REVIEW: blackbear w/ Roy Wood$

I’m not sure where to even begin. March 23, 2018 — it was the warmest night of the week in Ann Arbor, and I had driven to my friend’s place so we could walk to Hill Auditorium together. As two notorious procrastinators, we decided to meet up at 7:30PM, so we weren’t quite ready to be makin’ our way downtown to the concert just yet.

Well, I mean, I was ready, I was so ready to see blackbear — who has risen as a popular R&B and Hip Hop artist, with hits like “do re mi” and “idfc” — which basically represent my mentality about the world: I have trust issues, I hate people, I don’t care, but with more profanities sprinkled in between.

I discovered blackbear once upon a time, when I still used Pandora’s online music player, which had its own R&B/Hip Hop station. blackbear popped up every so often, and I’d jammed hard to his music, which pushed me to look for more. His album “digital druglord” is my favorite, by the way. Long story short, I’m hardcore into his music.

Once my friend and I had finished powdering our noses and saying goodbye to the house cats, we started walking with my impatient and brisk pace, to my friend’s dismay. On the way, we laughed and chatted it up, chewing on candy hearts with very aggressively forward flirtatious phrases on them. It was colder than we’d anticipated, trusting the Weather App’s warmer predictions, but that didn’t stop the excitement from bubbling underneath.

Hill Auditorium was in sight, and we were all chattering teeth and goosebumps through the doors, where security guards were scanning for tickets. I was carrying both of our tickets, so I hastily shuffled through my purse to find only one. My heart immediately sank, and I could feel my friend laughing nervously and looking ominously at me. In a panic, we held each other, and I frantically searched my pockets and dug further into my bag, where I discovered the other ticket was hiding. My heart was pounding, but the two of us laughed at the ridiculousness of the moment. Mind you, if I had left the ticket at her place, that was at least a twenty minute walk away from Hill Auditorium, and we’d barely even made Michigan Time to the 8:00PM start of the concert.

Nevertheless, our tickets put us on the very top floor, the balcony, overlooking the hundreds of others seated ahead of us. On our way up the steps, I could already feel my knees buckling from walking so fast, from almost losing our tickets, and of course, from my overwhelming excitement. My friend had her arm hooked around mine, laughing as she helped me up. The floor was vibrating with the heavy beats blasting through the entire auditorium, and we hadn’t even gotten to the top floor.

The moment we opened the doors to the actual auditorium, we were greeted by extremely dim lighting and extremely loud music. Another security guard saw us blindly walking in the darkness and asked what seat numbers we had, to which we replied 410 and 411, and he pointed us in that direction. Eventually, one way or another, we settled into our seats and drowned in the noise.

Roy Wood$ was already performing by the time we had arrived, and neither of us were quite familiar with him, but I was grateful I had the chance to see him perform — I was definitely going to give his music a try later. Roy Wood$ is more R&B/Soul, which I’m fond of, and besides that, the enthusiasm around me was contagious. I felt I became a fan of Roy Wood$ in that concert, along with the throngs of fans screaming his name and his lyrics.

My friend and I fell into conversation here and there, gossiping about people we knew, swaying and grooving to the music. At this point of my emotional roller coaster, I was not quite at the peak, which was saved for blackbear’s appearance on stage.

Once Roy Wood$ was finishing up, a short intermission followed, and the lights came on and flooded the auditorium. I realized how many young faces I saw in the crowd, some even accompanied by one or two parental-looking figures. My friend assured me that they were the same age, other college kids like us, but for some reason, it freaked me out a little — a grim reminder that I’m 21 years old and not getting any younger.

My tiny mid-life crisis ended when the lights dimmed to black again, and the familiar vibrations of the floor returned, beating and pounding.

A familiar beat came on, and I instantly jumped up, following suit to countless other silhouettes around us. My only thought was he’s here, he’s here, he’s really here and it’s him, it’s him, it’s really him, barely containing my excitement. The intro blasted through the auditorium, blackbear’s most famous “do re mi” line, pulling and drawing the eager audience in before it smoothly transitioned into a different song — “Dirty Laundry.” (Spoiler alert: blackbear closes with “do re mi.”)

blackbear walked on stage and greeted the outstretched hands reaching for him, waving to the countless screaming fans. He did a little dance as he got into the song’s melody, pulling a couple poses here and there, while everyone wholeheartedly belted out the lyrics with him. Of course, so did I, but it was difficult when I could hardly hear myself think. The realization dawned on me that the teeny tiny figure on stage, obscured by various arms waving in front of me, was really blackbear and at that moment, I was caught in pure, unadulterated excitement and hysteria.

As soon as blackbear got into the swing of his music, everyone was losing their minds, delirious to the sound of heavy beats and the husky tone of blackbear’s voice. An electrifying energy flooded the room, putting the audience in a chilling, exhilarating trance. I was in that feverish crowd of fans, high on blackbear’s music, hypnotized by the thrill of the experience.

Still, I must admit, it was deafeningly loud in there, so noisy and so excruciatingly loud, the words blackbear was singing often came out as muffled noises, like those from a rusty, old radio. Between the songs, sometimes he had things to say to the audience, which I was desperate to hear, but every word was gibberish to me. Maybe this was because I was seated so far from the front, but hey, I’m not made of money. Priority seating was a little out of my price range, okay?

I’m not complaining. I had the opportunity to see blackbear perform live! I’m honestly still processing it, and I’m absolutely honored and beyond ecstatic to be able to blog about it for [art]seen — my experience is memorialized, in a way. Definitely treasuring this.

This photo shows blackbear performing one of his biggest hits, “idfc,” which encouraged everyone to swing their flashlights in the air. Obviously, the photo was taken by blackbear’s photographer, who was taking photos from on-stage. From my perspective, the concert looked a little more like:

Still — not complaining. The entire experience was the takeaway for me. I will be eternally grateful to have had the chance to see blackbear perform here in Ann Arbor, of all places, and dedicate a blog post to [art]seen about it. Words cannot describe how absolutely amazing it was to me, and I’m honestly in awe at how they transformed Hill Auditorium, where my sister had her graduation ceremony, gowns and all, into a blackbear R&B/Hip Hop venue. Lights streamed in every direction, bringing life to the stage, the crowd, and the performer. I was in the same building, the same room, as blackbear — just wow.

Special thanks to Hill Auditorium for hosting this unique and special event at the heart of Ann Arbor — I will cherish it forever. And a special shoutout to my friend, who isn’t even that big of a blackbear fan but loved me enough to come with me! I hope you had as much fun as I did, or at least some fraction of it, I had a looooooot of fun. Maybe even too much fun, really. Shoutout to blackbear’s photographer and instagram for posting these awesome photos of the concert, S.O. to the poor dad sitting uncomfortably in front of us, S.O. to the people who caught the articles of clothing blackbear threw — I am and will be forever jealous of you — and shoutout to the couple dancing hysterically a couple rows in front of us. Not even darkness can hide your dance moves.

The concert is over, but in my heart, it will live on forever! Thank you so much for coming to Ann Arbor, blackbear!!!

REVIEW: UMICH Welcomes Chance the Rapper

Michigan welcomed 20-year-old singer and rap artist Chance the Rapper to the U of M campus last night. The concert was produced by Big Ticket Productions, a branch of the University Activities Center (UAC). Chance’s first mixtape, 10 Day, was released in 2012. Since then he has come out with his second mixtape, Acid Rap, in 2013 which has had incredible success: named the #1 mixtape of 2013 and ranked 4th best album this past year by Complex Magazine. Having been featured on tracks with artists like Childish Gambino, Rapsody, Justin Bieber, and James Blake, Chance has been quickly gaining popularity in recent years.

The concert was held at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 22, 2014 in the Hill Auditorium on campus. The first opener, Quinn, began right on time and his performance lasted about a half hour. Quinn performed slow-tempo songs, having a lower energy than expected. Freshman Maher Hachem described Quinn’s songs as having “slow, summer vibes.” Though talented, the feel of his set didn’t quite seem to match the expectations of the crowd. The second opener, Noname Gypsy, was more up-beat with powerful backup singers. Her performance ended around 9 p.m. Both of the opening artists, Quinn and Noname Gypsy, had rap/hip-hop music styles.

Though there was a bit of a gap between the performances of the openers and Chance, his high energy and exciting stage presence quickly made up for any disappointment during the first half of the event. Chance put on a show. Including crowd pleasers like,”Cocoa Butter Kisses,” “Pusha Man,” and “Chain Smoker” kept the audience enamored throughout the night. He really got the crowd involved, the lights were on point with the music, and his transitions between songs was very professional. Chance entertained from the moment he came on stage to his very last song.

After speaking with a few other students who attended the concert, it seemed very evident that seating played a major role in the quality of experience. Though students who had seating in the balcony said they enjoyed the concert, they made it clear that their experience would have been greatly enhanced with better seating. Freshman Corey Johnson admits, “My seats were all the way in the back on the balcony. It would’ve been better with better seats, but Chance was great and I would go again.” Other than some discontent with the openers and some reservations about seats, the overall consensus was a good show and a good time.

If you happened to miss the concert last night and want to see Chance in concert, he will be performing at various locations and music festivals over the next couple of months (including Good Times, Ultra, Coachella, and more).

Special thanks to Maher Hachem and Corey Johnson.

Review: FlatbushZOMBies @ The Blind Pig

This Tuesday I listened to Flatbush Zombies perform at The Blind Pig. I believe attending a concert at The Blind Pig is a bucket-list item for students here—gotta once before you graduate or you’re missing out. It’s not the biggest or most glamorous venue. Neither of those words should ever be used to describe The Pig—sweaty and crowded are more appropriate adjectives. Nevertheless, this venue is a great spot to see talented groups on the cusp of stardom for reasonable prices (tickets usually $15 before fees).
Flatbush Zombies are a Brooklyn based group formed in 2010, consisting of MC’s Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick Arc Elliott. New to the rap scene, Flatbush Zombies follow in the tradition of legendary New York rap group Wu-Tang Clan— minimalistic yet expressive production style, dissonant harmonies, and each MC embodies a unique persona on every track. Listeners can also appreciate the many references to hip-hop culture: frequent references to famous MC’s, particularly 2pac and Wu-Tang Clan, as well as plays on iconic lines from classic songs.
Flatbush Zombies, like many other hip-hop groups, fixate on drug use in their lyrics. It would be a mistake, however, to consider this group another run-of-the-mill group drawing on controversial subjects to gain popularity. Their lyrical content is distinctly existential, openly questioning the value of conventional morality and religion, opting instead for a morality derived from real life experience. Unlike mainstream hip-hop artists who advocate decadent, illicit drug use according to a purely hedonistic worldview, Flatbush Zombies depict drug use as an inevitable consequence of socioeconomic exclusion. Rather than glamorize drug use, they problematize the activity, prompting listeners to consider why drug use is prevalent, and how the activity is a conscious act of self-destructive escapism.
So how are the Flatbush Zombies live? They kill it. The venue was perfect for their musical style—informal setting mixed with ear-splitting acoustics complemented the minimalistic production style and the raw energy of the group. In my experience, hip-hop concerts rarely recreate the sound quality of studio recordings live, but this loss of sound quality is more than made up for when a performer brings enthusiasm and panache to the stage. Panache, pizzazz, x-factor, swag, whatever you want to call it—The Flatbush Zombies came packing heat, they lit up the stage with energy, adding a personal depth to their music which cannot be captured in the studio.
Fans of Wu-Tang Clan, Joey Bada$$, and Odd Future should definitely check out Flatbush Zombies—I think this group has a lot of potential to produce quality hip-hop music over the coming years. Fan or rap or not, definitely check out The Blind Pig, a venue that is integral to the Ann Arbor experience. The Blind Pig setting is ideal for discovering new music on an intimate level.

Listen to some Flatbush Zombies for free here (I recommend No Religion and Thug Waffle): https://soundcloud.com/flatbushzombies

Watch the Music Video that helped them gain popularity–you may notice inspiration from some of Tyler the Creator’s music videos

Flatbush Zombies–Thug Waffle

Review: Ghostface Wears A Different Hat

Wrong In So Many Ways
Wrong In So Many Ways

Baseball season is over.  For the Red Sox, it was over one month ago today, the Red Sox were exposed as the subpar franchise that they are in a season-ending sweep by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Although largely unchanged from championship teams of years past, this Red Sox team lost the talent and the spark of other years- while gaining a steroids scandal (in David Ortiz) and a washed up relief man (in Billy Wagner).  So, while Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester munched Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, watched The Notebook, and cried themselves to sleep, the New York Yankees of New York, New York rampaged their way through the World Series.  They finished off the defending World-Series Champion Phillies in six games, never really giving them any hope.

So, I ask, why was Ghostface Killah sporting a green and red Boston Red Sox New Era cap at his Blind Pig performance on Monday night?  Ghostface Killah, man of the Stapleton housing projects of Staten Island, NY.  Take the Staten Island Ferry to the 4 train to Yankee Stadium.   Or, if you have to, even take the Staten Island Ferry to the 1 train to the 7 train to Shea Stadium (or the new Citi Field).  But, come on Ghost, you have to paddle across the river Styx to get to Fenway Park.

Although my barber, Bob, has explained to me on multiple occasions that the handshake and first 20 seconds of meeting someone new is the most important part of a good relationship, Ghostface quickly redeemed his horrendous first impression.  At 39 years old and over 15 years after the Wu-Tang Clan debut, Ghostface still has an intense and demanding stage presence.  Perhaps he is no longer the perpetually high, in your face, attention grabber of the 90’s, but as hip hop has grown, so has Ghost.  He still coaxed the audience to scream in support of their love of weed and conducted a vote of the crowd’s alcohol preference: Hennessey vs. Grey Goose.  But that doesn’t seem to be Ghostface’s gimmick anymore.  He still holds the crowd with his intricate word plays and boasting banter but he no longer seems to need to hold a blunt to connect with his audience.  With the tracks from the new album, he has also let some catchy hooks grab the audience as well.

Despite a bit of a persona change from Ghostface, the crowd remembered exactly who he is.  He could (and on a few occasions did) let the beat drop and let the sweat-soaked, cigarette-drenched crowd do his bidding, reciting every line to his fast paced stories.  He commanded an even greater response for the Wu-Tang hits (including “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothing To Fuck With” and “C.R.E.A.M.”.

Not that Ghostface has never been sentimental – because he has- but it marks a different path when his best-known song is a track about his love for his pregnant girlfriend, complete with a light-hearted R&B loop.  As was apparent by his on-stage demeanor and set choice, Ghostface is content with the maturing of hip hop, the development of the Wu-Tang Clan, and his own, highly regarded status.

(Also, in my concert-going experience openers are generally not worth mentioning.  However, worth mentioning is local local, DJ Chill Will was on the ones and twos in between sets.  Chill Will has a show called The Prop Shop every Saturday night from 9pm-midnight on 88.3 WCBN– a show that I would very highly recommend to any dabbler in the art of hip hop)

Preview: Ghostface Killah- aka Ghostdini, Wizard of Poetry In Emerald City aka Tony Starks aka Ironman aka Pretty Toney- aka the Greatest Wu-Tang Solo Artist, Visits The Blind Pig

Yes, Hes Doing What You Think Hes Doing, Sort Of.
Yes, He's Doing What You Think He's Doing, Sort Of.

Ghostface Killah, founder and foundation of the Wu-Tang Clan, a rap crew from Staten Island, brings his solo act to the Blind Pig tomorrow evening, November 9, in support of his new album, ‘Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City’.

The Wu-Tang Clan gained world fame in 1993 with the release of “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”.  A raw, innovative work of genius, ’36 Chambers’ continues to rank as one of the greatest rap albums of all time (with hits such as ‘C.R.E.A.M’,’Method Man‘, and ‘Protect Ya Neck’).  Since, the Wu members have continuously released Wu-Tang albums and collaborations as well as their own solo work.  Ghostface Killah, I declare after an extensive and ongoing internal debate along with a very public and popular debate, has had the greatest Wu-Tang solo career. Topping the list of solo albums is his year 2000 masterpiece, “Supreme Clientele” (featuring the hot tracks ‘One‘ and ‘Apollo Kids’, among others).

Ghostface has recently toured with Ann Arbor-born Mayer Hawthorne (Ghost professes his love for Mayer in this New York Times interview) and now brings his solo-act to the Blind Pig tomorrow night.  In support of the new R&B and soul savvy album, Ghostface will bring the motherfuckin’ ruckus as he has done throughout his career.

Blu & Exile, Fashawn, and Skyzoo open the show. Blind Pig @ 208 S.First St. Doors at 9:30.  Cover: $23 (Surcharge free tickets available at 8 Ball Saloon, Underground Sounds, and Vault of Midnight.  Or you can let the internet scam you for all you’re worth).

Video below is from the new album.  It is Ghostface at his grossest.  Enjoy.  (Potentially Not Safe For Work.  But I guess it depends where you work…) (Update: Video removed due to venturing “too far into porn and misogyny area”. Track is called Stapleton Sex, if you so have a desire to find it yourself. I don’t think it goes too far to say that “porn and misogyny” is a large part of the current state of rap music. Although, as a culture, we claim to reject porn and misogyny, hip hop is the largest art form in the world today. I think this is a topic for a post of another day, but it is one worth thinking about. Who is responsible for misogyny in hip hop? Why does it still exist? Where does hip hop go from here? Where does our culture go from here?)

Here’s a different video from the new Ghostdini album-a track called Baby. This one shows a pretty different side of Ghostface.

(Very unrelated but check out the new J.Dilla/Michael Jackson mix from J.Rocc. Pretty unreal)

Bennett. bstei@umich.edu ‘No Shirt, No Radio’ Wednesday Nights, Midnight-1:30am WCBN