B.o.B. at First Avenue, 11/10/14


with Kevin Gates
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Monday, November 10, 2014

Atlanta rap star B.o.B brought his No Genre tour to First Avenue last night, bringing along his labelmates and Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates. An interesting combination of pop and gangsta rap, the pair put on a show to remember in front of an engaged crowd of fans.

See also:
Slideshow: B.o.B. Wows First Avenue


The night began promptly as Kevin Gates stepped onstage in the middle of his song "Wish I Had It." It was playing unadulterated with the vocals in place as the Baton Rouge rapper was spitting underneath. A menacing live presence, Gates kept his face in a grimace and his pants at an extreme sag as he sauntered about the stage and mumbled his raps with his trademark gravelly tone.

"Wish I Had It" features a line stating Gates has nothing in common with B.o.B. His powerful, dark street music is indeed an interesting choice to contrast with the headliner's pop-rap leanings. He does have a a similar penchant for melodic hooks, but the depth of character and stark subject matter is on another plane from B.o.B entirely. His set crept along slowly, with Gates relying on well-written backing tracks and a louring demeanor to carry the weight, but as he gradually warmed up, the performance became remarkably compelling. 

Kevin Gates's work is among the most starkly real in the rap landscape currently (at times disturbingly so, as on the domestic violence-themed single "Posed to Be in Love"). He was at his best when he poured himself fully into the moment. Multiple times between songs, Gates would crouch at the front of the stage and speak directly to the audience both from the heart ("I'm a street nigga but I'm not too hard to love a woman. You hard all the time, you hard in front of your children, nigga? Shout out my two children, they in the building") and off the cuff ("I see you with the pretty eyes, you look like you'a stab a nigga tires and shit, you look evil as a motherfucker"), and the intimacy he brought to the room was powerful.

In certain moments Gates proved he didn't need the backing tracks he recurrently used, as on closers and highlights "IHOP" and "Neon Lights," which featured nothing but Gates's voice and kick drums at points. He wasn't always putting his voice at the forefront, but when he'd lose himself to the song, he proved an exceptional live vocalist. He ran to the DJ in the midst of "Again," flustered mid-song, telling him, "This my shit, I'm sorry, I got all in my feelings." His performance was as raw and honest as his music, complete with warts and missteps but overall a true reflection of the man's multiple layers. 

B.o.B came on shortly afterward with the rapid-fire track "Beast Mode," reflecting a more polished performative energy with less compelling material than his opening act. Playing in front of lit-up letters spelling out "No Genre," he played out the ethos of his tour and label with songs that bounced between aesthetics and topics, all with his trademark radio-friendly sheen. B.o.B handled the material with no backing track (it's sad that this is a remarkable aspect) but did rely on his DJ and the eager audience to fill in punchlines and hooks at certain points throughout his set.
He had a fun and lively energy about him, garnering big responses from the crowd, who knew a good majority of his words. The atmosphere turned from the stunned awe of Kevin Gates's set to a sense of joyful abandon, seemingly fueled by the large amount of joints that lit up continually throughout the rest of the night. Moving between songs like "Headband," "Up Down (Do This All Day)," and "Paranoid," B.o.B showcased that he's taken part in a number of big hits despite not necessarily being the song's highlight.

He stated that the "No Genre" concept came from the desire to make pop songs, ratchet songs, and songs that have guitar in them, which unintentionally reflected the artist's major weakness: songwriting intended to check specific boxes rather than speak from a place of honesty. It served well as concert fodder but wasn't terribly meaty beyond that. Still, B.o.B has a great handle on the material in a live setting, and the songs were uniformly entertaining in their own right.

In addition to a surprise appearance from Playboy Tre for "Bet I," B.o.B brought his label crew out before playing "Lambo" with 16-year old rapper Jake Lambo (but unfortunately not Kevin Gates who also appears on the song). He gave each member of his crew their individual time on stage, introducing Lin-Z and London Jae for "Fleek" and Victoria Monet for "Lean On Me." His crew was a tad uninspired but added some extra energy to the stage, and B.o.B played off of them by increasing his own.

The rest of his set he picked up his pace even further, taking opportunities to leap into the audience, remove his shirt, run around the stage, take Instagram photos, play with call and response, and nab people's phones while rapping with great intensity. He's a fairly impressive performer, elevating the work from standard club material to something fuller and more distinct. Returning after a brief pause to perform his mega-hit "Airplanes," he captured most of a large and diverse audience of pop radio listeners by letting them sing most of the hook as he crowdsurfed above them.

B.o.B's aim at generalized mass appeal rap hit all the points you'd want a rap concert to hit, and he had a certain aplomb about him that made for a fairly decent hip-hop show. But Kevin Gates as opening act reflected some of the cracks in B.o.B's veneer: It was a competent, proficient, and workmanlike set, lacking in songs that delved deeper than the surface, but ultimately delivering a satisfying experience.

Personal Bias: I came primarily to see Kevin Gates.

The Crowd: Fairly diverse, very high, not as split between acts as I had expected.

Overheard in the Crowd: "You should wear your pants like him!"

Random Notebook Dump: Very tightly run show in terms of timing, with only two main acts that finished around 11 pm. 


Kevin Gates

Wish I Had It
Arm & Hammer
Thinking With My Dick
John Gotti
Die Bout It
Go Hard
Wit It
Posed To Be In Love
Get Up On My Level
Smiling Faces
Stop Lyin'
Don't Know
IHOP (True Story)
Neon Lights
Cut Her Off


Beast Mode
Strange Clouds
Nothin' On You
Up Down (Do This All Day)
Bet I
Cool Flow (Jake Lambo)
Out Of My Mind
Cloud 9
Drunk AF
Lean On Me
Not For Long
So Good

Hella White Girls On The Tour Bus
Still In This Bitch


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