Hip-Hop Legacy at the Tacoma Dome

-by Braulio Aguayo Munoz 

Since the opening of the Tacoma Dome on April 23, 1983, it has hosted at least 500 concerts, with many more to come. It has hosted the likes of David Bowie, ACDC, Elton John, Aerosmith and many more. Yet we’re focusing on a whole different genre: hip-hop. The Tacoma Dome in it’s almost 40-year history has hosted around 14 big hip-hop concerts since 1990, when MC Hammer was the first to headline a show on Tuesday December 18, 1990. Although a more commercial artist, that brought hints of hip-hop along with mainstream pop sounds, he brought the first big look of hip-hop to the city of Tacoma. His hits like “You Can’t Touch This” and “Please Hammer You Can’t Hurt ‘Em” that stayed 28 weeks at the number one spot on the billboard charts.

Post MC Hammer, there was a long absence in the Tacoma Dome from the genre of hip-hop, not coming back until the year 2000, and looking back, it sounds like the best concert ever for hip-hop heads. On August 15, 2000 through the Up in the Smoke Tour, Tacoma would see the second Washington State visit of the year from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Eminem, Ice Cube, Kurupt, Xzibit and many more. So many important artists were in the Tacoma Dome on the same day and it couldn’t be more legendary. Imagine what the scenes were like listening to classics songs from the albums The Chronic and The Slim Shady LP. Hip-hop had seen its imploding times pass it, ad it was only on the rise in the city, thanks to the Tacoma Dome. 

Hip-hop was growing as the Tacoma Dome was growing, little by little we saw more appearances by artists of the genre highlighting the popularity it was gaining in the city, area, and country alike. One of the highlights of the Tacoma Dome, was hosting a stop on the Watch The Throne tour by Kanye West and Jay Z. The tour was coordinated after the drop of their collaborative album, Watch The Throne That became an instant hit with the hip-hop community. The album Debuted at no.1 selling 436,000 albums first week, making it the second largest sales week of the year (Billboard). At the time It earned Jay Z his 12th, and Kanye his 5th number one album of their careers. It contained hit songs like “Ni**as in Paris” which they performed five times in a row (Steven Graham, Heraldnet), “No Church in the Wild”, and “Who Gon Stop Me” which is the song seen in the video below of their concert at the Tacoma Dome. One could hear the electric vibes brought into the Tacoma dome that night and looking back I was only a middle schooler just getting introduced heavily to the genre not knowing that Jay Z would become my favorite rapper. Not only was the concert legendary, it was also a very rare event now in hindsight as both artists after this would not be on great terms, never providing a long-awaited sequel to this day. 

JAY Z and Kanye West – Who Gon Stop Me

Though we see the growth of hip-hop through the Dome providing “once in a lifetime opportunity” that “didn’t seem real” as Steven Graham said, what better way can I explain a hip-hop concert at the Tacoma Dome than highlighting my experience at the Astroworld Tour by Travis Scott? Planning to attend the Travis Scott concert with my little sister, the concert fell on January 29, 2019 shortly after the release of Travis’s second album Astroworld. Being only my fifth concert that I attended after attending my first four in 2018 at the White River Ampitheater (TDE tour), Showbox SoDo (Majid Jordan), and Showbox Market (BROCKHAMPTON), and Neumos (Jay Rock), I had attended a fair number of important venues in the area, now needing to check the Tacoma Dome off the list. Knowing the type of concerts Travis Scott entails, containing heavy raging and mosh pits, I defaulted for reserved seating since I was mainly there for the music listening experience. 

 

(My Ticket stub and Season Pass)

Getting to the Venue was easy as it was a school day, so parking was taken care of. Merch was being sold at booths outside the Tacoma Dome, and the Dome was decorated with a big blowup Travis Scott head outside, welcoming everyone to the Tacoma version of Astroworld. Being season pass holders, my sister and I got early entry into the venue to explore the Dome and queue up for merchandise, which was actually pretty cool.

 

(Pictures courtesy Braulio Aguayo)

As far as the Concert itself, we got the opening with Sheck Wes, an up and coming artist at the time, that is around the same vibe as Travis, just a little more rowdy in my opinion. He did his part, then came the long wait for Travis to come out. It did take a long time, but man was it worth the wait. There were two main stages, one at the rear of the Dome and one at the center, containing a ring carnival ride that fans rode throughout the concert which was kind of crazy. Even crazier than that though, there was a whole rollercoaster ride that went across both stages as he was performing hits like “Sicko Mode” and “Stop Trying To Be God”. Bass heavy as most hip-hop concerts were, the scenery couldn’t have been much better and it was a great introduction to the dome. Fireworks, smoke, sound effects, and the crowd jumping in the mosh added to the electric atmosphere that night, making it one of the most memorable concerts I’ve been to. 

 

(Photos courtesy Omar Aguayo)

From my experience at the Tacoma Dome, It definitely ranks toward the top of venues I’ve been to and one of the best venues in the state of Washington, as I find myself slowly checking off vast amounts of venues at a rapid pace since 2018. It’s definitely the biggest, but its significance to the city of Tacoma can’t be ignored. Coming back to the topic of the Dome’s importance in catalyzing the genre of hip-hop for the city of Tacoma, it only holds a brighter future than the past in sharing the beautiful art form of rap. From the early days with pop driven styles of MC Hammer, to Lyric driven like Eminem, Jay Z and Kanye, to Travis Scott bringing emphasis to production and heavy bass, The Tacoma Dome has been a sacred place of history among hip-hop for the city and state drawing in big crowds, and a place where I hope to attend many more concerts. 

About the Author

Braulio Aguayo Munoz  prepared this article as his final project for TARTS 225: Musical History of Tacoma, at the University of Washington, Tacoma. At the time he took the class in Autumn Quarter 2021, he was a senior majoring in Communications.

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