Swag Swag Swoop

So I just want to talk about last night for a minute… Is that cool?

Because I’m a weirdo who mainly listens to late 90’s/early 2000’s rap (which apparently is now considered “old-school”) and hip-hop made by regional artists, I can freely admit that I really had no idea who Schoolboy Q was until I got to his show Thursday evening at Peter’s Room, even though I’ve apparently seen him perform live before. Now before I get jumped on by all of the “heads” that sweat the Black Hippy movement, please understand that I really have no interest in hanging on breakout artists’ nuts. Once an out-of-towner has a solid following and impresses me, that’s when I’ll take notice. As such, I had heard a lot of buzz about the show and my lady friend let me hear one of his songs the day prior and it was pretty dope, so I called my folks and got myself on the guestlist with a plus one.

(Insert obligatory #APMGang shout out here… I’m not trying to pay for sh*t!)

Indeed, one of the major reasons I felt compelled to attend the event was to keep up with the performance progression of one of the openers, a young local rapper named Cassow. While Cassow has dropped some monster music over the last couple of years, the last time I saw him perform at Peter’s Room I felt his set was disappointing. His stage presence wasn’t powerful, his crowd control was questionable, and his set was simply way too short for anyone to get into. Since that night however, I’ve seen Cassow improve with every performance. His comfort level improved, he began engaging the crowd, and his sets expanded, allowing him to show off the versatility he is so well known for. His performance last night was a triumphant comeback there at Peter’s Room.

Now my man Trox – who now DJs for Cassow – had text me earlier to let me know that the set was starting at 8:45, and believe me, I had every intention of being there on time… But apparently two bicyclists were hit on the St. John’s Bridge and the resulting melee of flashing lights set my wingman Sonny and I back 20 minutes or so. As a result, we arrived at the beginning of Cassow’s second-to-last song as he was whipping the dense crowd into a frenzy along with his colorful onstage entourage of cool guys and women. Trox continued to DJ after the set, and did great job of rolling out the bangers and keeping the crowd engaged. I see you Trox.

As more of my friends arrived, I started visiting the bar and watching the ranks of the all-ages section swell. Shortly afterwards, I was informed that the show had sold out. At that point, I figured I better find out who the heck this Schoolboy Q was. But first, I needed to watch Ab-Soul. Now I saw Ab-Soul at SXSW this year by accident, and while I wasn’t overly impressed by the rapping, I was very much impressed by the way he worked the crowd. Then again, I was really drunk for a lot of SXSW so… In any case, Ab-Soul did the damn thing. Again, he displayed immense crowd control while spouting rather simple rhymes. In other words, everybody enjoyed it and understood every word he said. See how hip-hop works? Make me want to dance and I’m sold.

Short intermission and it was time for the main event. That was when I realized that Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul are actually on tour together, not to mention in a group with Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar. Oh… well now all of this buzz makes sense! Q took the stage with a ton of energy and a colorful bucket hat and quickly had the young crowd going absolutely crazy. There were songs that really I liked and songs I just couldn’t really mess with, but through it all, he remained a showman.

At one point, Schoolboy called for a fan that knew the lyrics to all of his songs. A rather large, Caucasian meathead took the stage and was given a microphone, and it was quickly revealed that he did not in fact know the words to the song that began playing. He was summarily roasted by the crowd but was allowed to stay onstage while the song was performed. At the end of the song though, Meathead grabbed the mic back and yelled “Remember the name… B-Dub n*ggas!!!” before he dove off the stage. While I was hoping he’d hit the floor untouched, Meathead did manage to be momentarily caught by his stunned audience before they quickly put him down. No one in the building had a more shocked look on their face than the soundman, who sat at his station with his mouth wide open for at least 30 seconds. Serge Severe was near me in the crowd, looked over and quipped, “Only in Portland” while shaking his head slowly from side to side. Yes Serge, you just might be right. But then it got better.

Schoolboy Q then went into his song, NiggaHs Already Know Davers Flow which essentially consists of gratuitous use of the n-word followed by obscenely basic rhymes. This might be where he lost me.  He then went on to confess to the crowd that it’s mainly white people that go to his shows, and began referring to the crowd as “white n*ggas”. He also informed the group that when he looks at people, he doesn’t see ethnicity. “F*ck your ethnicity!” he shouted to the crowd. As if that wasn’t enough, he then went into a call and response sequence, explicitly encouraging the white folks in the crowd to shout out the n-word. I thought I was lost, but then I saw the faces of the white folks around me who were unsure what to do. As Sonny shook his head at a nearby party-goer, he exclaimed, “But that Black guy just said I could say it!” Sonny’s response was hilarious, “Yeah, HE said you can say it, but the rest of us didn’t.” I died.

After sticking around for one more song, I decided to make the rounds, say bye to my pals (who were still laughing about B-Dub) and shake the spot. See, while I’m not too different from everyone else in that I often enjoy blacking out to pointless and clearly ignorant music with heavy bass, I felt like Schoolboy’s performance edged on ridiculous. From telling people not to think about their problems, to soliciting the use of racial epithets from white folks, it seemed the entire performance consisted of Q giving people bad advice. Despite the fact that dude can rap his ass off, switch up his flow effortlessly and control a crowd, I had a hard time listening to song after song about doing drugs and sexing other men’s women. I mean, neither topic bothers me at all, but in the words of Luck One, “There’s gotta be more.”

Or… Maybe there doesn’t.

~Mac Smiff