(Photo Credit: Credit: Shot by Luke)
This here rap game is often one of hyperbole. Whether it's a rapper claiming he's the greatest ever, or a writer saying the new Riff Raff album is a classic, just days after it drops, the exaggeration bug has bitten many. It's why I have learned to take everything with a grain of salt and to lower my expectations as not everything is the greatest thing ever. Sometimes, however all the hype is real. I had never been to a Strange Music show, but had always heard rumblings about how insane it is. Strange Music is arguably the most successful independent label in rap and a large part of that is because of the reputation for putting on a killer live show. I've heard rumbling about an army of stage hands dressed in black and this mysterious pledge, and while I was all for it, I did wonder how good the show could
be. Was there any way the actual experience could measure up to the reputation? Last night, I had all those questions answered as I attended my first ever Strange Music show.
Truthfully, the experience started well before I got into the venue. As I was driving down Georgia Avenue. I began to see signs of a Strange takeover; there were more than a few cars with snake and bat logo bumper stickers. "That's cool" I thought, "those people are some serious Tech heads." Turns out, I hadn't seen nuthin' yet. The crowd was one of the most colorful crowds I have ever seen. Pretty much every demographic you could think of was at the show: old, young (there was even a kid who couldn't have ben older than six), black, white, hip-hop head, metal head, you name it and it was represented; it was a melting pot of people who all had one thing in common, the love of great music.
There was also a real sense of community. Even though there was plenty to drink, and a mosh pit or two (of course I took part it was "Riotmaker" after all), people seem genuinely respectful of one another. There was no barrier between the stage and the fans, but after a reminder form one of Strange's many hard-working employees, nobody jumped on stage unless they were invited or did anything crazy. Even when girls were flashing their boobs left and right, during "
" nobody got over excited. There was one inebriated fan who kept hollering for Tech and got on Freddie Gibbs' bad side (something you never want to do), but other than that it was all love. The whole experience was different form any other show I have been to and that was all before Tech came on stage. Once he did, it was clear why the fans are so passionate.
I have been to the Howard Theater plenty of times, but I have never seen it Stranged out. Though there were a bunch of gears (fitting the Independent Grind theme), a giant subwoofer, a giant fan, and more lights than you imagine. The stage had never seemed bigger. Normally hip-hop shows are just a DJ and the emcee, and maybe a banner hanging from the booth, but not here. The stage and the absolutely incredible light display really helped take the epicness up another notch.
Between the fans and the stage there was so much to focus on, but once Tech popped out from the subwoofer, all the focus was on him. For nearly two hours Tech captivated. Of course he had some help, Krizz Kaliko, who supported him with his amazing set of pipes (I had no idea he could sing like that) and even took a few songs himself so that Tech could hop off stage and get some rest. He needed the rest, because when Tech performs, he puts his all into it; the man's stage presence is incredible. I wish I could give you a highlight of one song that stood out, but the truth is,
, but I know I had a blast the whole time. Hell, even Tech was having fun. I don't there there was anything else he would rather be doing than performing (and if so he certainly faked it well). He was having just as much fun as I was and it made me enjoy it that much more; the perfect blend of work hard and play harder. Currently, my left ear is ringing, I have a pain in my shoulder and my legs are sore, so I don't know how the man can rap like that for two hours every night; it takes the term independent grind to a whole new level. So, a great show, yes, but did it live up to the reputation?
Hell...fucking...yes. Tech may not be my absolute favorite emcee (I am more of a boom-bap guy) but there are very few emcees who I respect more than him. Everything Strange Music does has the highest emphasis on qualit,y and that extends to the live shows. There were so many moving parts to this show, from the sets, to their own sound guys, to the array of stagehands running around and to the impressive merch table (Strange Music socks anyone?), but they all went off seemingly without a hitch. I'm sure there were mistakes here and there, but the best artists keep moving like they never even happened. The fact that all of these people can come together to form a finely-tuned machine is truly impressive and makes me respect what they do that much more. Normally, I am not too keen on concert reviews - it's like hearing about a party that you didn't go to - but in this case I wanted to let RefinedHype Nation know that the hype is real.
There is a lot of backwards ass shit in music today where people who do next to nothing are given everything. Nobody deserves success more than Tech and Strange Music because nobody works harder and it's wonderful to see their hard work pay off. I didn't think I could admire them any more than I did, but after the show I have a new found appreciation for the Strange Music movement.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net and RefinedHype. He does not have a beard. You can tweet him your favorite Migos songs at