Review: Tabi Bonney and Diamond District at U Street Music Hall

Last Wednesday night, two of DC’s most powerful acts were booked for U Street Music Hall. Diamond District, fresh off of their European tour and stints at SXSW and the West Coast opened for Tabi Bonney, arguably the next in line to carry the DC Hip-Hop Torch.

Diamond District opened the set,and even though they rep DC to the fullest, Wednesday night marked the first time that they actually performed in the Chocolate Caramel City. (Be noted that they made a surprised appearance at the Joint Chief’s All Killer No Filler event back in October). The hometown love was overwhelming and much deserved. The triple threat of XO, Oddisee, and Yu, backed by Couch Sessions favorite DJ Quartermane went through a solid set, drawing from their illustrious debut, In The Ruff.

Diamond District is a throwback to what the heads would call “real hip-hop.” The East Coast boom-bap that is the backbone of their debut is a far cry for the electro-influenced hip-hop of 2010. However, I’m reassured that the “old school” still has a place in hip-hop society. Hands were in the air as the local crowd showed love to the group, and their tour tested set meant that they went though their 45 minute set flawlessly.

Next up was Tabi Bonney. No stranger to DC, the Northeast native and Organized Rhyme member has been on his grind lately,in music, film, and fashion. Ironically, Tabi’s set was more energetic, yet the crowd was not as hype. Not saying that Diamond District did not bring it (because they did), but I thought Tabi–draped on either side by the DC’s own Beat Your Feet Kings–would get the crowd more hype. During our our SXSW showcase it was Tabi who stole the show with his natural charisma and his radio-ready hits. Sadly, that was not the case and the crowd stood oddly stonefaced throughout his whole set. However Tabi didn’t sweat it as he powered through his bonifide hits, including “Rich Girls,” “The Pocket,” “Jet Setter,” and “Rock Bammas.”

The night was great and it was a great moment as local hip-hop returned to DC and it’s new U Street Music Hall. But it was happened away from the stage that left me frustrated and sad for the future of music in DC.

What could’ve been a beautiful night turned into a spoiled one, as the typical DC backbiting, spitefulness, and hating occurred. In DC, hating is basically an Olympic sport. The underhanded comments about particular artists and DC Hip-Hop itself reared its ugly head toward the end. I asked myself, after fielding requests to book the same lineup in New York and LA in addition to seeing Tabi rock a full crowd at SXSW, “is this how we treat our representatives of our city?”

This, ladies and gentleman, is why DC is not held in the same regard as New York, Atlanta, Philly, Detroit, or any other major American city with a similar talent pool. We love to tear our artists down instead of building them up. Sad thing is, some of the same comments were said about Wale before he signed to Roc Nation and sold out 9:30 Club. For shame.

But let’s not let the negativity outshine the two stellar acts on stage. Both Tabi and Diamond District have the chops to compete with any hip-hop artist of their caliber–both signed and unsigned. They are both true talents who need to be cherished and celebrated. Beyond the hate, it’s was a great night, and I truly hope that more hip-hop acts can be brought to the U Street Music Hall in the future.