If you get your music on radio, TV and the web, you’ll experience the flavor of the month on repeat, brought to you by a DJ robot. But, go to a live show and you’re in for a wide range of acts within the genre. Take hip-hop, for example. This past Monday and Tuesday night, Lupe Fiasco rocked Irving Plaza in Manhattan. Lupe, a hip-hop veteran, continues to put out music that’s true to his form – a socially progressive rhymer. He observes and expounds on the challenges that face him. No bling. No gimmicks. No bullshit.
Lupe Fiasco at Irving Plaza in NYC
Naturally, you’d expect to see that alternative brand of rap presented throughout the show, maybe a few amateurs coming in to warm it up, and the main act to bring the house down. But it didn’t happen quite like that.
At a Lupe Fiasco show, expect to see an all-night hip-hop festival with nearly a dozen artists, each with his or her own style. From live instrumental groups, to pot-obsessed jokesters – who throw twinkies out at the crowd (for the munchies, of course) – Lupe’s show covers the gamut of rap flavors. NY rappers (Bronx, Brooklyn & Queens), Chicagoans, Detroit-natives, and even a brilliant up-and-comer from New Orleans (Dee-1) are all features. Some of the rappers were hard as nails, others, party-goers, and a few followed in Fiasco’s footsteps, rapping with a social slant. While hip-hop was the theme, there were no restraints on the type of hip-hop on display.
The crowd, though enthusiastic, was unlike your typical concert crowd. Young women shimmied through rows of people to easily make their way to the front; couples dance together; some fans bob their heads serenely, while others huddle in small groups, smiling and chanting in unison with one of the masters of hip-hop. The mood is cool, calm, and collected, and for once at a show, you can breathe (a treat in densely thick Manhattan), despite a thin cloud of sweet-smelling smoke that hung in the air.
Once anticipation for the main act reached its peak, the veteran, Lupe, trotted on stage and immediately got the crowd going. The backdrop curtain came down to reveal a giant screen with exaggerated, provocative images flashing symbols that form the cornerstone of street-life (women, guns, drugs, money, and so on). Laser lights cut through smoke, giving the scene a transcendental feel, as the hard bass kept the whole floor (and everyone on it) vibrating. Lupe’s visual background and lyrical content coalesce to enhance his singular message: these street-life images are poisoning the youth.
Lupe had total crowd control, and he did it with finesse; distract him from his performance, and expect to be put in check. One girl got on her phone, and Lupe cut the music abruptly, knelt down to talk to her face-to-face, and asked her why she was bored at his show. He acted distraught over it, but he was all smiles when she told him she was recording his show with her phone. He joked about his overblown ego and moved on with the show.
“Watching Lupe live…really exceeded my expectations. I appreciated that he changed up the set list depending on the mood of the crowd, which he did after he noticed a girl yawning in the front. He’s not afraid to sass anyone who’s disrupting the show experience for his fans.” – Christina Choi, Rukkus Ticket Giveaway Winner
Lupe went through his catalogue of hits (“Bitch Bad, Woman Good,” “Kick Push,” “Show Goes On” “Hip-hop Saved My Life” “Go, Go Gadget Flow,” etc…). He slowed it down for his new song “Old School Love,” but got things fired-up again when he rapped a verse from Kanye’s “Testify.” The whole night was stop-and-go, with Lupe giving small hand gestures to the DJ to cut the music so he could talk to the crowd for a little bit before flying into another hit.
At his live show, you’ll see him fling himself across every square inch of the stage, channeling words through flailing arms and hands, while rapping the lyrics everyone knows and loves. At some points, he’ll stop rapping altogether, and just hold out the mic to listen to the crowd carry on with the verse. He might even hand the mic to you if you’re in the front row – he handed it to a fan at the Tuesday night show, and the fan rapped solo for about 10 seconds before fumbling hilariously.
Lupe’s show was visually incredible and, heard live, his voice is as clear as on his albums. He understands the most important thing about a live show is his fans, which is why when he takes time to interact, fans show their love in return.
Article by Phillip Thompson