I’ve been lucky enough to catch some awesome shows over the years. The crowning achievement of sheer entertainment value probably still remains The Flaming Lips, but Schoolboy Q Monday night felt different. It felt like I was witnessing a moment in hip-hop history—in real-time.
Even heading into the show felt dangerous. I can’t recall the last time I’ve gotten padded down for a concert before, but evidently these L.A. cats don’t fuck around. The first artist, Vince Staples, stormed the stage donning a local Mizzou hoodie. Within five minutes, he was calling out some dude in the front row for talking smack. My friend with me was impressed. This wasn’t predominantly conscious hip-hop we were witnessing. It felt like the real deal gangsta shit that Q was raised on.
Honestly, it didn’t really matter what happened at the show due to the importance and timeliness of the Black Hippy crew in modern hip-hop culture, although I will say that it didn’t disappoint. Label-mate, Isaiah Rashad, opened for Schoolboy. A T.D.E. (Top Dawg Entertainment) logo adorned the entire front of the DJ booth behind him. It would remain that way for the rest of the night. Rashad shopped the bangers off of his stellar debut, the Clivia Demo, and worked alongside the DJ to get the crowd pumped up.
After his final song, Rashad just stayed on stage and danced to whatever the DJ played. Whereas hip-hop shows are usually pretty boring (it’s hard to spice up a DJ and emcee outside of thundering low-end without a Kanye West-level light show), this didn’t really feel like any hip-hop show I’ve ever seen. It felt like a damn party.
(The above is my personal favorite Schoolboy party video. The below is a close second. Ah, hell, I can’t really choose. They’re both now my favorite. I’m writing this, and it’s 1 a.m. I’m gonna do what I want).
The songs played between sets weren’t used like they usually are at shows, as set pieces to tide things over while the next group sets up. They felt like jams the T.D.E. crew wanted to hear themselves. As the DJ finished up spinning a Kanye banger, Rashad leaped into the crowd—to another artist’s song. I smiled. It was hard not to. The ego/lack of ego dichotomy was ironic to say the least.
By the time Q hit the stage, the vibe in the sold-out crowd was ecstatic. Fans were feverish. And while they usually are for a headlining act, this felt different. It felt somewhat like seeing Snoop Dogg on the Doggystyle tour. Or Raekwon on the road for Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
Why, you ask? Well, if you know the genre, you know that the Black Hippy crew (left to right: Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock) are going to go down in hip-hop history. It seems that Kendrick has taken the crown as the long-prophesied savior of the modern generation, with even Lil Wayne, the former “best rapper alive,” conceding Lamar’s superior skill.
And when Q put on Lamar’s “M.A.A.D City,” the place exploded. Little snippets of Soul and Rock could also be heard in Q’s hits, and the entire crowd seemed to know that we were part of something that would last. Some Wu-Tang-level shit. The entire industry is anxious (and crazily excited) to see what Black Hippy (collectively and individually) does next.
Right before Q asked everyone to pull out their lighters and cellphones prior to playing “Blessed,” his “I’m no longer living this fucked up life I’m rapping about and used to live” song, he told the crowd:
“Just a few years ago I was broke and homeless. I had no idea how I was going to feed my two-year-old daughter. But I didn’t give up on myself. I lived in the studio. Until one day, I got a phone call. And my whole life changed. You all, it’s because of you that I’m up here today.”
It was off-putting, but heartwarming and honest at the same time. Which seems to be the area that Schoolboy occupies best. He has been the lean-sipping gangsta. He has been the loving father. He’s now the ridiculously successful hip-hop artist. Sometimes he feels like all three at the same time. Contradictions perhaps, Oxymorons maybe, but always the Truth. Q ended the show with his most fitting song for the occasion, “Man of the Year.” You can check out the live performance below.
Schoolboy definitely rocked the show, and the fans were not let down. All of the major hits from Habits and Oxymoron were laid out, but I think what most of the crowd will remember, me included, was the energy in the room. It felt like Eazy-E in ’88. It felt like Dr. Dre in ’92. It felt like Eminem in 2000. Like I said before…
It felt like hip-hop history.
This post was written by Tyler McConnell, contributing writer for The Blue Note.