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By Journalist Ms. Jones
HARLEM – “It’s Showtime, at the Apollo!” That’s the song many of us grew up to as Steve Harvey hosted the televised amateur night competition starting in 1987. Apollo’s Amateur Night, America’s longest running talent show, launched the careers of many artists, such as Jazmine Sullivan, H.E.R., Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo, Luther Vandross, Alicia Keys, and Chris Rock. Amateur Night contests began in 1934 when the Apollo opened and has occurred almost every Wednesday since it opened. However, they stopped in 2020 once COVID-19 hit. After being closed for almost two years, Talk Show Host Nick Cannon co-hosted Amateur Night at the Apollo last Wednesday, with Apollo’s longest running host, New York King of Comedy Capone.
“Honestly, I don’t feel like it’s [been almost two years off] because we take off a couple of months every year… for November, the end of the show, and then we come back in February. So, it just seems like an extended time off,” said Capone “The Gangsta of Comedy,” who has been hosting Amateur Night at the Apollo for 27 years and is friends with Cannon. “I’ve known Nick for a long time…When you feed off good energy, it’s always a good show.”
Cannon is no stranger to Harlem. He tapes the Nick Cannon Show every weekday in Harlem.
“I said I gotta be here. I told ‘yall. We for the culture ‘cuz we supposed to. Don’t it feel good to be amongst the people again?… A few white people showed up. Ya’ll welcome, ya’ll welcome,” said Wild ‘N Out Host Cannon as he joked with the crowd and even made jokes about himself. “Yes, I know, I got a lot of kids. I see ya’ll judging me. The Bible said be fruitful and multiply. I’m just following the Lord…I love my kids so much, I gave each one of them their own mama.”
Apollo’s Amateur night crowd is known for being a tough audience. They will stand and cheer for you if you are good or boo you off the stage if you are bad, which will result in C.P. Lacey, the “Executioner,” ushering them off of the stage as he dances. Due to mandatory mask regulations, producers wanted to make sure they knew how the audience felt if they couldn’t hear them correctly. So, they gave them double-sided “Yass!!” and “Boo!!” fans.
“The fans are new. This was the first time we tried the fans. We wanted to be understanding that because of COVID, audiences are masked and it can be hard to see emotion. So, we thought the fans could help to share how people were feeling during the show. Plus, they work well to cool down!” said Fatima Jones, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at the Apollo as she explained how the audience is the judge and decides which contestants will “be good or be gone.”
No one was booed loud enough for C.P. Lacey to escort off on February 16th. It may be because they rubbed the “Tree of Hope” on the side of the stage before they performed. The “Tree of Hope” is believed to bring good luck to contestants and is the remains of a chestnut tree that used to stand outside the old Lafayette Theater in Harlem. One person who definitely did not get booed was Kofi Boakye who came in first place at Amateur Night for playing the piano with swag.
“This is what I do… tried and true to it. I’m very passionate about what I do because of my upbringing. I grew up in a single parent household and instead of taking the bitter side of that, I made it better for me. So, I always looked at making a positive outlook and music was that thing that has always been that positivity for myself,” said Boakye who has been playing the piano for 13 years and started playing at age eight. “The next step is the next round… on March 23. I’ll be back here to hopefully get first place again and advance to the next round so I can…get closer to that $20,000… I’ve been working on a lot of things behind the scenes. I’m currently working on doing music for movies and commercials… So, this is just a stepping stone for me, a step in the right direction.”
Contestants have to make it through four rounds: the first round, Quarter Finals, Top Dog, and Super Top Dog. Boakye has competed in the past and has grown to be a better performer. The second place winner, Ajada Reigns, has had a similar experience.
“[Last time] I made it to the second round. Hopefully, I can make it to the Grand Finale and win the prize and put the money towards an album,” said Reigns who has been singing for 15 years and recently moved from New York to South Carolina. “I drove 10 hours to be part of this show… You never know who’s in the room, who’s watching. So, I just… continue to get that exposure, to just put my craft out there… and bless somebody in some way, shape, or form.”