By Joe DeBonis
The minute I woke up and decided to snooze my alarm 5 more minutes instead of starting my day when I was supposed to was the first instant I knew I wasn’t going to stress about the Schoolboy Q concert that night. I wasn’t going to go and wait in line for an unholy amount of time, I wasn’t going to time my day perfectly so I could listen to every single Schoolboy and Isaiah Rashad song and I certainly wasn’t going to go to the Sunshine that night with dreams of seeing the best rap show to come this side of the Sandia’s since the Glow in the Dark Tour. And I am insanely glad I did none of that, because frankly the show was really just OK bordering on good and if I had any sort of expectations going in I know I would have been sorely disappointed. Instead I made sure to take everything going on around me with a grain of salt and enjoyed the raucous crowd, poor sound quality and the rare song I knew all of the lyrics to a great deal.
Arriving at about 8:15 was probably the single greatest decision of the night even if me and Patch did it completely on accident. We had made it all the way to my apartment to drop off my backpack when we realized we didn’t have our tickets. So we nonchalantly headed back to my parents house, picked them up and restarted our journey to Sunshine. When we got to the show, someone had already started performing so we positioned ourselves towards the back and waited out the in experienced rappers who went by the name “Audio Kush.” I thought it might have been Vince Staples from how little I knew about him but in the end, it turned out to be some sort of local rap duo (it turns out they are actually touring with Schoolboy Q). I spent more time chatting then listening but I made sure to keep my arm pumping up and down as I started to slowly get myself in the zone. I had realized I had not seen a rap show since Big Boi almost a year previously if you don’t count seeing Kanye West, which I don’t. It was weird being back among the hip-hop community of fans, people who rarely if ever venture outside of their comfort zones to attend a live performance and were showing their shyness by either acting too rowdy too early or by getting overly offended when someone bumped into them. Mind you, this was all for the first couple of acts so what they expected to happen later in the show was beyond me.
Vince Staples came on with little to no break which I was pleased about and went through a couple tracks showcasing his much better flow than the first act. He even played a little of “Hive,” the Earl song that made him famous but around this time a brawl broke out towards the front and the show had to actually be stopped as Vince Staples looked out into the crowd, half amused, half annoyed by the classic New Mexico rap fans. His set ended soon after and sadly the fight was the highlight. That’s not true, towards the end of his set an Action Bronson sized figure emerged from the bar and barreled his way through the crowd, inciting both laughs and curses as his huge frame knocked people aside as he tried to get to the front. Of course as most people didn’t appreciate a huge guy getting in their way, started to mosh back with him. It seemed like the entire crowd teamed up on him and I give him respect for lasting as long as he did. About the time Vince left the stage he came racing out of the front screaming “I’m out, I’m out!!” trying to avoid getting shoved around any more.
Then the true wait started as now we were approaching the real acts so the anticipation had to be built. To help with the wait, Isaiah Rashad’s DJ threw down some classic rap songs and the crowd got more and more hyped until Rashad finally came out. Of course people turned down almost immediately because not only did not as many people know Rashad’s lyrics, but his songs simply aren’t the kind to turn up to. He is certainty talented and had great energy and personality to boot as he rapped through his songs quite skillfully, but not enough people could sing along for the crowd to keep the energy up. I enjoyed his set though I really didn’t know his material too well but I am now interested in learning more so if I end up seeing him again at Pitchfork this summer I will be able to participate more. The Action Bronson figure actually positioned himself right behind me and sang along the whole set and he actually is my main motivation for learning more because I know he had a much better time than me simply because he knew more things to sing along with.
It was about this time I started to think about all the rap shows I had been to and the fact I hadn’t been to one in quite some time. When seeing almost any other kind of music live, even if I know absolutely nothing about the group I can find something to hold my interest at a live show whether it is the musicality of the band or even watching one of the musicians work their craft with their particular instrument. At a rap show, there is the DJ and the rapper. That’s it. So if you don’t know any lyrics or even only know the choruses, there is not a lot for you to do but jump up and down and wave your hands in the air. At this point in my listening career, I am kind of done with just jumping up and down at a show and I need more from the live acts. I hadn’t realized I had started to make this distinction in my mind because the whole time I was in Athens, I saw only Kanye from the rap genre and he is the exception of all exceptions. Honestly it was this reason that I couldn’t find myself getting into the opening rappers. I mean, I could tell Isaiah Rashad was talented, even if he did just seem like a Kendrick Lamar impersonator at times, but I honestly couldn’t get hyped simply because I didn’t know his material.
At least with Schoolboy Q I had done more homework than the last time I saw him and was prepared to know at least half the songs he played. Of course, now we had to wait almost 30 minutes for him to come out. The DJ’s did an alright job of keeping the crowd entertained for a while, but towards the end of the wait the crowd seemed about as burnt out as a crowd could be. Most of these people had been waiting at least an hour or two before any music had started and the most dedicated had probably been in line for over three hours. I would also venture a guess most people were starting to come down from whatever substance they had ingested in line and the combination of fatigue, lack of high and no music was starting to take a toll on the masses.
Luckily, almost at 10 on the dot Schoolboy came out and the crowd mustered up their energy and started jumping and going crazy again but it didn’t last too long. Almost immediately I realized Schoolboy was fucked up and I got a little upset. He wasn’t to the point of incoherence but he clearly did not have the same emotion or feeling that Isaiah Rashad had just shown us. Not to mention Schoolboy was wearing his own hoodie with a picture of the Oxymoron cover on the front. Honestly that pissed me off. Self-promotion to that extreme is obnoxious and unnecessary. He had people paying over 100 dollars to see him live; there was no need to wear his own shirt.
Asides from that, he performed well enough. He never changed facial expressions or really showed much emotion but he did try to get the crowd to turn up. He got fairly animated physically and jumped around but the crowd was just too burnt to really get into it. He played a good string of songs too that I knew, bouncing around from hits off of Habits and Contradictions and Oxymoron. I was impressed with myself for knowing as much as a I did, but I knew when he played “Hands on the Wheel” as his second or third song and the crowd didn’t go absolutely nuts it was going to be a some what subdued show over all. I enjoyed hearing “Collard Greens” and “There He Go” even if the sound quality stopped me from hearing the best part of the beat on “There He Go.” There was a decent amount of singing in the crowd too, which I was impressed with. Having knowledgeable fans around me at shows is always fun and seeing it here proved to me Schoolboy is not as much of a fad as I first took him to be.
Sadly though, my favorite song of the night wasn’t even a Schoolboy song. Granted my bias for Kendrick Lamar is truly astronomical, but when Schoolboy covered “m.A.A.d city” I finally felt myself at full turn up and people actually got a little pissy with me from my overly enthusiastic dancing. I guess the true reason I probably did not have such an amazing time at Schoolboy is because I constantly, subconsciously compare everything he does to what Kendrick has done. I know this is unfair but when they are a part of the same rap conglomerate I just look to see even a glimmer of similarity even when there is none.
“Blessed” is probably the best comparison between the two that exists because it has a Kendrick feature and when Schoolboy played that I found myself in quite a state of peace. It is a beautiful song and I finally found myself not comparing Schoolboy to Kendrick but enjoying their collaboration. Once it was over though I found myself pretty ready to go home. I had heard what I wanted to and gotten as much as I could out of the show. Honestly rap shows have become what teen fantasy novels were to me when I was in high school. I still had an unfounded love for the books but the older I got the less interesting they were. The idea of them still remained special to me though and it was hard to give up that part of my life. That is how I see rap shows now. I love rap so much and I love shows, so logically seeing rap shows should be something I love. Realistically though, rap shows are not as great as they seem for me anymore and growing away from them is a difficult concept for me to accept. That is why I went to Schoolboy. The idea of rap shows is still something I am in love with even if they really are beginning to not be worth my time or money anymore. So I am glad I went, if for nothing else for some inward soul searching about my love of rap. Even with all the shit I ended up talking in this review, I do not regret for an instant going to see Schoolboy Q. Hearing “Collard Greens,” “Blessed,” “There He Go,” “Hands on the Wheel” and “m.A.A.d. City” was worth it, and figuring out my growth in listening alone made me feel like it was a good night.