For over a month Red Bull has dangled a carrot in front of Los Angeles in the form of a promised “secret show” to close out there 30 Days In LA series. In an amazing month filled with the best in Indie Rock, Electronic, Hip-Hop, Soul and DJ’s, the options for who could be worthy enough to cap off the run were endless. Finally at 10:30 p.m. on November 30th it was revealed as Rapper/Pop Diva, Nicki Minaj, took stage at the Teragram Ballroom.
Even with no hints at even the genre represented that evening Red Bull Sound Select sold out the new DTLA venue with little effort. The caliber of artists who had performed for the 29 nights before must have set a precedent that eased any worries as music fans flowed in to pack the front of the stage as super producer Sonny Digital warmed them up with a DJ set. On the heels of crafting the track for the Trap anthem of the moment, “Antidote” by Travis Scott, Sonny educated the crowd on his resume spanning hits from the past 5-years. At this point it was obvious whomever would be headlining would most likely be a Hip-Hop artist and the audience collectively started running down a mental list of possibilities.
Up next was Sound Select Artist Jazz Cartier from Toronto. At the mention of Toronto numerous women turned to their friends with excitement with the assumption that the headliner may be none other than T Dot’s most famous export, Drake! Jazz was obviously new to at least the majority in attendance as many chuckled upon seeing his small frame in all black skater gear capped by his dreads which were twisted with multi-color pipe cleaners. “I heard some of you laughing,” he said, “It’s probably because I have some shit in my hair, but it’s ok, I know I look gorgeous.” With one joke he had the crowd in his hand as he proceeded to drop Trap bangers for an interactive half-hour. Songs aside, his charisma shined above all as he developed a bond with the audience in a way that is rarely seen with major artists, complete with unique call and response, crowd dives and more jokes. It’s safe to say if the show had ended at 10:00 p.m. after Jazz’s last song people would have been content on their trip home.
As the tech’s reset the stage a sparkly mic emerged in the hands of one which acted as the final clue. Must be a female! At that moment the name Nicki started being murmured across the front few rows. Band steps out and the intro begins followed by the reveal, a pink finger print graphic projected on the back of the stage. The crowd goes wild! As “Super Bass” begins, Nicki steps out of the darkness in a mostly see through blue lace form fitting dress revealing everything God gave her apart from what was covered by her bra and panties. After another original, the Beyoncé collaboration “Feeling Myself”, the next hour was a whirlwind of songs made up mostly by her one verse guest appearances on other artists tracks (Chris Brown, Big Sean, Rae Sremmerd, and so many more). For a crowd that had no clue she would be there they sure knew all her lyrics, as she frequently dropped the mic to her side and smiled as she watched the front row mega fans scream her difficult to flow rapid fire lyrics with ease.
The debate over Nicki’s rap credentials and authenticity in the genre has been heated since her first album dropped in 2010. Most notably she came to heads with Peter Rosenberg of NYC’s Hot 97 radio station that culminated in an awkward interview where she boldly cleared the air on her identity as a rapper. These discussions of authenticity seem antiquated in an era where Hip-Hop shows are less likely to be attended by guys who look like DMX and more likely to be filled with girls who look like Daria reciting Trap songs verbatim, dropping n-bombs every few seconds. Rappers can now sing and crossover, an act that meant career suicide not too long ago. For those still questioning why she’s famous, the crowd at the Red Bull show, multi cultural, multi-sexual and a wide span of ages were clarifying why in the many screams of “I love you Nicki,” as she sauntered across the stage flipping her hair like a black adults only Barbie doll. She closed her set with a string of her commercial EDM hits, mostly collaborations with David Guetta, making everyone jump, ending on an air of excitement.
With a surprise that had everyone flooding their Snapchat stories with proof of their A-List encounter, 30 Days In LA concluded on a huge note. 2016 ended with a sold out A$AP Mob show in which Drake actually did make an appearance. This certainly tops that. Can’t wait to see how they top this in 2016.
Photo credit: Red Bull content pool