The good, the bad and the typical of the Group Hug tour
Rap concerts are often a mixed bag. On one end of the spectrum, you have larger-than-life performers who capture the imagination, real artists with admirable skill who entice the meekest concert-goers into participation and leave the crowd in awe of their raw swagger.
On the other end, you have glorified karaoke in which the “artists” pantomime their way through a set by singing over their own recorded vocals, conveying little emotion and leaving the audience without a meaningful impression. In the worst instances, sitting at home and listening through your computer speakers would be more memorable.
Predictably, I saw a little of everything across the hip-hop spectrum at the Senator Theatre last Friday, Dec. 14. The female rappers of the Group Hug Tour—Kreayshawn, Rye Rye, Honey Cocaine and Chippy Nonstop—brought enough swagger for everyone, but many tired rap clichés reared their ugly heads throughout the evening as well.
I arrived just as Honey Cocaine took the stripped-down Senator stage, which featured the most basic of lighting rigs and a DJ table (complete with DJ). Ms. Cocaine, who hails from Toronto, Canada, was visually striking—it seemed incredible for such a slight woman to withstand the weight of so much bling—but it was impossible to ignore how tonally different her backing vocal track was from her live performance, giving her set a bit of that karaoke feel. And, just as male rappers typically lean on the N-bomb when in need of extra syllables, Honey Cocaine used the word “bitch” like it was her last name.
Rye Rye, however, managed to rock my socks off. The Baltimore MC had a club hit in 2006 with “Shake it to the Ground” (a collaboration with Blaqstarr) and was signed to international starlet M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T. Recordings, which released Rye Rye’s debut Go! Pop! Bang! earlier this year. And it seems M.I.A. may have given her some pointers on how to be charming as heck on stage.
Of the three acts I saw, Rye Rye was clearly the most natural performer—one of those rare magnetic personalities who adore the spotlight—and the most dexterous rapper of the lot. She was constantly in motion, smiling wide and proclaiming herself a “ghetto superstar.” The highlight of the evening came when she dropped the mic and broke down into a spastic dance the likes of which I’d never seen.
The evening’s headliner, Kreayshawn, had the misfortune of having to maneuver the smokin’ hot crater Rye Rye left in the stage. The Oakland-based rapper hit it big with her outrageously obnoxious novelty “Gucci Gucci” (with more than 40 million hits on YouTube!), wherein she contrasts her apparently gangsta existence with that of clothing-label-obsessed “basic bitches.” Although the subject matter is tired, that was not the source of the obnoxiousness; there are plenty of serviceable gangster-rap songs in the same vein. At fault was the delivery, from the grating tone of her voice to the laughably simplistic rhyme scheme.
Kreayshawn did underline the point that female rappers have the ability to mine fresh shock value from places their tired male counterparts dare not go. In the aforementioned “Gucci Gucci,” she busted out the line, “I got the swag and it’s pumping out my ovaries,” which made my ears perk up a bit and made me appreciate her attitude. However, much like her counterpart Honey Cocaine, she didn’t have the chops to really pull it off.
The show exceeded my expectations—mostly due to Rye Rye’s charms—but still it was nothing to write your homies about.