Substantive experiences with music are most likely going to occur at shows in the era of streaming music. Let’s face it, in the age of streaming music and curated soulless playlists, tracks are fleetingly and briefly consumed and then switched up for the next best song. This is not a bad thing however. It means the value of the live product has increased. Good artists have taken notice. If paydays are going to depend on live shows, then a dope live show must be delivered. Don’t get it twisted however, the motivator is not money – at least it shouldn’t be the main motivator. The good ones present incredible live experiences because they love being on stage performing. On a Thursday night in Mesa, 60 concertgoers experienced exactly what I’m talking about.
Now this wasn’t meant to be a local show. The lineup was just stacked with local artists supporting Young Roddy and Trademark. You wouldn’t have known the difference. Arizona rappers stepped up and dropped headliner worthy-performances. It was amazing to see each dude and group put out the type of energy not typically expressed by the undercard. I believe it’s the understanding of the importance of the live product or maybe it’s the post one-shot era brought on by Eminem; whatever it is – it was dope to watch.
First up was Eddie Wellz with Charlie Mumbles deejaying and Salty Brasi supporting as hypeman. As people were still entering and/or standing around socializing far from the stage, the duo did something very smart to draw attention towards them. They dropped Suede off Anderson .Paak’s and Nnxwledge’s collaborative EP. Anything Anderson is popping right now including tracks off this 2015 release. The crowd immediately looked up and took notice. Any one who didn’t move forward was then summoned vocally by Eddie Wellz, and subsequently pulled up to the stage because of the energy emanating off it. Eddie Wellz is a firecracker on stage. When his left hand starts getting thrown around along with his dreads, he’s a sight to see. And his passion for rhyming is evident. He doesn’t so much spit his lyrics as much as he exudes his soul through rhyming. Tracks such as Skarz and Strikez and (Hu)Man Up make for great live experiences because of the outburst of emotion accompanying the live experience.
ABCFREEIME is a collective and this live performance featured members Kirsin, Ay-R, Godsend, and Brix. Each member brings his own personality to the stage and the balance is dope. Kirsin is wild. He’s a fireball on stage, bouncing all over the place like a Tasmanian devil. Godsend and Brix are relatively more chill and step up when it’s their turn to spit and drop bars. Ay-R is in between – exuding different types of energy based on who’s rhyming and when it’s his turn, he stands stoic and drops dope rhymes with his deep voice. While Ay-R and Kirsin are more front of the stage, in your face type performers Brix stays in the back a little more. The energy, just like Eddie Wellz, is there. One Dollar Billa, with the Guatanamera sample, is an especially dope song live. The bouncing bass makes the head nod and the rappers attack the beat so viciously. The other songs that banged live were Sour and Oh Well. Sour is the closest song the group has to a party song. On a turn up Thursday, Sour turned Club Red into a house party with ABCFREEIME.
Next up was Teammate Markus and this night must’ve been a home game for him. Folks came out. The crowd expanded by 20 or so when Markus went on. He rocked the stage all-alone with no problem. I mean his DJ was on stage with him, and a camera man documenting his every move, but he didn’t use a hype man. It was just him individually working every side of the stage, and it was a success. He’d come to the left side, get as close as he could to the audience, and then take off running and jumping the right side to rock with that side. At one point, I’m sure he got a good 24 inches off the ground. Dude was hyped and the crowd was feeling it. He’d punctuate and accentuate his rhymes with head nodding that sent out waves of energy towards the crowd. Some songs turned into straight sing alongs such as the one with the chorus that went “we out here” that I didn’t catch the name to and couldn’t find online. Business as Usual went hard live as well.
Finally, the greatest tag team in Arizona stepped up to showcase their version of wrasslin rap. Supported by DJ Stude, the duo of Teek and Kollateral performed tracks off their collaborative EP Vader vs Foley. The duo is a nice ying-yang to one another. Whereas Kollateral has a smooth flow, Teek has that gruff delivery. It was a whirlwind show after a long night of dope performances. I’m pretty sure I danced and jumped the whole time. Maybe it’s my love for the EP along with the duo’s energy, but the show was, as the kids say, lit! Stude’s support on the 1s and 2s brought something unique to the performance as well. Stude plays dope hypeman as well as cuts and scratches mid-performance like an old school DJ. As a purist, the inclusion of a DJ working the tables is very welcomed. Not to beat a dead horse, but the entire Vader vs. Foley EP is dope and was in full effect on this night. Fear and Loathing in Phoenix, despite being a slower song – BPM wise, is a face crusher. Mick Foley has that deep bass that grabs a hold of you and changes your heart rate. Kollateral kicks a professional flow on that track, exercising multiple styles and live it didn’t disappoint, which I’m sure is no easy feat.
In my opinion, Young Roddy and Trademark may have been top bill but the night was full of headliners. You could’ve put any of those local artists on last and they would’ve brought the same amount of energy and enthusiasm. It was an experience for sure.