with Kirko Bangz, Rapper Hooks, Sean Anonymous and Taylor Madrigal
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Long before the South cracked the rap mainstream, UGK had a following that led to the pop charts. Saturday night at the Fine Line, founding member Bun B performed a range of material from the early "Pocket Full of Stones" to the huge hit "Int'l Players Anthem," and represented a powerful and unique career arc.
Audio Perm's Taylor Madrigal, aka Tip, has been all over recently, holding down long DJ sets to both pump up and placate waiting audiences, and he arrived with Bobby Raps to turn up alongside his well-chosen club tracks. From a critic's standpoint, the set was excellent, but at times it seemed the people weren't as familiar. Opening with some Houston classics, like Mike Jones's "Still Tippin'" into "Back Then," but the set went a number of different places from there, and warmed the crowd up well for the show.
Local openers Sean Anonymous and Rapper Hooks took the stage later, just after Phillip Morris stole the audience's attention with impromptu pop-and-lock battles and salad-toss pantomimes. Though sets suffered slightly for some sound issues, both MCs pushed through. Sean Anonymous has a few surefire tracks up his sleeve and never fails to capture a crowd. He brought Lizzo up for their recent collaboration "Cold Shoulder" and got big cheers through the short-but-sweet set. Rapper Hooks came with what he called "pourin'-up-Hennesy music," including some new tracks from his upcoming project. Microphone issues remained but brought out a welcome aggression to Hooks's performance, which finds his slick rhyming over slowed spacey beats; yelling at times to keep at an audible volume, Hooks worked within constraint and added some nice rawness to the vocals.
Kirko Bangz has amassed a considerable fanbase thanks largely to his hit "Drank In My Cup," a new Houston-meets-Drake sung rap that boasts some 44 million views on YouTube. He hit the stage to a sea of cell phones recording his performance, a largely lip-synced run-through of his big hits like "What Yo Name Iz" and older mixtape tracks like "Play Me." Pretty much every song got huge responses from the enthralled crowd, but it would have been nice to hear Bangz complete a full line. Still, the enthusiasm was there and certainly spread to the audience.
After what seemed to be a short set, Kirko turned back around and decided to start freestyling in the crowd, preceding another three songs in the downtime until the Bun B set. It's easy to be critical of rappers using backing tracks, but it was affirming to see that kind of "I don't want to stop playing yet" drive at a show of this size; Kirko had some big fans present, and their appreciation bolstered what otherwise might have been a lackluster performance. He then took an Instagram pic of the crowd and told them to come get autographs at the merch table.
Bun B arrived shortly after to "Draped Up" from his 2005 solo debut Trill, with a commanding presence that awed the room. He stomped through his set, wall to wall hits that ranged from his solo work, guest verses, and classic UGK material. He showed off the tight precision with flows and gruff-voiced G shit he's known for, aided by a hype man and a not-too-intrusive backing track. He's got some undeniable joints in his repertoire, and the song choices were smart and focused on his most popular material.
He wished Pimp C rest in peace several times, and upheld his memory by rapping C's verses in several of the songs. Lighting up a blunt halfway through to the tune of reggae standard "Out In the Street (They Call It Murder)," before jumping straight into his own track "Murder" which might just be the best verse B has. And he nailed it, displaying the old guard MC strength he learned from coming up in the hard-scrabble Houston rap scene since the late '80s. He brought Kirko Bangz back to the stage for their recent collaboration "Triller" for an encore before closing with the latter, ending what turned out to be an impressive block of incredible songs.
Personal Bias: I've been a UGK fan for a long time, but have lately found Bun B's solo material to be missing that same edge.
The Crowd: Good mix of enthusiastic people.
Overheard In The Crowd: "He seems so excited! Makes me want to get excited too!"
Random Notebook Dump: The balcony threw money on Phillip Morris during his explicit dance session.
Let Me See It
Give Me That
Trap Or Die
Sippin' On Some Syrup
Pocket Full Of Stones
Country Shit Remix
Put It Down
GIMME NOISE'S GREATEST HITS53 things you might not know about Prince
Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)
Brother Ali: My fans are kicking the sh*t out of me over Trayvon MartinTop 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list