There has been a lot of discussion about the future of hip-hop. Where will it go? What it would sound like? Who will be the key players?
If there is any indication, the future of hip-hop might just sound like Kid Cudi, Asher Roth, and B.O.B.
The three, along with New York rapper 88 Keys headlined the Great Hangover Tour at a sold-out 9:30 Club, consisting of artists who XXL Magazine calls the “new class” of hip-hop. Ironically, the “hangover” date in DC was packed to the gills with fans who were not old enough to take a legal drink, however, their overwhelming, and sometimes over the top support for the performers on the bill is endearing, considering that only 1 of these artists has an album that you can physically purchase at the music store.
Unfortunately, I missed 88 Key’s set, however, Atlanta rapper B.O.B. (aka Bobby Ray), held it down and gave the breakout performance of the night. B.O.B. combines Southern Hip-Hop with a bluesy drawl and some pop rock attitude. In addition to tracks like “Haters Everywhere,” which carry more Southern flavor, he rocks a guitar as well. Flanked by fellow Atlanta rapper Playboy Tre, his set consisted of tracks from his Who The Fuck Is B.O.B. Mixtape which everybody in the room it seems downloaded, because they all knew the words.
Even though he was not rocking a full band like the last time I saw him at SXSW, B.O.B’s stage presence sets this guy apart from most rappers I’ve seen in a while. He’s not only genuinely happy to be on stage, but was genuinely appreciative of the fans who got him into this position.
Next came Asher Roth, the 23 year old Pennsylvania rapper who came onto the scene with the track “I Love College,” earlier this year. Asher starts his set with the Saved By The Bell theme, which puzzles the audience, many of whom were probably still in the womb when that show was on television. That diversion is immediately proceeded by Asher rolling on stage in an Escalade Power Wheels to the track “Lark on my Go-Kart.”
Asher’s set was heavy on the props. In addition to the Escalade, he had a fake blunt (which he offered the audience to toke of course), and costumed stage hands dressed up as a Marijuana leaf running around the stage during the break to “Blunt Crusin’.” However, for a dude who already has an album, he did a little too much talking between songs and referencing other people’s tracks (most notably DJ Class’ “I’m the Shit” and Soul 4 Real’s “Candy Rain”) more than his own. The 50 or so minutes that he was on stage did hit the highlights of his album Asleep In The Bread Aisle, which included “As I Em,” “Be By Myself, and the radio favorite ” I Love College,” as well as the typical “get the girls on stage” routine for “She Don’t Want To Dance.”
The headliner of the night, however, was Kid Cudi. Unlike the previous artists, whose stage setup could fit in your bedroom, Cudi’s set was flanked by a video screen and multimedia lighting setup which looked straight out of his mentor Kanye West’s Glow In The Dark tour.
Like Kanye, Cudi took the stage all by himself at 1:45 AM, with no DJ or backing band. Unlike his apperance at SXSW, he had enough swagger and stage presence to rise up to the challenge of fronting the show solo. While, I’m still out about his mainstream chances, the crowd treated him like Kanye himself was in the building. You can judge how popular an artist is by the number of digital cameras and iFlips that are busted out during their performance, and Cudi’s was no different with everybody in the venue trying to take a pic of him.
After energetic sets by Asher and B.O.B., Cudi was able to somehow keep that energy moving, even with emo driven and slow paced songs like “Heaven Tonight,” and “Man on the Moon.” Even in the wee hours of the morning, while this writer was contemplating bed, the crowd was still rocking with Cudi until the last song. Even though traditional hip-hop has frowned on Cudi for his over emotional rants, “anti-Blogger rants,” and “I’m going to retire Tweets,” his fans genuinely love and appreciate him. They knew his freestyles, and tracks like “Sky Might Fall,” and of course his newest unexpected hit “Make ‘Em Say” (aka “Poke Her Face”).
The lesson learned by this tour? There is a brand new youth movement in hip-hop, whether the we like it or not. The iPod generation is real, and The Great Hangover tour demonstrates that you can put together a sold-out club tour based on online buzz alone. Let’s face it. The game done changed.