Schoolboy Q at the Varsity Theater, 2/18/12
Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Schoolboy Q's arrival in Minneapolis saw a very responsive audience getting down to the sounds of the latest West Coast superstar. The rapper's distinct style has him on the rise, but we were able to catch him early at one of very few national shows under his belt.
The show could not have been booked at a better time: Schoolboy Q is currently enjoying the freshly-discovered phase of the hype circuit, getting gigs in NYC, Atlanta and Oakland based on the strength of his release Habits and Contradictions. The Varsity saw a performance that caught the up-and-coming rapper at a moment couched between his stepping from Kendrick Lamar's shadow and achieving inevitable mainstream success, and he was indeed in rare form. From stage diving to boasting and grandstanding, he brought the physical energy that had always been implied in his recorded vocal flexibility.
The energetic rapper bounced through a strong set that sounded amazing through the Varsity's quality sound system. The crowd knew a number of the song's lyrics, which added some real energy to the show. I've been mired in the new record since it dropped, intrigued by the methods Q uses to describe his rough lifestyle of slinging and using drugs, and seeing the songs in full force was impressive. Moments where the album became tired for me (after several listens, the veneer of powerful charisma cracks to reveal some sub-par lyricism) actually played better live; hearing someone say "motherfucker, motherfucker, yeah, fuckin' is my favorite word" is not particularly remarkable on record but it sounded great here.
One of the great parts about a show like this is that the local openers are charged to be playing to a new audience and alongside someone as big as Schoolboy Q. Openers Audio Perm and The Tribe and Big Cats! were able to match the spark that Q brought, playing with the focused intensity that comes with playing a big deal show but keeping their style true. The line-up made sense, considering that even though they don't murder anyone in their lyrics like Q does, both acts carry a similar none-fucks-given mirth and penchant for partying. Audio Perm's live show is one of very few instances where I'm okay with a cavalcade of rappers swarming on stage, because all of those dudes are notably talented and the music has real variety. Rapper Truth Be Told seemed completely at home on a bill of this level, pulling energy from DJ Pete and Big Cats! and revving the crowd up appropriately. We have some real homegrown talent here that may someday get the sort of national attention someone like Q is getting. It should be noted that I was completely tore for this show (that's why there is no setlist). Schoolboy Q has said in interviews that yes, rappers influence listeners, and no, he doesn't give a shit; I maybe listened to intently to his message. The breakout single "Hands On The Wheel" with ASAP Rocky is essentially an ode to getting as shitty as I was at this show, listing off drugs like groceries and not acknowledging any semblance of consequence (which is all well and good, save for Q's poor taste in saying "I love drunk driving"). Of course, I drink eggnog instead of lean, but my headspace was still where Q was encouraging his audience to go. Chock it up to habits and contradictions causing setbacks.