Dom Kennedy w/Casey Veggies, After The Smoke, Laws, Skotch Davis
Tuesday, July 5
Better than: Hanging around 200 dudes in a place where there was no music playing, I guess.
Going to a rap show these days, the music is secondary. To be seen is the issue; what is heard is not. Money is spent on cool-kid clothes rather than albums, so it all makes sense. Whereas indie-rock fans have long complained about Pitchfork grades and Williamsburg buzz cycles, hip-hop has quietly been taken over by a Hypebeast its own: the concertgoer who so badly wants to be a part of something, anything. Fans at rap shows will be part of a scene, sure, but they’ll settle for existing in the background of a blog post.
The life cycle of a rapper these days goes as follows: Mixtape; mixtape; album; goodbye forever. And then it’s on to the next one: a little prettier, a little younger, a little more “relevant.” Start a Tumblr, promote through Twitter, crank up the hype machine, put out an album that no one will buy. (No wonder release dates are announced like death sentences.)
It all takes about six months, start to finish. Remember Odd Future? That was a moment—cherish it. Kreayshawn went from zero-to-million dollars in a week, and now she’s being eulogized. Where’s the next Odd Future? Where’s the next [enter name here]? We’re living in a time where rap fans are even more crumb-hungry than A&R’s ever were, looking for the second coming of the sixth-biggest thing. Sooner or later, stages will be filled with people culled from the crowd—they’ll all go home with label offers and be dropped the next morning.
The July installment of Hot97’s “Who’s Next?” showcase lived up to the inquisition in its title. In a sweaty box of snap-backs and backpacks, there were Dom Kennedy and Casey Veggies, underground LA artists performing for a bunch of people who weren’t familiar with anything but the idea of them. And that idea was that we should pay attention to these guys. I overheard someone say of Casey, “He’s part of Odd Future.” (He’s not.) Mixed in with the stench of B.O. was the stink of desperation. Casey Veggies, who graduated from high school last week, shared the stage with eight photographers. His first time in New York, and he’s being welcomed like Prince William and Kate Middleton.
(I should say here that Casey Veggies seems like he has a lot of potential. He is 18! Well-spoken, funny, smart. His performance was solid; far superior to Dom Kennedy, who put on a fine-enough show. I could write about them, but honestly, who cares. People weren’t there for them, so much as they were there for themselves. Finishing “Watermelon Sundae,” Dom asked, “Y’all still with me?” and there was a moment where it seemed in doubt.)
I stood by as groups of people disappeared during Dom’s set to go downstairs and hang out by the dressing rooms. Maybe it was too hot upstairs, or maybe it was just that much cooler in VIP.
The problem exists in a saturated culture where everyone is a critic, everyone is a rapper, and everyone can have hangers-on; where word-of-mouth volume is always on high. The cream should rise to the top but it doesn’t. Instead, everything rises to the top in a bubbly mess. Everything is worth seeing, because everyone’s talking about everything at all times.
So, in those terms, last night was a classic show. Can’t believe you missed it. Everyone was there, and you’ll just have to watch when videos get posted on NahRight or Rap Radar or any of the other six thousand blogs out there.
Critical bias: I spent the weekend listening to Kendrick Lamar’s Section 80. Does that mean I’ve moved on?
Overheard: “I don’t even want to be here.” “It’s LA rap.” “It’s Hundreds rap.”–while waiting on line outside.
Random notebook dump: If I never hear the word “swag” again, I’ll be okay with that.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 6, 2011