PeterPalooza 3 – Schoolboy Q, Action Bronson, Ab-Soul and Danny Brown – Best Buy Theater 7/23/14
Better Than: Elmopalooza. Yeah, I said it!
After a certain age, people seem to begin to bemoan their birthday. The idea of growing another year older doesn’t seem quite glamorous. Fortunately for us, Hot 97 DJ Peter Rosenberg uses each completed lap around the sun as an excuse to celebrate. Since 2012, his PeterPalooza (a name he told us was inspired by Waynestock in Wayne’s World 2) has seen him gather his favorite new hip-hop acts under one bill for an incredible party. Rosenberg himself called last night the best PeterPalooza to date, so if you placed a bet on the DJ having a happy birthday, please proceed to collect your winnings that you’ve acquired in a very bizarre means of gambling.
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Before the show we spoke to Rosenberg about how PeterPalooza compares to his other favorite birthdays, including Chuck-E-Cheese Birthdays which got “serious” and going to Oriels games in the Baltimore team’s pre-Nationals days. He told he enjoys pretty much everything about his birthday, with the sole cringe-inducing moment coming from hearing people sing “Happy Birthday,” becasue “it sounds like a funeral procession. The tone and tune of ‘Happy Birthday’ sounds like a farewell.” We asked him what song he feels should replace “Happy Birthday” and he instantly told us Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones (Part II).” “It’s a different feeling than happy birthday, but everybody knows all the words.”
The sold out crowd ready to celebrate the day of Rosen-birth was among the livest I’ve ever witnessed. While there were more than a fair share of brolic jacked white dudes whose blood type appears to be Monster Energy Drink permeating the air with testosterone, the excitable crowd seemed more interested in turning up than beating up. Host Larry Legend, ring announcer for numerous east coast wrestling and boxing events, mastered the ceremonies like a true showman. Legend actually excitedly told the crowd why they should get hype for the relative unknowns who opened the show, giving enough backstory that made everyone taking the stage seem special.
Chris Rivers was the first to touch the mic, a natural showman who kept the crowd engaged and impressively continued through his set unfazed even after being hit in the head with something pelted from the audience. Rivers is also the son of legendary rapper Big Pun, but more than stands on his own two feet as a hot talent. Retch followed and despite some technical issues with a distortion in his beats and a muffled flow from cupping the mic, his sheer visceral energy was enough to win over the Best Buy Theater audience, especially as his set slowly dissolved into the chaos of stage diving and jumping on stage.
Rosenberg came out next to the WWE’s Degeneration-X theme, thanking the crowd for supporting “Real hip-hop music.” Rosenberg then brought out Ab-Soul for what wound up being the night’s longest set. Right off the bat you could tell the audience’s passionate obsession with Ab-Soul and the rest of his TDE compatriots by their instant unprompted shouting along with every time the music dropped out. Notable about Ab-Soul’s set was how different the songs from his new album These Days sound live. While the album versions all feature a detached vocal delivery with an airy mixing and layers of production effects, hearing Ab-Soul do these same songs live in a stripped down MC-over-a-beat format really fired the tracks up and highlighted quite a few more elements. His set ended with the outrageously cool closing visual of the lights being turned out as the audience raised their lighters and cell phones.
After Atlantic Records recording artist Lorianna sang “Happy Birthday,” Rosenberg’s wife brought out an elaborately decorated WWE-themed birthday cake which the DJ had the audience help blow-out alongside him. What better way to follow cake than Danny Brown? While we did get a glimpse of Brown in Ab-Soul’s set, dropping by for a guest verse with new green highlighted hair and glasses, Brown’s masterful controlling of the crowd bordered on puppeteering for how he could get the Best Buy Theater audience to instantly bend to his whims. We’ve seen rappers get a crowd to chant a hook along with them or finish a line when the beat cuts out, but Brown getting the thousands in attendance to handle the entire seven-second “Blunt After Blunt” chorus without a beat each and every time it rolled around is one of the most impressive performance feats I’ve ever seen. Brown’s DJ also abandoned standard DJ sound effects during his set in favor of the AIM message chirps and a dolphin noise.
We then had two special guests, a slot that a crowd typically is resistant towards, but the vibe of the night made the audience seem more receptive than most. First, XXL Freshman Vic Mensa performed his new single “I Feel That” to a positive response. In fact, the crowd’s only negative reaction the entire evening came from the next special guest, G-Eazy. While G-Eazy had a few hours earlier made his national television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers, his performance of “I Mean It” here was lacking. While the other acts on the night’s bill did a great job engaging the crowd with either encouraging participation or, at the very least, light banter, G-Eazy spent the first 20-or-so seconds after being introduced with his beat playing, dancing silently. The crowd returned the silence, but just as G-Eazy seemed to be winning them back over at the end of his first verse, he said “Y’all are like ‘who the fuck is this white boy?’ and I give zero fucks right now.'” Few things are as uncomfortable at a hip-hop show than a white artist needlessly bringing up their own whiteness, and the crowd felt noticeably unnerved.
Once G-Eazy was finished, we had the raw animalized Action Bronson. Sporting a full head of curly hair to match his beard, Bronson came out and tore the top of his shirt, revealing his chest tattoo, before he even rapped a single bar. Backed by The Alchemist, Bronson successfully transferred the spectacle of his smaller, more intimate shows to the bigger venue by projecting himself bigger than ever. Out the gate we got him doing “Pepe Lopez,” his rap over “Tequila,” accompanied by him even busting out the Pee-Wee Herman dance. Bronson then cranked the chaos up by performing “Marty Jannetty” in the crowd, and later closing by bringing out a guitarist to play the riff from Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” for his track “Amadu Diablo.”
Headliner Schoolboy Q had probably the most interesting history with Rosenberg. Their first interaction years ago, Rosenberg himself described as “Awkward” and funny in retrospect as they now share “one of [his] least awkward relationships in music.” The first time Rosenberg ever interviewed Q was alongside Kendrick, who did a bulk of the talking. Q said nothing for 20 minutes, and only piped up after Rosenberg’s sole question to him, which was to ask why he was promoting drunk driving with his then-new single “Hands On the Wheel.” According to Rosenberg, it was at a time shortly after his own brother-in-law was killed in a drunk driving accident and Q was so cool, understanding and smart that they developed an actual relationship.
Schoolboy Q came out, acknowledged how he didn’t have a whole lot of time left for his set, but was going to make the most of it. That he did, quickly getting the aforementioned crowd favorite “Hands on the Wheel” out early and then primarily choosing cuts from his album Oxymoron, which debuted at #1 earlier this year. Despite not taking the stage until 11:38, Q got the crowd the most raucous they were the entire night. When it came time for his closer “Man of the Year,” the galvanized crowd went absolutely bananas. Q’s banter with Rosenberg during his set really captured the special relationship both they and a lot of prominent current hip-hop artists seem to have with Rosenberg that’s getting rarer and rarer in the world of radio. Rosenberg booked a memorable show for his birthday, but the results were a present everyone in attendance won’t soon forget.
Critical Bias: I can’t help but chuckle every time I hear someone on that stage address the crowd as “WHAT UP, BEST BUY?!”
Overheard: An expensively dressed blond female in the V.I.P. section yelling at the crowd below during Schoolboy Q’s set “THIS IS HIP-HOP! STOP MOSHING!”
Random Notebook Dump: It’s cool how this new generation of hip-hop fans react to tracks like “Hard in the Paint,” “I Don’t Like” and “I Get Money” like they’re standards from an American songbook. The new classics will never go out of style.