2 Chainz, Asher Roth, Ace Hood, Vado, and Gunplay
Tuesday, February 21
Better than: Clicking through the 50 best hip-hop jumpsuits.
Is a show still a success if the audience has a great time, but never quite figures what’s being promoted? Last night at the Gramercy Theatre, a website called Best of Both Offices brought a handful of rappers from along the east coast to help them re-launch their website and announce a new partnership with Complex Media. Yet the next morning I’m still not exactly sure what that website is. The company refers to itself as a “fully equipped lifestyle and artist development brand designed to creatively develop, market, promote and establish brand new upstart or prominent artists or brands into the marketplace,” but that doesn’t help much, and Complex claims that it has “successfully marketed, developed and digitally promoted artists including… Jay-Z,” which I have trouble believing.
Nevertheless, for all this after-the-fact confusion, the people at Best of Both Offices seem to know how to put together a good show: The door was under control, there was barely any dead time between sets, and every rapper showed up on time.
For nearly all of those rappers, it would be hard to underestimate the influence of Waka Flocka and the aggressive sound he pioneered with producer Lex Luger. While Vado and 2 Chainz both performed versions of “Hard in the Paint” (a straightforward freestyle and the song “Kitchen,” respectively), Ace Hood’s set hinged on the Luger-produced “Hustle Hard,” and Gunplay’s climaxed with “Rollin’,” for which Flocka provides the hook.
Unsurprisingly, it was Asher Roth, the college-loving frat rap pioneer, who broke the trend, never in his 15 minutes on stage rapping over anything harder than Bangladesh’s “A Milli” beat. But surrounded by what Spin termed “working-class rappers” and “regional thugs,” Roth will always be an anomaly, an outsider looking to be accepted rather than an insider trying to break out. Whereas his partners on the bill have spent years trying to find the right sound (Gunplay), a breakout single (Ace Hood), or just simply improving their skills, bit by bit (2 Chainz), Roth came out viral and has spent the rest of his career trying to prove he has the talent to be a journeyman, just one of the boys. It was hardly a surprise, then, that he tried harder to win over the crowd than anyone else on the bill, rapping one song from the bleachers on stage left and another as he walked through the seats at the auditorium’s rear.
But if Roth had to work to win the crowd, 2 Chainz did it with ease. Even his intro music, Juicy J’s “Zip and a Double Cup,” the same track he walked out to last month at S.O.B.’s, got more of a response than anything since Ace Hood, and once he pulled a corded, long-out-of-date telephone from one of his pants pockets, that crowd officially entered the palm of his hand, remaining there even as he queued up his outro (a Tity Boi-era “Moments in Love” remix, for the record) and posed for picture after picture, a little over a half hour later.
“They told me to only play for 10, 15 minutes,” he had announced as “Double Cup” faded out, but I’ma give you a full performance!” As it turned out, that performance followed the same path as the aforementioned S.O.B.’s one, but here, 2 Chainz was looser, a little more reckless with his dance moves, and, well, willing to pull a wall phone out of his pocket. In other words, he seemed less interested in furthering his own brand than in making sure that he and everyone before him enjoyed their evening, which in the end was all we ask for.
Critical bias: Uh… SIMILAC?
Random notebook dump: “Make some noise if you wanna see Vado!”—always a risky way to jumpstart a crowd.