Better Than: Something scarier that could’ve happened, probably
If only last night’s Danny Brown x Kitty (Pryde) show at Irving Plaza could be judged simply as a performance, instead of a cultural event.
Unfortunately, it can’t. Not after “The Thing” that went down in Minneapolis two weeks ago. Really not after Kitty’s poignant response to (and naming of) The Thing a few days later. And certain-fucking-ly not after a throng of over-stimulated, over-privileged white boys in the crowd last night kicked up and maintained a chant of “SUCK HIS DICK, SUCK HIS DICK” at the 20-year-old rapper/opener while she performed.
– He’s Old, Missing Teeth, and Has a Funny Haircut: He’s Danny Brown, Rap’s Biggest Deal
– Sorry, Haters: Kitty Pryde Is Staying a While
– Danny Brown’s Triple Rock show sparks unseemly oral sex controversy
Kitty’s opening set, despite or perhaps partly due to her audience’s willful antagonism, was disheartened at best. While, over the past year, she’s grown miles more comfortable with her material, she seems less concerned with its delivery than ever, glazing over lyrics as if she were doing karaoke versions of her own songs. Admittedly, a room like last night’s is most artists’ worst nightmare, but under such circumstances, material ought to be one’s deadliest weapon; it’s what an artist knows and owns better than any schmuck staring up at her. Kitty seemed to forget that she owned the stage, though, even when backed up by noted goofball charmer Lakutis, laughing about how she had forgotten how mean New York audiences could be, attempting in vain to coyly shame the crowd into giving her the respect she deserves.
Where Kitty could have met the challenge of a mercilessly disrespectful — and terrifyingly misogynistic — crowd with equal vim (we’ve seen that energy, on songs like “R.R.E.A.M.” and “UNfollowed”) she seems to repeatedly shy away from the forceful stage presence a room like Irving requires in favor of maintaining that abashed, bedroom-giggle stage persona. That persona certainly holds water — and is one reason fans love her to begin with — but when you sign on for a month of testosterone-blistering rap shows instead of opting for the more attentive audiences of, say, a Charli XCX or a Mykki Blanco, you put yourself at a serious disadvantage that requires herculean effort to surmount. Her balking at the task kind of makes you wonder whether her heart is really in rapping, or if she truly is tired of it. She does, after all, have one hell of a knack for editorial.
Which brings us to Mister Old and Reckless himself. For all his bullshit, there is something truly lovable about Danny Brown, even if you’re not usually into his brand of coke-snorting, blunt-rolling excess rap. Some of it has to do with his now-infamous redemption myth; another part of it has to do with the playful frankness of songs like “I Will,” surely. Maybe, though, another small part of his charm is the fierceness with which women as smart as Kitty defend him.
His set itself was solid: missing not one beat, he blasted through lines with vicious precision, pacing the stage appearing far lazier than his lyrical delivery suggested. Mostly the set consisted of XXX cuts and new stuff that will appear on his studio album Old later this year, with a few dips into older material and collaborations like Evil 9 cut “Black Brad Pitt” and Trampy-assisted “Express Yourself.” About halfway through the set, he lost a little steam physically, but the crowd seemed to neither notice nor care: finally free of Kitty’s female oppression, they roiled like waves in a thunderstorm, occasionally breaking into hardcore pits where it was hard to tell the difference between people actively throwing punches (they did, on several occasions) and those simply flinging themselves around. There were maybe 20 women in the crowd of hundreds; their cheer when Danny gave a shout-out to “especially all the females” was bleak.
Back to the Kitty thing: unless he was willfully ignoring the rest of the night via kush coma, there’s no way Brown could have missed how the crowd treated his opener. On the one hand, Kitty is a big girl who ought to be able to carry her own weight on a tour like this; it’s part of the deal. On the other, it would be cool, for once, to watch a rapper as currently beloved as Danny Brown come out and straight-up eviscerate those crowd members who tried to make his “baby girl Kitty” (his words) feel small and shitty and unsafe after she penned 1,500 words (and over the past year, likely thousands more) ripping into his critics. Throughout their relationship, despite her insistence that they are friends, Brown hasn’t put half as much work into that friendship as one might expect; where she crows about his talents, he keeps quiet about hers. Her aesthetic and loyalty to him amplify his image, but when she took the heat last night for the shit that happened to him in Minneapolis? I’d like to think his line “Thanks for giving it up for my baby girl Kitty” was a cloaked jab at the clowns who thought it was funny to chant SUCK HIS DICK at her, but no one with a brain is naïve enough to think it could’ve been successful.
Sure, he’s got vastly more to lose, but as he loves to point out, at 32, Danny Brown is “old.” If that is in fact as old as he says it is, it should be old enough to not put up with this shit anymore. He spits fire, he sends his audience spinning into a nearly unmatched frenzy even as he flops, half-exhausted, through songs like the A-Trak collaboration “Piss Test.” If he’d chastised them for their attitude towards Kitty, he might’ve gotten a few boos, but what successful rapper hasn’t? In 2013, the man has power, and authority, and respect. That he ignored an opportunity to use that respect for good last night, for whatever reason, is a shame.
I kind of hope Kitty decides to be a columnist instead of a rapper
Random Notebook Dump:
Danny’s loose-fitting cotton ensemble: Netflix-marathon chic?