In the real world, job benefits include paid vacation days, health insurance and the occasional office pizza party. In rap blog land, however, none of those perks exist, but that doesn't mean there aren't perks. My job bonuses include free albums (often before they are released to those with health insurance and "real" jobs) and best of all, free concert tickets. Seeing a live show is a great way to reignite your passion for an artist, or sell you on someone you may be on the fence about, because if they can put on a great live show, it can make you a fan. Plus, on a more emotional level, the feeling you get after a great live show is one of the best feelings there is.
Not to toot my own horn, but I'd like to think I'm kind of, sort of, a live show expert. Whether it's an unknown rapper from North Dakota or a chart-topper, I try to go to as many concerts as possible. After all, it's my job. There are aspects of a live show that I love - the energy, the connection with the artist, the music - but there are also parts I loathe. No matter how many shows I go to, I always see things that irk me. Maybe I'm just a music snob, or maybe, just maybe, I'm right. (Spoiler alert: I'm right.) Most people pay good money to see a show, and they deserve to get their money's worth, but sometimes the show doesn't live up to expectations. Sometimes it's the artists fault and sometimes it's the crowd. Often it's both.
So consider this your call to arms, your guide to being the best live artist or the best live music fan you can be. As a community of music lovers, we can do better. Here are a few guidelines for both artists and fans.
Do Not Rap Over Your Own Vocals:
Do not rap over your own vocals. Do not rap over your own vocals. DO NOT RAP OVER YOUR OWN VOCALS. Don't do it. That shit ain't a live show, it's glorified karaoke. Nothing sucks the energy out of a venue faster than the emcee bursting on stage to rap over his or her own backing track. If I wanted to listen to the recorded version, I could turn it up real loud in my car and save myself $20-$40 (hypothetical) dollars. It makes you look unprofessional, unestablished and unsure. It's hard to get onstage, but you must have the confidence to kill it without the vocal assist.
If a rapper uses backing tracks, I more or less check out. I would much rather hear an artist slip up or show an imperfection if it means not using pre-recorded vocals. Anything can happen at a live show and that's what makes them great, but vocal backing takes away the authenticity. I think this is especially true for an opener. It's already hard to woo a crowd who's there for the guy after you, but rapping over your own vocals ensures you won't be taken seriously. It's the cardinal sin of rap shows and if you can't do it, so keep practicing until you can. Say it with me now, DO NOT RAP OVER YOUR OWN VOCALS
Do Not Bring Your Crew On Stage:
Performing is exciting. Not just for you, but for all the people who support you; especially when it's in your hometown. For the fans, being onstage is a dream, so it's no wonder your whole crew, from your brother to that guy you sat next to in biology class two years ago, wants to show they roll with the artist. As an artist, you have to develop the ability to say "No." People will always want to use your fame to impress that girl in the front row or get seven more likes on Facebook, but this is your job. It's your livelihood. A doctor doesn't bring his poker buddies into the operating room with him. I know rap isn't super serious, but there is a level of professionalism I expect from you on stage. I'm not there to see who's in your crew, I'm there to see you perform. Stage presence is essential and it's hard to be the focus of the audience's attention when your brother's roommate's dog walker is doing the shmoney dance behind you; that stage is your domain, so fucking own it. I have even seen a rapper hand the mic off to one of their homies to rap...I left.
Show us you have been there before, even if you haven't. Why should I take you seriously when you don't yourself seriously? Shout out to my man in the blue hat waving a t-shirt around in that video, though. He's putting in work.
Do Not Shame People Into Having A Good Time:
While you deserve attention and respect for even stepping foot on stage, you are not Tupac. You have to accept the fact that some people are just not going to be interested and won't treat the performance like the greatest moment of their lives. Move on from those people. Don't focus on them, yell at them to get their hands up or move up to the front. Instead focus on the person who is front and center and rapping every word. That's the fan who deserves your focus. Low hanging fruit. Focus on the people who are into it and make a fan or two for life, instead of trying to convince that guy at the bar who could care less to get his hands up.
Do Use A Live Band Whenever Possible:
There is no single better experience in music than live band hip-hop. It's no coincidence that the best concerts I have ever attended have all been hip-hop shows with a live band kicker. It cranks the energy up to a different level. If you want people to be more involved you have to make them pay attention. It's hard when it's just a DJ and you, but that epic drum fill or guitar solo makes that passive observer listen. Plus, it shows me you are more than a rapper, you are an artist. It's much harder to rap with a live band, but if you can do it, I am infinitely more impressed and it shows a level of musicality that is essential to being successful. Even if it's just a keyboardist or a drummer, do your best to make it happen. If it's not in your repertoire, try it. I promise you it will bring your live show up a notch.
Do Not Talk During The Set:
I always wonder why people buy tickets to a show with no interest in the music. If you want to drink and hang out with friends, listen on Spotify and drink (for less money) at home. Don't disrupt the experience of people who are there to listen. Sure, maybe the artist can't hear you (although you'd be surprised) but the people around you sure can. I live for concerts and I hate when my experience is ruined because you feel the need to talk with your friend about last night's Game of Thrones episode.
If you won't do it for the person in front of you who waited months for the show, do it out of respect for the artist. Getting on stage is scary, it's hard, it takes a tremendous amount of balls and whoever is willing to do it deserves your respect. Plus, this is the artist's job, this is what they work so hard for and for you to come in and talk it's plain rude. For 40 minutes, just shut up and listen. Who knows, you might actually enjoy yourself.
Put The Phone Down:
You know, your brain is kind of like an Instagram that remembers important shit. I don't need to document every moment of every show because I remember the insanely dope ones; that Kids These Days show I went to (one of my favorites ever) is branded into my brain. People are so worried about showing everyone where they were with a terrible horizontal video. Are you really going to watch that video again? No! You can barely hear the audio anyway, so just enjoy the moment and stop distracting the people behind you. By all means snap a few pics or a quick video, but then put the phone down and watch the show with your eyes, not through that two-inch screen.
Do Not Scalp:
Buying tickets for a show you have no intention of going to and selling the tickets for two times the face value is a shitty thing to do. It takes money from the artist and their fans. Be a decent human being and sell them for face value.
Don't Piss Off Action Bronson:
This one's pretty self-explainatory.
That's all I have, but I'd love to know what y'all think. I'm sure I'm not the only concert expert here, so artists, promoters, fans, let's hear from you! What can we do as a community of passionate music fans to make a concert more enjoyable and beneficial for all parties?
P.S. - DO NOT RAP OVER YOUR OWN TRACK.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]