Tuesday, May 1
Better than: Being in jail?
“How many of you heard I was in jail?” Mystikal asked the audience, almost as soon as he got on it last night. “I aint going to jail yet. That’s some bullshit. 81 days. I was already gone six fucking years. I missed the game, I know the game missed me.”
Did it? It was tough to tell early on at S.O.B.’s last night, where a relatively thin crowd of longtime fans, media folks and industry types had gathered to see the former No Limit soldier continue his quest to make a comeback. A comeback that, as he noted, has been six years in the making (it’s been more than 11 years since he released Tarantula) and is now being halted by another prison sentence he’ll have to serve out for a parole violation stemming from a domestic abuse battery arrest in February. Perhaps it was the time he took the stage (close to midnight), or the guy standing behind him while he performed (he played with his phone most of the show and looked genuinely uninterested), or just the fact that it was like, wow, a Mystikal concert in 2012 (which seemed to be the consensus amongst folks I talked to).
Whatever it was, the New Orleans native showed that he can still command a stage. Backed by his DJ, the former Beats by the Pound producer KLC, and clad in a black Diamond Supply baseball cap, grey Diamond Supply sweatshirt, jeans, and a belt with the words “Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics” written on it, he moved about the stage like an old pro. At times he seemed like a soda bottle that had been shaken too much, quietly spitting his rapidfire rhymes, then jerking his body forward and jumping in the air. He was surprisingly springy.
That energy made people fall in love with Mystikal the first time around. In his heyday, he never came off as the most gangster of rappers, nor was too goofy to be taken seriously. And he was never the most technically sound lyricist. What drew listeners were his howls and “Ahhs” and “Owws,” which often had folks comparing him to James Brown. And his voice had a certain tone to it. He could be mealy-mouthed and altogether difficult to understand, but his flow often mimicked a New Orleans brass band, all lows and highs, in a jump-jive rhythm. Think of his voice like a trombone and everything makes more sense.
If anything, last night was a solid refresher on Mystikal’s material. While he’s certainly far and away a better performer than most modern-day rappers—think of that image, a guy/girl on stage with a microphone just sort of wandering about aimlessly—the show almost seemed like a warmup to some larger and more elaborate performance he’ll put on when he’s home from jail in a few months. Older songs were hit or miss. “Ya’ll Ain’t Ready Yet,” from his 1995 debut LP Mind of Mystikal, drew blank stares, while “Here I Go,” from the same LP, had people grooving along. The crowd was somewhat thin, but it was far from an empty venue, and he seemed to engage with call and response-style antics well. On songs where he just has a guest verse—”Make Em’ Say Uhh!” and “Move Bitch,” among others—the crowd filled in the hooks while he spit his verses. Sometimes he sounded like he was performing over his vocals on the backing tracks, which is typically a bad thing, but it’s worth noting that with the general fuckery that has been Mystikal’s life in the past six years, he may not actually be in possession of the instrumentals and/or performance tracks for these tunes, so take it with a grain of salt His more well-known singles, “Danger” and “Bouncing” went over well. People didn’t seem to know the words, but if you’re even a casual fan of hip-hop, you can sing along to the hooks. I’m not entirely sure that anyone ever knew what Mystikal was saying even when those songs were popular.
It wasn’t completely a trip down memory lane, though. “The first night I went to jail I had a dream,” Mystikal prefaced, before going into an unnamed song he wrote about, well, his dick. Funny. Then he performed his new single “Original,” which features Birdman and Lil’ Wayne (neither were in attendance, unless you count their voices on the backing track). For a comeback tune, this track seemed to lose the crowd a bit— frankly, everyone appeared a bit bored—but it was performed with a certain degree of precision. “Call me porch monkey, call me jiggaboo/ while you know you wanna fuck my woman, and eat my barbecue,” he spit, in a calculated snarl.
He won back the audience by dipping into his biggest hit, “Shake Ya Ass,” at which point he attempted to bring female audience members on stage to, well, shake their asses. He didn’t find too many willing participants, but one entrant into the Mystikal freak show, a thick-bodied white girl with a fauxhawk, aggressively bounded on stage and began to grind on the rapper. “She’s humping me, I’m not humping her,” he said. “She’s a real professional.” Then, perhaps tipping his hat to what’s to come—he’ll be back in jail on May 14—he angrily spit his verse from the Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz club classic “I Don’t Give A Fuck.”
“I don’t give a fuck,” he said, as he closed the show. “Cause I’m coming right back. 81 days.”
Critical bias: I always thought of Mystikal as a Southern version of Busta Rhymes. Great singles and awesome guest appearances, but ultimately, something missing.
Overheard: “Is that guy on stage behind him having a meeting?”