I went to what a snarky YouTube commentator would probably call a "hip-pop" concert last night. Usually, this is a term of derision by purists who feel that hip-hop should be about social commentary or lyrical craft rather than just catchy hooks and songs about clubbing, but it definitely has its own space and appeal as evidenced by Chris Brown's One Hell of a Nite tour featuring artists at the forefront of this unofficial subgenre easily packing the U.S. Airways Center on Tuesday, September 15.
Chris Brown, the headliner, is probably one of the most undistilled examples of hip-pop out there. The man does extensive choreography, does a nasally rapper-turned-singer kind of vocals that sound like they were made for ringtones, and is marketed simultaneously as a bad-boy and a sex symbol. The last part is unsettling because the man is a publicly known abuser and has stumbled very clumsily in publicly owning up to his mistakes.
Regardless of this, I watched a predominately female audience fawn over this artist with a ton of personal red flags being set off. At this point, I don't even think I am in a position to judge, much in the same way I am in no real position to judge his reconciliation and recent collaborations with Rihanna. I am not immersed in the Breezy fandom and don't know the exact nature of that relationship. All the baggage aside, his choreography was tight, the live band backing him sounded great, and overall he seemed consistently on as a performer. He's good at being a pop star, but I'm still personally keeping him at an arm's length.
The openers, Omarion and Kid Ink, veered more to a traditional hip-hop style of performance with a DJ and hype men backing the MCs. I think Omarion's performance struck a chord with me the most because he's been at it for so long. He's a renaissance man of 21st century hip hop and R&B, getting his start in the boy band B2K, starring in the almost canonical break dance film You Got Served, doing a stint on Love & Hip Hop and pursuing his own solo career. His set seemed to evoke a lot of confidence and experience and people seemed into it. His latest single "Post to Be" evokes this idea of being at a point in one's life and career where success just falls naturally into place, and I got that vibe from him.
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Kid Ink seemed even more straightforward. I've never really been into him, but his energy seemed really good.
Overall, hip-pop isn't my thing, but I won't completely harsh on it. Hip hop is a canvass upon which an infinite amount of ideas can be illustrated. Some people talk about poverty, crime, love, and consciousness. The artist of the One Hell of a Nite tour are mostly about clubbing and getting with other dudes' girlfriends. It is what it is and it packs arenas, and some fans of deeper stuff might hate hard on it, but I am not going to completely police the good times of others. Breezy is still problematic though.
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Hey! What's Up? Hello?: Fetty Wap didn't perform on this date of the tour. I, like many others, am obviously upset about this following the summer of "Trap Queen". Mr. Wap has been there for American culture at large the past few months and I am grateful, but why can't he play Phoenix but be on Jimmy Fallon the next day?
Like Groceries: The Jhené Aiko (not present at this show) line about anilingus in Omarion's "Post to Be" elicited a very strong sing-a-long response from the crowd. Hip hop sexuality is evidently going to new places.
Airhorn: there was an excessive use of the airhorn sample by the DJ in the opening sets. I seriously think I was in a setting where the airhorn sample is not ironic, which might be even more ironic.