I’ve been doing some event coverage for Neon Tommy. Generally, these are easier to crank out in a hurry than broad-issue based stories, so I can keep relatively close to the ASAP deadlines of digital journalism. As brother Ryan Ray calls it, “service journalism.”
In this post: some photos of Despot, Killer Mike, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire and El-P snapped at a show last week. I took these with the intention of folding them into a concert review, but ye Gods were determined otherwise. Due to preexisting conditions, by the time a review could have been posted on the news site it was really no longer news.
Thus, this. Included are my notes, punched into my iPod at the show. By my count some 300 people turned out, predominantly males. If this was an article for Neon Tommy I would probably include some discussion of who these rappers are, what Company Flow is, etc. But in this context, I’m comfortable assuming we all know what New York City is.
Killer Mike at the Echoplex, 6/26/12
Killer Mike grips the mike and holds his ground like a statue from the shoulders down. He dances not unlike a Cee Lo bobble head.
“I just want to thank California for the amazing weed,” he says.”Shout out to my girl Shane. I dedicate this song to her — it’s called southern fried.”
“I want you all to be happy, smoke weed, have healthcare.”
After raging on Obama for a minute, he pulls out his Lighter to toast “Burn.”
“It’s going to be 1992 all over again,” he says. Next, he gets to his Grammy-awarded verse from Outkast’s track “The Whole World.”
Next song dedicated to “dads, uncles and mentors,” kids who never had dads. “I cry” he said, “every night I do that song.”
“Giving you this album has been the greatest moment of my life,” he says of his freshest release, “R.A.P. Music.”
El-P takes the stage and the crowd is inhaled by a fog machine’s cloud.
1) “Request Denied”
2) “The Full Retard”
3) “Works Every Time” ft. Dave Spooner Smith on trombone.
El-P says Zola Jesus is in attendance at tonight’s show. She looks like a Melrose Place version of Yolandi Visser, standing 5 foot nothing in the audience with fluffy blond locks.
4) Drones Over BKLYN
5) “Oh Hail No” ft. Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire
Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, Killer Mike and El-P at the Echoplex, 6/26/12
6) “Tougher Colder Killer” ft. Killer Mike and Despot
“LA is the number one market of people who buy my shit,” El-P says at this point. “Not new York. L.A. [...] I’ve been coming here since 1992 with Company Flow.”
7) “Sign Here” ft. Miles Olvey on keyboard.
Good Meters/Booker T. and the M.G.’s style organ solo.
8) “For My Upstairs Neighbor (Mum’s the Word)”
9) “Stay down” ft. Nick Diamonds of Islands
10) “$4 Vic/FTL”
Post-show thoughts: Perhaps this kind of music thrives in a state of flux. Icons of a particular sort, including el-p, appear to be sprinting constantly for real credibility.
Hardcore El-P fans littered amongst the vastly-male crowd of 300 some attendees were not taken by surprise at the caliber of his performance. Rather, the chunky red-head’s song and dance elicited excitement by leveraging the passion for his catalog that has accumulated in the hearts and minds of his fans over the course of two decades of mixtapes and memories.
He, who is in the midst of an attempt to confirm his continuing status as a culturally significant hot-firespitter by releasing the dense and wrought “cancer for cure,” strolled and spoke with a prepared consistency.
Similarly, Killer Mike’s posture and penchant for long-form a cappella verse was becoming of an anointed clansman of canonized hip hop. His performance persona is akin to also-Grammy-winner Rhymefest. As with El-P, his freshest release can be heard as a kind of reality check, presciently vigilant of popular music fans’ ADHD regarding dusty, static, has-been superstars. ‘The emperor does and will continue to wear clothes,’ say tracks tracks like “The Full Retard.” ‘And for the moment, tags on his swag read: outfit features lots of Mishka swag.’
Where the efforts of more nominally substantive folks, e.g. Despot and Exquire, will eventually lead remains to be determined in real time. Their long-term prominence amongst New York’s current hive of rap fanatics is hardly locked-down at this point. To suggest that the import of Despot’s sometimes-niche, sometimes flat material is being eclipsed by the slobbered-on vulgarity of Mr. Mutherfucking would be premature, pending a mature evaluation of tracks yet to come. Despot has, at times, touched off the same “white guy keeps it real” nerve that keeps El-P’s supporters stuck on the wagon. Alternatively, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire is blasting off on the same riotous methodology that propelled the Odd Future kids to prominence in a booze-and-pills-addled heartbeat – his trial necessitates the distribution of a bulkier catalog. But he stands to reap hugely. Since ODB, there’s been no doubt about mainstream listeners’ industry-rattling voracity for rambunctious NYC hypemasters.