchestra filled out the texture.

As the "Imperial March" from "Star Wars" grew into "Shake Ya Tail Feather," he appeared in a white dress shirt and black pants, a far cry from his younger standards of St. Louis team jerseys and ball caps.

Of course, his R&B-type songs offered the most opportunity for orchestration. "The Fix," "Dilemma," "Over and Over," "Body on Me," and a cover of Thomas Rhett's "Die a Happy Man" found depth in the strings and winds.

Then there were the fun songs. Much of the lawn became a dance party with selections like "E.I.," "Country Grammar," "Hot in Herre," "Ride Wit Me" and "Air Force Ones."

An orchestra churning out the fierce bass line to "Grillz" was hilarious in a way, but it never seemed uncomfortable.

The orchestra's short opening set was programmed cleverly. Energetic pieces like "St. Louis Blues" and a Beatles medley not only warmed up the audience but also illustrated the popular musical styles that ultimately grew into hip-hop.

Is this type of performance going to appeal to everyone? No. Does it have a future? If it's carefully programmed and delivered, it definitely has the potential to draw these genres of music, and their audiences, closer together

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