By Daniel Paiz
Let’s start off by looking into a topic not often addressed because, quite simply, it never seems to be a topic of discussion. After attending one of the best shows I have ever attended (and I’ve attended dozens in my short time on this planet) this past weekend, I would like to address a topic that a friend of mine brought up; it’s had me thinking on it enough to write a post about it. That topic is, are we as the audience of the Hip Hop community holding artists to a high enough standard these days? Also, I’ll flip the script on this question and address whether or not we as audience are being kept to a high enough standard by artists as well as each other. Let us begin.
One of the best shows I have ever seen. Exhilarating. What a Hip Hop show should really be. These are all statements a friend of mine and I were basically making after seeing one of the most lauded and underrated artists in Hip Hop today, Brother Ali and his all-star cast of tour mates on his “Mourning in America & Dreaming in Colour” tour. The Reminders, a dynamic duo from Denver, Colorado set off the show with lyrical interpretations that even the most die-hard “old-head” Hip Hop fan would’ve been bobbing their head to.
From the moment they started, the show just started fantastic and went higher. After their set was an up-and-comer from Queens, NY by the name of Homeboy Sandman. After an unsure start (he had to follow the Reminders in their home state, may I remind you), Homeboy got the crowd into it with his slick delivery and raw energy that nearly had him spent. “How the hell y’all deal with this altitude??” he asked the crowd after exerting energy one would expect from a headliner.
As his set came to a close and the stage was transformed for Brother Ali’s instrument-driven set, one couldn’t help but wonder what Ali would bring to a Sold-Out Fox Theater crowd (the third sold-out night in Colorado, which was a three city stop on the tour). The band started to play, introducing Ali, who came out smiling and what seemed more than ready to get into it with the excited crowd.
Dropping gems from previous albums to monster tracks from the recently released album, Ali set forth on a path of entertainment that continued to build upon itself as the night went on. As the last track played and the band cleared out, Ali was brought back for a short encore performance that had the theater jumping up and down in the end.
What really struck this blogger as something that I hadn’t seen for a while was the part right after the show itself, which was Ali coming back on the side of the stage to engage with the audience members that had luckily stuck around the area (this blogger was one of those). That’s what drove me to this thought process that we’ll explore here.
Brother Ali could have just gone back to his dressing room once done with the show, and could’ve been with happy with the performance he and his tour mates had.
But, he didn’t. He made his way down the stage afterwards, signed autographs,took pictures, and spoke with the fans. Now, one might be asking, “what’s the big deal? Don’t all artists do that?”, and to be honest with all of you, I had to think for a good five minutes before I recalled Murs doing that, as well as some of the classic Hip Hop acts from the 90’s (like The Pharcyde and Rahzel, for example).
This is a big deal because if I can’t recall the last artist that decided to dialogue with me after the show at a moment’s notice, then there’s something in Hip Hop that is slowly beginning to fade away. The essence of Hip Hop is engagement, interaction, and just coming together collectively to grow and have others with which you have the same experiences and struggles (or similar, if not the same struggles).
This may come off as some “old-head”, “elitist” verbatim for you all, but I’m more confident than ever that there are a lot of Hip Hop enthusiasts/aficionados/casual fans who would agree with this. That’s where the whole “holding artists to a standard” thing comes into play. If we continue to put artists on a pedestal and treat them as otherworldly and different than ourselves, we are getting away from the very reason as to why we enjoy their music and lyrics in the first place.
Are we the same in terms of current experiences now, where some artists are globally travelling the world and making money off of it, no, but the a majority of artists are not doing that. Instead, they are working nine to fives, they’re worrying about this, that, and the other in terms of their families. They are doing the same nonsense we do. So, why not look at them and expect more from these artists when it comes to things like shows and interactions with the audience, one asks; well, it’s because we aren’t doing it with ourselves.
We as fans are not truly pushing ourselves to grow and strive when it comes to the music we listen to, and to the attention that we pay to said music. Yes, I understand the argument that music is an “escape”, and that people use music to “unwind, and relax”. However, when we go and complain about how this same music we relax to is perpetuating things we complain about like sexism, misogyny, homophobia, violence, ignorance, and what we often complain about most–a disconnect from the audience that makes artists to themselves seem above human–then we do have an issue to address.
When people say they aren’t fans of Watch the Throne, or Kanye’s “cockiness” in general, we are in part responsible for what’s being produced by ‘Ye and the rest of G.O.O.D Music. Same goes for Ross, Wayne, Jeezy, and whoever else you want to list. There is definitely a change that needs to happen at concerts and shows that we all attend and pay for, but there’s also a change that needs to be made when looking at the audience at large. At least in the eyes of this Hip Hop enthusiast.