Maybe not everyone got word that the Big K.R.I.T. Return of 4Eva Tour at the Gramophone was sold-out. Or maybe they heard, but tried to roll the dice and see if some tickets magically showed up at the door. Either way, while waiting in line to get in the recurring scene I saw was groups of bummed people realizing “sold-out” meant just that and turning back and heading home.
I’ve written previously about my (very limited) experience of the hip-hop show model (late start, tons of openers and “surprise guests,” headliners going on well after midnight) and how it really cuts both ways for the regular concert attendee. On one hand, you’re getting to see a lot of acts for your money and maybe discover someone new, but at some point it becomes an obstacle from seeing the headliners you really wanted to see.
Tef Poe officially started the evening, which in a weird way was a detriment because he ended up setting a bar that most of the other openers didn’t match. He caught my eye during the last Freddie Gibbs show and I think I’m officially a fan after seeing him this second time. Check out War Machine if you’re interested.
From that point, a handful of other openers did their best to try and keep the attention of a crowd that was getting more fatigued as each hour rolled by. G-Eazy rolled in from New Orleans with his Drake-like delivery, Jackie Chain repped his Mr. VIP status from Alabama, Vandalyzm tried to work some local charm, and Mookie Jones had some wild hair to match his rhymes. During his set, Vandalyzm noted that the crowd wasn’t really responsive, which unfortunately was the case with front-row attendees sitting with their backs to the stage just waiting out the clock. (At this point, I felt bad for Tech Supreme, the night’s MC, with the painful job of trying to keep the morale up.)
Eventually the light at the end of the tunnel was foreseeable with the trio of headlining acts (Big K.R.I.T., Freddie Gibbs, Smoke DZA) finally headed up. For me, it was like a reset button was pushed and I was ready to power through and hopefully get some good shots.
If you couldn’t have guessed it, Smoke DZA loves to smoke and has started to make a name for himself working with Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y and Asher Roth. I’m personally not too into the “let’s get high” genre of hip-hop, so it wasn’t really my thing, but the crowd livened up a bit for the first time in a while.
Freddie Gibbs rolled in afterwards like an adrenaline shot. After his last show here a few months back, I spent some time with Str8 Killa, which isn’t always a comfortable listen, but remains compelling just because of how bluntly he outlines his struggle. The guy is hardcore but ended things actually on a nice note by bringing up his little cousin on stage and introducing him to the crowd. Big thanks to his DJ, Archie Bonkers, for getting me into the show.
Finally sometime around 1 AM, the lights dropped and the crowd loudly welcomed the Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. to the stage. One of XXL’s Top 11 Freshmen of 2011, Big K.R.I.T. worked the stage like a pro and seemed to roll off rhymes all with a smile. I’ve only recently started listening to his Returnof4eva mixtape that just came out last month, but I’ve really enjoyed it so far, made even more interesting after reading a few interviews of him where he elaborates on the spiritual influences shaping his music. Say what you will about the waiting, but at least the packed house left on a high note with his performance.
Photography notes: All over the map. Freddie Gibbs had dim but clean white lighting for most of his set, making the f1.4/1.8 range very doable, but some acts (as in the case of Big K.R.I.T.) had nothing but a dark and solid color wash. Thankfully, I finally got over my hang-ups and pulled out the flash.
Thanks for reading. Head over here for the full photo set.