Apple Store Soho
Tuesday, June 14
Better than: Waiting your turn at the Genius Bar.
Jadakiss stood in front of a large projection screen, dressed in black tee and jeans; Steve Jobs kitted. He had just “freestyled” the lyrics to “Trading Places,” which is to say that he performed his fully completed song a capella. Styles P had left the stage, but an impenetrable sea of snapbacks, hoodies, and jerseys held steady, 500 deep, nodding along to each word, capital-O “Ohhhh”-ing each punchline. It sounded like a strong breeze.
Each gun and drug reference earned a louder reaction from the scrum that took up the entire second floor. Meanwhile, Manhattan moms shopped for iPhone accessories downstairs and hurried their purchases, probably wondering what the racket was. (That’s not to say that there weren’t scores of women upstairs: the store has never seen so many angry birds.)
The Apple Store Soho is a strange space for a hip-hop show: it’s academic, corporate and well-lit. Most notably, it’s family-friendly. (A seven-year-old girl, her hair in braids, sat in the front row next to her father. Jadakiss shook her hand and smiled.) Rappers can’t curse, but they are allowed to say the rest of their lyrics.
But Apple’s “Black Music Month,” a seemingly annual event at their brick-and-mortar stores around the country that’s now in its second week, is great. (The name isn’t, but so be it.) A series of free concerts in the style of (pre-Lil Wayne) Unplugged or (pre-Kanye) Storytellers are held in the workshop room, a black box with a few rows of cinema seating. There is no spectacle; it’s just two turntables-and-a-mic barebones.
And, for Jadakiss—who performs like he’s on radio—it’s perfect. His words are meant for closed-eye listening anyway, with wind-it-back moments in each line. During the forever crowd-pleasing “We Gonna Make It”: “When my coke come in, they gotta use the scales that they weigh the whales with.” He’s never had a dance; the man can barely move. He shuffles his feet as if at an eighth-grade prom, left, right, left, right. Instead, it’s his arms that do the talking, his trigger finger pointing at the crowd just a few feet away. His energy was up, his banter moved the show along, and he knew all the words. That’s all you’d ever want from a Jadakiss show.
The first half of his set was fashioned for the women, the Ryde or Die chicks-turned-mothers, as he ran through cuts from his latest mixtape I Love You (A Dedication to My Fans). Calling himself LL Cool Kiss, he put a smile on and seemed soft, cuddly, a Paddington bear of a rapper instead of a Pillsbury killer.
After a few R&B hooks, Jadakiss said, “Ladies, you know this mixtape is really for y’all, right?” A kid by the Genius Bar responded, “It’s not for me!” and then left, unsatisfied. Jada continued, “A lot of emcees have come and go in this game. I’m still here, and it’s all because of you.” (I always assumed his ability to stick around was because of his man-fans, but that kid left, calling that assumption into question.)
But soon after, out came Fred Da Godson, a Mr. Potato Head-looking rapper from the Bronx. This would appease the men still remaining, who may or may not have confused the R&B up-and-comer Emanny for Ne-Yo. (We did, in the back.) Fred followed Jada’s right-hand man Styles P., who gladly played the role of hypeman, even as his mic was louder than Kiss’. Chynk Show—try as he might—was not Sheek Louch. Jada was still Jada, though: fun, lyrical, effortless.
New York rap was finally back, albeit at the end of the set, and in the second-most tourist-y part of town.
Overheard I: An Apple employee: “Can you please keep your hands off the Genius Bar?”
Overheard II: “It’s funny to watch Apple people try to play security.”
Overheard III: A record exec wasn’t a fan, saying, “I dunno. It’s weird with the seats.” A fair point, but one I disagree with.
Random notebook dump: Screens above the Genius Bar showed the performance that could not be seen over so many hoodies. Unfortunately, they were pixellated, glitchy, and angled strangely. It was like speaking to your roommate through a webcam.
Hold You Down (with Emanny)
Lil’ Bruh (So Raspy)
How I Feel
Rock Wit Me
In These Streets
Lay Em Down (with Styles P and Chynk Show)
Toast to That (with Styles P and Fred Da Godson)
“Who’s Real?” (with Styles P)
We Gon’ Make It (with Styles P)
Trading Places (a capella)