Kris Kross leaves no doubt they are a couple of likable kids rapping up there on stage

September 03, 1992|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Back before the Jackson Five made it to the big time, some of the singers that shared the bill with them swore that Michael Jackson was a midget. At the time, it seemed the only answer; no pre-teen, they reasoned, could possibly possess that much confidence and poise.

With Kris Kross, on the other hand, it's all too easy to believe that these two truly are kids. Last night at Pier Six, for example, the two Chrises -- Mack Daddy (14-year-old Chris Kelly) and Daddy Mack (13-year-old Chris Smith) -- certainly came across as likable and energetic, whether leading the crowd through a make-some-noise routine or showing their stuff with some fancy stepping at the end of "Warm It Up." Add in all the hits, and it was more than enough to get the kids in the crowd (which is to say, most of the people there) screaming.

Even so, Kris Kross lacked the confidence and finesse usually expected of a multi-platinum recording act, and that made their 35-minute performance maddeningly uneven. Of course, considering that this was the beginning of their first U.S. tour, some of that may be ascribed to opening-night jitters. After all, it's easy to imagine how, in a burst of excitement, the two would have rushed their show-starting a capella rhymes before finally finding the beat to "We're In Da House."

It wasn't all nerves, though; some of it was simply a matter of not having the skills and seasoning necessary for a stage show like this. That wasn't a problem when they stuck to the hits -- most of the 4,000 fans on hand were too busy jumping to have noticed any slips in "Jump," and the rap-along response that greeted "Warm It Up" more than covered for any slackness in the delivery.

But Daddy Mack's bad diction muddied much of "It's a Shame," while both ended up a bit ahead of the beat during "Can't Stop the Bum Rush." And though they looked kinda cute striking tough-guy poses through "Lil' Boys in Da Hood," their rhyming was too much like play-acting to be convincing as gangsta rap.

In fact, the Chrises were eclipsed on most counts by one of their opening acts, female rapper M. C. Lyte. Granted, Lyte not only has a few years on the Kris Kross kids, but considerably more experience, with three albums and several tours.

Mostly, though, it was the fact that her raps had something to say. While the content of a typical Kris Kross tune can be summed up by the title -- "Jump," "I Missed the Bus," "A Real Bad Dream" -- Lyte's raps deal with heavier issues. "Capuccino," for instance, paints a frighteningly vivid picture of the horrors of random violence, while "Poor Georgie" uses a shoulda-been love story to drive home a point about drinking and driving. Add in the first-rate scratching of her DJ, Master T, and Lyte's performance was everything Kris Kross' should have been.

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