I’ve been to a good amount of hip-hop shows in my relatively short tenure as a music fan. From the way I see it, there are generally two ways to have a good/successful/exciting hip-hop show. The first is to have a genuinely “good” show. This could be because you have the tightest live band in hip-hop (see: The Roots) or maybe because you are a legitimately great rapper (see: Killer Mike), along with a slew of other possibilities.
On Friday night Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q fell into the first category to a successful hip-hop show. Danny Brown’s records are in your face, abrasive, and most of the time pretty fucking crazy, but thankfully for him all of this comes through in a live setting. His shrill voice cuts through the heaviest beats; beats that many rappers would completely drown in. He comes through with sharp verses bringing even his weirdest recordings to a great live show. “Piss Test”, “Blueberry”, “Blunt After Blunt”, and even a drawn out a cappella rendition of “I Will” all prove that Danny Brown is exactly the type of person in real life as he is on his recordings, one part crazy, one part ridiculous, one part funny, and all parts great MC.
Schoolboy Q also falls into this category of being a genuinely great rapper. His live show is more sedate than Brown, sitting down and talking to the crowd between songs, but that doesn’t make his set any less effective. Cutting through highlights from Habits and Contradictions along with a sing-a-long session to TDE compadre Kendrick Lamar’s “A.D.H.D.” Schoolboy’s set ended relatively quickly, but his time wasn’t quite done, but we’ll get to that later.
The second way to be good at a live show is a little less precise. Not everyone has the presence of a live band or the more agile flows like Brown or Schoolboy, but that’s not a fatal flaw. Rappers can make up for technical deficiencies through one major factor: flat-out, blow the roof off energy. It’s the Odd Future principle. The live show might not be the tightest thing out there, but if you can make people go wild enough to forget that, you’re in the clear. Enter A$AP Rocky stage right.
A$AP has gotten criticism for not being the greatest rapper, just having great production. That’s somewhat justified, given his production credits to the likes of Hit-Boy and Clams Casino, but it does sell him short at the same. He’s no Biggie, but he can fend for himself in the studio.
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