YG at First Avenue, 5/8/14
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Thursday, May 8, 2014
The last time YG (initialism for Young Gangsta) performed in Minneapolis, a concertgoer was shot and killed inside of Epic during his set. Last night, First Avenue staff pulled out all the stops in ensuring that no such incident would occur. Fans were met at the door by metal-detector wielding doormen and full body pat-downs. Big burly security guards stalked the crowd at the entrance of the club as scantily clad women and fly gentlemen trickled in.
That's not to say that there wasn't plenty of drama. The ladies in attendance certainly weren't threatened by the additional security, a lack of fear and consideration they demonstrated amply by erupting in several weave-pulling screaming matches. Clusters of men adorned in mostly red posted up in various areas of the venue. The command "Rep your set!" would occasionally be heard ringing through the air, followed by a display of hand signs signifying particular affiliations.
The evening started out slowly. A modest number of fans crowded the stage, still masked by First Ave's giant projection screen advertising upcoming concerts, staring upwards as if at worship. The selfies started almost immediately. A woman with an ass eight times the size of her teeny tiny waist leaned relaxedly up against the bar, her man ordering drinks for them both. Though doors were actually open at 8, it seemed that no one had gotten the memo. By 9:30 there was still plenty of open space to practice your twerk in.
Suddenly, the projection screen rose. "Watch all them ratchet bitches run to the front," commented a concertgoer. The ratchet bitches did indeed run. DJ Mustard stood behind a booth emblazoned with his name, dropping a pounding bass thud as he began his set. As soon as everyone got into an ass-shaking groove, he would switch up the track.
This tactic was occasionally frustrating, especially when Kid Ink and Chris Brown's "Show Me" only survived through one verse. By the way, DJ Mustard made that beat. How many songs have you heard recently on the radio that begin with a voice declaring, "Mustard on the beat" within the music? The man must be straight ballin'.
DJ Mustard was recently signed to Roc Nation, the entertainment company founded by Jay Z, and is currently working on his first full-length. He took a pause to make this announcement to the room, encouraging everyone to hold their Roc signs up in the air. For those of you who don't know what that means, here's an important lesson:
In order to signal affiliation with Roc Nation, both hands are held in the air to create a triangle -- utilizing the pointer fingers and thumbs to create the triangle while holding both palms outwards. This hang sign has conflicting interpretations. Jay-Z himself explains the symbol as representing a diamond -- the "rock" in Roc-A-Fella records. Some believe that the gesture is a symbol of the Levites, one of the original tribes of Israel. In religious circles, the symbol is used to indicate God's chosen soldiers.
The symbol is also associated with the Illuminati, who are thought to run the entire music industry like a bunch of savvy puppeteers pulling on the strings of an army of successful hip-hop artists.
Anyway, DJ Mustard then went on to play Jay-Z's "Hustler" as hundreds of hands made the symbol of the Illuminati. A drink was hurtled through the air, the spray of its contents illuminated by flashing strobe lights. A girl was actually trying to make a phone call on the dance floor during all of this, her face contorting as she screamed into her iPhone.
The projection screen again descended over the stage as people headed outside for a smoke. On the sidewalk, promotors handed out fliers and scalpers hawked tickets. Then, all hell broke loose. Shouts were heard as several women tumbled out onto the sidewalk. One jumped into the street screaming, "Come on, bitch," posturing like an amateur boxer. Another followed her. A wig was ripped off and thrown to the ground. "Downtown tumble-weave," commented a security guard.
Surprisingly, the skinnier, tinier lady of the two wound up pulling the other about half a block up the street by her short hair, which had been unmasked when her opponent ripped her wig off. Onlookers hustled to start filming on their phones so they could Instagram the moment of primal glory.
One of the women involved broke away from the melee, a line of blood streaked across her face. She ran around to the 1st Avenue side of the building and jumped into a waiting vehicle just as several police cars arrived at the scene. Officers exited their vehicles, guns drawn, and approached the car with the bloodied lady in its front seat. Apparently deeming any sort of arrests as unnecessary, the car was allowed to leave the club. Inside, the wig lay abandoned upon the floor. That was pretty ratchet.
It was right around this time that fans started showing up in droves. There were lines of people at both doors waiting to get patted down. This sudden crowding went on for about an hour before YG was finally ready to take to the stage. Once the projection screen was again lifted, all were able to see what had been so cleverly concealed by a giant black fabric cover during DJ Mustard's set. YG had brought with him the most incredible stage prop in all of rap history. YG had brought an entire trap house.
The house, numbered 400 and covered in graffiti scrawl, stood menacingly. DJ Mustard spun backing tracks from within one of its windows. The front door opened, and YG walked out onto the lawn amidst the opening bars of "BPT." The crowd grew frenzied as again the pounding thud of bass thoroughly rattled the room.
A small pocket opened on the dance floor. A barefoot girl was writhing on the ground, being dragged by her long blonde hair. It was difficult to decipher exactly what was going on, and the apparent fight was masked by aggressively flashing strobe lights and smoke. "Help me!," she screamed, now curled up as she continued to be pummeled by seemingly disembodied hands and feet. Then as quickly as it had begun, the incident had ended. She stood near her friend, visibly upset as she smoothed down her hair, still standing barefoot in a puddle of spilled drinks.
After YG was cajoled into doing his dance along to Dr. Dre's "Next Episode," DJ Mustard stopped the music long enough to say, "We didn't come here to fight tonight, we came to have a mothafuckin' good time." YG nodded in agreement. He was joined onstage by several supporting rappers during the next couple songs, and it was becoming evident that something was not quite right even though he was maintaining a steady smile and continued to demonstrate some thuggish though sexy dance moves. He had almost entirely lost his voice, if turned out, and was struggling to be heard. Things remained turnt up, though, as he barreled through a rendition of his breakout hit "Toot It and Boot It," the song he released during his comeback from an arrest on a parole violation in mid-2009.
DJ Mustard sensed the vocal struggle, and interrupted the live performance with a medley of West Coast rap classics while YG retreated back into the trap house, slamming the door behind him. The crowd had seemed to thin out a bit, but hadn't lost any of its enthusiasm. When YG returned to the stage, he invited some women to join him. "Ratchet alert!," a man yelled. Two of the women immediately flipped over into headstands and started twerking upside-down. Two other women, who had been drinking onstage behind the trap house the entire time, pretended to be somewhat disinterested as YG grinded up against another of the ladies. "They're embarrassing themselves," a woman noted.
For the next song, "Me and My Bitch," YG sat down in a chair on the trap house's lawn. At the upstairs bar, a woman was bent over in front of her date as he pulled one of her legs up and back behind her, grabbing her thigh. Outside, security was continuing to stalk the sidewalk.
YG saved his two most recent big hits for last: "My Nigga," and "Who Do You Love?" People were still going totally nuts. Another fight almost started. Some guy was crowd-surfing. YG was clearly struggling to get his words out, but that radiant smile of his was still intact. It was really unfortunate that his voice was basically destroyed. It sounded oddly high-pitched. Fortunately there were plenty of other people onstage shouting out his lyrics, and he was still giving the performance genuine effort despite being unable to keep up with some of the songs. The people were happy. Sure, it may not have been YG's best performance ever, but he'd brought everyone together for some good entertainment on a Thursday night.
When the lights went up, neon spandex was everywhere. "You got my number so you better call me before you leave," a suave gentleman suggested to a lady nearby. "'cause I ain't goin' nowhere."
Personal Bias: I really enjoy watching YG's music videos on YouTube, A lot of them are like miniature movies. People keep telling me that YG hates women, though, which is pretty lame considering he uses them to sell his product.
The crowd: Some of the best people-watching I've done in a long time. So much fun watching the bros get down. Women were dressed up like it was the last opportunity they'd ever get to go out. Now I really do feel like I have a small and insignificant butt.
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