Within the polarizing realm of SoundCloud rap, Ski Mask the Slump God is himself divisive. Is the South Floridian a solid lyricist with a vigorous, inventive flow, or just another case of all sizzle and no substance? Turns out, the truth resides within that murky middle ground. There’s no denying Ski’s approach on the mic is unique enough to set him apart, if only he’d spent more time delivering those weird, aggressive raps and not pandering to the crowd by hurling water bottles. Even his tribute montage for bestie XXXTentacion (which included a truly epic chunk of "Look at Me") came off as yet another cheap showbiz trick, with as much thought and attention applied as inciting dueling chants. But you know who didn’t mind enough to second-guess a darn thing? The giant screaming crowd. Chalk it up to free H2O on a warm day, I guess. Chris Coplan
Saint JHN has a definite "it" factor working in his favor. Massive charisma, pink leopard print pants, and a shih tzu were just a few of the things independent Brooklyn rapper brought to his Pot of Gold set on Sunday, where he played songs like “Roses” from his latest album, Collection One, and “TRAP” featuring Lil Baby. He stands out in a sea of copycat rappers, with a shadowy undertone to his music that's comparable to late Miami rapper XXXTentacion. His dark reinterpretation of religious imagery from his childhood made for a controversial, yet unique concert.
And yet, while all the pieces were in place for JHN’s Pot of Gold performance to be a smash, his connection with the audience just barely missed the mark. A flamboyant dred-head who toys with religion seems a hard pill for a red state to swallow. The die-hards were sparse, but I'll bet he gained a few converts with his crowd-amping antics, his banter, and his dances with dogs. This guy's going places, and, according to him, he’s going to look sexy as hell when he gets there. Alma Schofield
“Open up that fucking mosh pit! Open that bitch up,” Lil Pump shouted gleefully in the middle of “Off White.” Rocking pink sunglasses and a red cardigan, Pump looked like he was competing to win a “What Would Rivers Cuomo Look Like as a SoundCloud Rapper” contest. The “Racks on Racks” rapper was a jittery livewire presence, hopping across the stage, throwing his hands in the air, and clearly feeling himself to the utmost.
If only he put even a fraction of that effort into his live vocals. Prerecorded vocals picked up the slack for most of Pump’s set, with the rapper occasionally interjecting with his own voice. In every instance, his live voice sounded far worse than the one on tape. I know rappers performing to backing tracks is nothing new, but this seemed particularly lazy. And with his DJ’s habit of stuttering and stopping the beat whenever Pump shouted on the mic, it gave his set a weird glitchy vibe. It was as if the set was a record that kept skipping on the turntable. Ashley Naftule
In the case of Young Dolph, there’s a tendency for life to overshadow the art. Events like his 2017 shooting and being robbed at Cracker Barrel make it harder to separate the image or mythos from the actual creator. But in the cold light of day (just kidding, it was a searing 80-plus degrees out), Dolph’s true creative self became far clearer. Mostly, he’s just not the best act for a midday set at an outdoor festival, with both he and the crowd not generating nearly enough energy to break through the heat and sense of lull. Still, I could have easily enjoyed the same set at a club gig around 3 a.m., where his minimalist, hard-hitting songs might act as a perfect nightcap. At PoG, he was more like slamming a hearty potato soup between the entree and dessert, and who wants to do that? CC
You know you’re in for a rough show when even the hypeman looks bored. Young Thug has a wild energy on his mixtapes and albums — few other rappers can match his talent for contorting his voice into all kinds of weird modes and shapes or keep pace with his eccentric visual style — but that wild card vibe was absent from his live show.
Some rappers like Lil Pump treated Pot of Gold’s stages like bouncy houses, giddily bounding from one side of the platform to the other. Young Thug wasn’t one to run and jump. He strolled casually. “Leisurely” is the best word to describe his onstage demeanor. Both Young Thug and his hype man projected medicated auras, like they were xanned out. Even on bangers like “Wyclef Jean” and “With Them,” Thug sounded like he’d been hit by a tranquilizer dart backstage.
But while Young Thug’s energy level was low, at least his visual game was on point. He wore a long red and white coat that looked like a Christmas sweater with a matching ski mask that he rapped through. It takes supreme confidence to pull off a look that can best be described as “Holiday Bank Robber” in March, but Young Thug got the fit off easily. AN
Austin Richard Post came for the fans. Closing out Pot of Gold, his performance made for a great concert experience for anyone even slightly familiar with his music. He cycled through almost all of his radio hits, throwing the fans a bone with well-known old singles like “White Iverson” and new songs like “Sunflower” from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack. An acoustic performance of “Stay” from Beerbongs & Bentleys gave fans a rare snippet of his impressive live vocals. Complete with pyrotechnics framing the stage and the occasional fireworks display, the set showed that Post seems out to establish himself more as rock star than rap star (maybe a bit of both).
Even with his 41-week run on the Billboard charts, he stays humble. His appreciation for his supporters was as frequent as it was genuine. “Every night I come out and sing for you guys, and you all make my fucking dreams come true,” he said. As I heard members of the audience comment on how much they enjoyed watching him perform, it painted a clear picture that the feeling between him and his fans is entirely mutual. AS