Being from Houston, I might be more familiar with Trae Tha Truth than some of you all. It’s not every day that I’m able to make my way out to a rap show, so I figured that this would be the perfect end to my first day at SXSW.
I showed up to the venue about two hours before Trae was set to go on, and I wasn’t sad about it. I’ll take any opportunity to sit and watch music from a balcony I can get during SXSW. I was checked thoroughly before entering the venue and the security guard told me they were on the lookout for firearms specifically. Comforting.
There was a minimal crowd when I arrived, so I walked around and checked the place out for the best viewing areas.
I settled into a chair on the second level with a perfect view of the stage from the left side and hoped for the best.
Before I get to the performers, I have to say that being the emcee for rap shows can’t be easy. I can say that there has to be other phrases that can be yelled into the microphone other than the following:
“IF YOU’RE A FAN OF ______, MAKE SOME MOTHERF***ING NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Oh man, I know you guys got live for our last performer, but this next guy is gonna blow you OUT OF THE MOTHERF***ING WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
The first few acts were honestly not memorable. Some had cardboard cutouts of themselves being carried through the crowd, and others requested everyone pull out their phones and follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and various other avenues of social media.
It reeked of desperate self-promoting.
I’m not beyond it, but it didn’t seem like the right platform to do so.
I was really waiting on Houston rapper, Trae Tha Truth, to get my night started. He’s long been a mainstay in the music storage on my iPhone, but it certainly took a while to get there.
Before I was able to see Trae perform, I was able to sit through the likes of O.T. Genasis and company.
Now, I’ve clearly been slippin’ on my current rap hits list, because everyone seemed to know the words to the majority of the songs he played… most notably, “CoCo”.
To be fair, there are only about 14 words in the song… There are quite a few interviews I’ve read with him and Busta Rhymes (who discovered him at a show) that showcase their actual, real life love for both cocaine and baking soda. They seem like neat guys.
Anyhow, shortly after his set was finished, Trae came out. I perked up and was ready to go.
It wasn’t until he jumped out into the crowd that I really started to analyze his performance, and those of the other artists I had seen up until that point in the evening.
Don’t get me wrong. When I heard the beginning to the song, “Swang”, I got pretty excited. Trae jumped down into the audience and started singing the song with fans. The DJ would periodically cut the sound so the crowd could sing along to the song on the accent parts, but I couldn’t get past the fact that I hadn’t heard a single rapper finish an entire song using only their beat and a microphone.
Each rapper was using their regular backing track as if it were downloaded from iTunes minutes before the performance, and they just had a microphone hooked up so they could yell over it when not including the audience.
I’ve seen plenty of live videos from Jay Z, Kanye, Biggie, and 2Pac… some of the greatest rappers of all time. I’ve seen live videos of Aesop Rock, Brother Ali, and Atmosphere. None of the aforementioned rappers have to use that sort of backing track. I’m really not sure whether it’s something that’s a necessity, or something that just enhances the live experience. I don’t think anyone else paid much attention to it.
Apparently I was the only person wondering why they weren’t really performing the entirety of their tracks, or why there’s always a need to scream a rap song into a microphone when the whole purpose of using such a device is to amplify your voice so you don’t have to raise it.
Again, I’m probably nitpicking here, but it really distracted me from the show.
After Trae exited the stage, the whole club was packed to capacity for 2 Chainz.
When he came out, the place exploded. The energy was insane. Everyone started screaming and boy, did the dance party start.
*Attention young men of SXSW*
You don’t have to dance. Trust me, it’s better if you don’t.
From where I was sitting, I got a bird’s eye view of some of the worst 21-25 year old white-guy-dancing I’ve seen in my entire life… and that includes the past dancing escapades of yours truly.
I ended up taking off after about 3 or 4 songs from 2 Chainz. There were a ton of people hoping someone would vacate their seat, and I hate that feeling of not being able to get a good view of something I’m really wanting to see, so I was pretty sure someone else would benefit more from the view I had than myself.
I waded through the sea of people and did my best (and succeeded) to not burn myself on the plethora of joints, blunts, a few cigarettes, and one very stubborn cigar smoker, and made my way out to the front of ACL Live to catch my Uber driver before he abandoned me.
All in all, it was a 7/10 in terms of the experience. It was cool to see some of the bigger names in rap, and perhaps some artists on the rise, but the majority of the positive rating came from the crowd’s energy they were pumping into the club. If they weren’t feeling it, it would have been a disaster.
By no means am I suggesting I wouldn’t give it another shot, but maybe the showcase atmosphere wasn’t the right place to see all of these rappers in there at once.