This is a post 95 percent of you won't give two damns about. That's how it goes. I'll try and get around to satiating everyone's desire for a #cookietalk post or some actual quant-based analysis later today. For the other 5 percent, keep on reading ...
I had the distinct pleasure of being in attendance at last night's Phonte + 9th Wonder show (feat. Rapsody and Median, with opening act A.R.K. The God) with @K_Mart41 at The Door in Deep Ellum last night. Having never attended a hip-hop show on this scale before (as you might guess, my past life in Tyler didn't afford many opportunities to attend the types of live shows that appeal to me, by which I mean that good hip-hop acts smartly avoid Tyler), I was a tad unsure of how the timeline of the evening would unfold. A grand total of one show doesn't qualify me to speak authoritatively on this subject, but I'm not sure that most shows have nearly two hours of downtime between the doors opening (8 p.m.) and the show itself starting (sometime after 9:30 p.m.). Then again, the venue was slow to fill, and probably didn't approach its max capacity until close to showtime, so I suppose it all makes sense.
I've read a lot of album/concert reviews in my time, and the wordy ones have a tendency to annoy the everloving crap out of me (especially the ones that try and fail to emulate the pretentious ramblings of a Pitchfork album review), so I'll keep this short and sweet: it was an excellent show. If you consider yourself a hip-hop fan and had the means and opportunity to attend this show, you missed out. Median kicked off the main event on a strong note, Rapsody absolutely destroyed the mic (I was especially looking forward to seeing her live, and she did not disappoint), and Phonte and 9th were everything I expected them to be, showcasing a good mixture of newer material (Charity Starts At Home) and the classics (The Becoming, The Minstrel Show, Connected).
A few thoughts, in no particular order:
● The ovation was predictably thunderous for the respective arrivals of 9th and Phonte on stage, but the crowd really kicked it into the next gear once Phonte tapped into material from The Listening. I don't think that's necessarily a knock on his newer solo work, either; it's more a testament to the enduring legacy of The Listening, an album that easily ranks among the best hip-hop records of the 2000s. People love the classics, and the classics were delivered.
● No, but seriously, I can't say enough good things about Rapsody. Phonte made the point during the show that Rapsody was a great MC period, as opposed to being just a great female MC, and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment ... but if we're going to get into the whole "comp MCs on the basis of their gender" thing, Rapsody may be the best/most talented female MC going right now. If your counterargument to that assertion invokes Nicki Minaj, I'm going to slit my own wrists and willingly bleed out.
● One of the moments of the night: Rapsody turns to the slow jams and begins a one-on-one serenade to some kid in the front row before everything stopping down and asking, "Are you even 18?" to great laughter. She also took his hat and wore it as part of the bit, but I'm not sure she ever gave it back to him. And, yes, Phonte ran with some hilariously funny bits of his own between songs.
● During the middle of their set, Phonte and 9th switched out and 9th began rhyming while Phonte assumed control of the turntable. Queue the entire venue going apes--- and phones being whipped out en masse to record the spectacle. Phonte claimed afterwards that they would probably never do that switcheroo again; if true, Houston and Austin -- their next two tour dates -- are getting screwed. It was an awesome moment.
● I was standing about 20-25 feet away from the stage (and still have the ringing ears to prove it), and was pleased with the enthusiastic response of the crowd up front. You never want one of your favorite artists to come away disappointed with the crowd you're a part of. A few times, though, I glanced backwards, and saw little in the way of discernible audience engagement – few bopping heads, fewer raised fists and so on. It wasn't completely dead behind me, but it wasn't nearly as good as it should have been or could have been. Maybe expecting the entire venue to rock out is expecting too much, though. It was, after all, a Thursday night, with a substantial percentage of the crowd having endured the 9-5 grind of the workday before making it out to Deep Ellum.
● More frustrating, though, were the handful of people in my immediate vicinity – and even in front of me – who stood rigidly in place like Tiki head statues and didn't clap, yell, sing along, or even show much indication of being sentient beings. I would imagine that every live show has its share of people who do this, but the frustration is magnified when the disinterested types in question occupy prime space close to the stage. What the hell is the point of going to a live concert and then figuratively and/or literally sitting on your hands? Why drop the $20-25 (or whatever) in the first place? If you don't want to be there, why be there? And, yes, I experience the same frustration with those people who attend baseball games, sit in their seats, and then act as though there isn't a baseball game going on. You know the type. It's ultimately your money and your time and your prerogative, but that doesn't mean your state of apathy won't bug the hell out of me.
● I'm pretty sure I smelled reefer at one point. I'm reminded of this Jay-Z track at the 2:45 mark. No problems whatsoever in the crowd, though – people were generally accommodating, and even conscious of whether they were blocking the view of the people behind them.
So, yeah. Good times. I just wish I had had the presence of mind to ask Phonte whether he liked his gig, though.