Rappers Fabolous and Pusha T have joined forces, along with MTV Jams and Sean Healy Presents to bring "The Life is So Exciting Tour" to cities across the country, and worldwide. The tour, which features Brooklyn rapper, Fabolous and former Clipse member, Pusha T, continued Sunday night at The Mezzanine in San Francisco. Although many young San Franciscans were recouping from the Bay to Breakers race/party earlier in the day, there was no shortage of fans at the sold out, downtown venue.
The show kicked off with a stellar performance by little known, Oakland native, Darling Bonnie. Her set list may have not been familiar to the crowd (or anyone, for that matter), but her delivery and lyrical content kept heads moving and hands waving from beginning to end. Darling Bonnie's style embodied, to me, what it might have been like if Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes had been discovered by Jay-Z or Dr. Dre. Needless to say, the young hip-hop artist's lack of experience didn't hinder her one bit as she warmed up the crowd.
The following act, also a local rapper, was Jon Nash. Nash may not have had the strongest intro ("You guys ready for Pusha T and Fabolous? Well, here's Jon Nash!"), but Nash did little to win the crowd over. His entourage didn't do anything to pick up the slack either. One of his hype men danced around the stage covered in sweat like a maniac as though he were battling an ecstasy overdose.
As a rap fan, all this behavior would be acceptable, if not encouraged, as long as the performance was entertaining. Unfortunately, Nash's lack of preparation had clearly left the crowd disappointed. After admitting on one song that he forgot some of the lyrics, Nash introduced the next song by asking the crowd to, "peep the lyrics."
Following Jon Nash's subpar performance was a "soundcheck" performed by one of the MC's who thought it would be a good idea to kill time by spitting some lyrics without any music. It sounded like someone had played the first scene in 8 Mile and fast forwarded to the booing. This young man, who went by the name Flossophy, rapped for about two minutes as fast as he could until the crowd's mood went from indifferent to moderately annoyed. Flossophy finally finished the "soundcheck," and introduced the headliners. And the big names on the tickets came out with a bang, starting with Pusha T.
Pusha T, never one for subtleties, hit the stage wearing an apron made out of some sort of reptile (I'm guessing gator?) to match his sweat pants (made out of that same reptile). Even though he only wore the apron for a couple songs, the statement was made: the chef had arrived. King Push opened with his popular intro verse on Kanye West's remix to I Don't Like; the verse that represented his birth as a solo artist after signing with Kanye's label G.O.O.D. Music. Pusha's next couple songs paid homage to his brother and former partner Malice and their group the Clipse, with hits like Popular Demand, and their ultra-successful debut single Grindin': the song that launched Pusha's rap career as a member of The Clipse.
Pusha T, who was mainly promoting his solo album, My Name is My Name, had also left ample time in his performance to present a few of his solo pieces. As a fan myself, it was surprising to see how many people in the Bay Area had already memorized the lyrics to his first solo mixtape. Even Pusha T had to give props to certain loyal patrons with a military style salute for studying his solo work so closely. At one point, the crowd went so far as to rap along with the song Exodus 23:1, a blatant diss track against Drake, Lil Wayne and the rest of Wayne's label, YMCMB. Pusha then performed more solo hits from his recent mixtape Fear of God: Let us Pray 2, with more than half of the sold out crowd rapping with him, word for word. The adrenaline in the building had escalated to a point that Pusha took it upon himself to calm down the audience of believers from all the excitement over his new songs. Then he brought the energy right back up, by closing with his biggest single from the My Name is My Name album, Numbers on the Boards. My Name is My Name hits stores July 16th.
Fabolous, who was also promoting his album, Loso's Way 2: Rise to Power, did anything but disappoint. His approach may have been different from Pusha T's in that he started with some of his newer tracks, but the Brooklyn rapper received an incredibly warm welcome from the sold out bay area crowd. It may have been the songs he contributed to the hip-hop genre over the past 12 years, or it may have been the Gold Chain with the 49ers medallion, but Fabolous came to the Mezzanine to entertain and did just that. Loso, accompanied by his live band, delivered a bevy of hits, beginning with the song Transformation from his 2011 mixtape, The S.O.U.L. Tape 2. Unlike the show in New York City, Fabolous performed without the aid of any special guests. Fortunately for everyone in attendance, Loso's blend of old and new tracks helped close the night on a significantly strong note.
Hip Hop fans in the San Francisco Bay Area expected quality acts from MTV Jams. For the most part, that's what they got. Gone are the days of East Coast vs. West Coast favoritism. As long as you bring quality music to your shows, it doesn't matter if you're from Oakland, Brooklyn or Virginia Beach.
(Words: Zack Chiappellone - Images: Ryan Holmes)