Pill w/Jon Connor, AP, Nina B, Kasanova
Thursday, November 17
Better than: Subway delays. Like, who enjoys that?
Two years ago, on the strength of the bubble-cooking anthem “Trap Goin’ Ham,” Pill was inescapable during CMJ week, a pop-up at every show. XXL picked him as one of its top 10 “freshman rappers” to watch. Andre 3000 gave Pill his “stamp of approval.” Unfortunately, mountains of hype can quickly turn to a heap of mush if not kept properly. Nine months ago, he signed to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group label and life was good. Now, not only has Pill been superseded by Meek Mill’s frothy ascent and Wale’s Billboard chart cut-outs, it even seems like Stalley has a higher profile than he does, scraggly beard and all. Pill was practically the only person not present at last month’s jam-packed Wale show, the only core MMG member not onstage at October’s BET Hip-Hop Awards. (During the show’s broadcast, he tweeted, “Don’t ask me, ask them. Str8 up.” Sheesh.) Maybe he was working on plans for his comeback; maybe he doesn’t have his priorities straight; maybe he wasn’t invited. It is entirely possible that Pill is the Eduardo Saverin of MMG.
Pill’s downward course—unfortunate as it may be—is not due to lack of talent, nor lack of showmanship. He’s just not connecting, plain and simple. Last night at S.O.B.’s, Pill performed an unintentionally intimate show, the crowd numbering in the double-digits in a venue that usually holds much more. Fans stood few and far between—rap fans are notoriously fickle—Waldos to be sniffed out. The majority were ticket winners, though the word “winner” is used here loosely—they walked in the doors as if they just realized the free tickets they received were non-refundable, as if going to a Pill show was a chore. Almost immediately as his set began, the already low tide started to shove out.
Pill tried to hold on, an exhausting tug-of-war against the apathy of a relentlessly New York audience. He danced. He joked, untethered and hilarious, pointing to his more-neon-than-neon snowcap and saying, “I’m not wearing this because I work at the airport—it’s because it match the kicks! Check the kicks out!” One song later, he chided the audience—”It seem like everybody snuck in here with they best pair of shoes on. If you fuckin’ with me, say you fuckin’ with me!”—getting little reaction in the process. He punched the button on his catchphrase, “Okeydenn,” over and over, like a Teddy Ruxpin on dead batteries. He said he was in New York, so he had to shout out Biggie, performing an entire song from his first mixtape (4180 The Prescription) in tribute only to be received by crossed arms and vague displeasure. Pill jumped into the crowd, or, well, he stepped down off the stage and rapped “Trap Goin’ Ham” among the people, who sort-of backed away until he clambered back to his spot onstage. A woman sat at a VIP table by herself, her hand welded to her cheek like a kid in detention.
After seven songs, he ended the set, abrupt though not unexpected: “I’m drunk, I’m high, I’m good. Thanks for having me. Have a good night.” He seemed not entirely unwavered, friendly. A mixture of disappointment and relief filled the room, but no one called for an encore and absolutely no one applauded. Okeydenn.
It’s too bad that Pill didn’t get a better reaction, but rap fans these days are like goldfish in a glass bowl, only able to concentrate on whatever’s happening in front of them at that very moment. He’s dropping his first mixtape under the MMG umbrella next week, which means that it’ll be deemed a classic by Tuesday, and his next show at S.O.B.’s will be sold out and everyone will say that they were at this one. Whatever. Even the people there last night missed out on what seemed like a promising performance.
Critical bias: Both times I’ve met Pill, he was polite.
Overheard: “How many ladies is in the building?” asked Jon Connor, a hard-nosed opening act out of Flint, Michigan. Three voices quivered out, needles in a haystack. “Alright, then I’m nervous for the next question. How many bitches is in here tonight?” Dead silence. Like, “Not a creature is stirring”-type silence. Thud.
Random notebook dump: Nina B, from Brooklyn, rapped over the beat to Jay-Z’s “Death of Autotune” and brought out A GUY PLAYING SOPRANO SAXOPHONE, which was clearly the best thing to happen all night.
Trap Goin’ Ham