Pitchfork Music Festival Day Three 7.20.14

With the festival closing its doors for Summer 2014, the last day was exactly what it was hyped to be. With top hip hop acts like Isaiah Rashad, Earl Sweatshirt, Schoolboy Q, and Kendrick Lamar sandwiched into one, anyone and everyone came through to bid this festival farewell for another year. Special thanks to Pitchfork for having us this year!

Day 1 Recap f/ SZA | Day 2 Recap f/ Pusha T & Danny Brown

Isaiah Rashad:

Recently signed with Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), Isaiah Rashad leads the Blue Stage with his rapid-fire raps and jazzy beats. SZA makes an appearance (hinted on Friday during her set) and shares the first song with her TDE brother. Shout out to SZA for saying what’s up though! Though Isaiah Rashad definitely went hard in his performance, he stumbled with the smoothness of his verses. At some points he was spitting verses so fast that his words clashed with the mellowness of his songs and the random air horn noises (for real did y’all hear that?)

Backstage w/ Isaiah Rashad
Backstage w/ Isaiah Rashad

Earl Sweatshirt:

Speaking directly to the crowd, Earl starts a sing-a-long during the first half of his set. Breaking it down to its simplest form, dude plays music teacher and lets us know, “this song is so easy, all you dumbasses can get it”. As we sung along with Earl about “fucking freckled bitches” in typical hype concert mode someone had to be extra and disrupt the flow. Literally. Seen from the middle of the stage, water was sprayed directly onto Earl as he continues the second half of his set. Typical Earl though, calls this dude out and keeps it moving. Between songs, Earl muses in and out onto sideline dialog about not growing up with a father and the people he has met along the way. Either way, his musings and quality of music kept everyone listening. Also shout out to Isaiah Rashad for the photo (excuse my excited cat face)!

Schoolboy Q:

Yo did Schoolboy Q bring his whole damn family on stage? What seemed like family reunion on the stage, his crew and Schoolboy Q hypes up the crowd by making his set an all-out bounce blow out. Even for those who can’t bounce (and y’all know who you are) got it moving as he commanded the crowd to well…get up and dance. Playing verses from some of his more popular features like Work, the bounce was so real throughout his entire set. So real that my feet went from my usual shade of yellow Asian Mami to Doo doo ass brown. My bad for whoever had to see my disgraced feet but whatever though…at least I got down to Collard Greens.

Kendrick Lamar:

Delayed for about 20 minutes, the stage was packed to the brim for Mr. Lamar himself. This was expected though as Kendrick was the talk of the show since day one. Using some of the same dope visuals from the Yeezus tour, Kendrick Lamar played crowd favorites from his 2012 album, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City”. Playing his songs in full, Kendrick just shuts it down from the live band to his strong lyricism. From mAAd City to my personal favorite track Compton, Kendrick raps over the heavy sounds of his band and even dives back to his roots, shooting a tune from “Section.80″. Kendrick has definitely come far from the smaller stage of Pitchfork a few years back to now headlining and shutting down the festival. Props to you Kendrick, so excited for this album.

Kendrick Lamar shuts down Pitchfork 2014

Earl Sweatshirt Live Review — Metro 10.15.13

Compared to most other artists, Earl Sweatshirt is following a bit of a backwards career arc. In what is now essentially cliche, artists or bands who rocket from obscurity to popularity early in their lives are supposed to have one hot song, maybe even a whole album if they’re lucky, tour off its initial strength for a while, try to match that success on their sophomore album, fail miserably, sink into obscurity for several years, and then re-emerge with a comeback tour once their first claim to fame becomes cool again.

Earl, on the other hand, saw his fame balloon at light speed, thanks in small part to the internet, but in large part to his shocking, uncensored, Fox-News-pundit-fodder lyrics and music videos. When you’re 16 and you make a rap video wherein you and your friends drink a blender full of drugs and alcohol and then proceed to mutilate each other on skateboards, you are definitely going to attract attention. When the lyrics to said video include references to date rape, underage sex and murder, to name a few questionable topics, you’re basically asking Bill O’Reilly to have an on-air aneurism and then insist this is “what’s wrong with America.”

And maybe he would be right. Earl and his Odd Future affiliates’ real talents, in the music media’s eyes at least, long remained buried underneath the alleged homophobia and incitement to violence and depravity in their rhymes. This was supposedly why Earl’s mother saw it fit to pull him out of school soon before Odd Future was about to strike it big and enroll him in a program for at-risk youth in Samoa for a year. The group’s spearhead, Tyler, the Creator, and the rest of the OF crew got massively famous in the meantime, and when Earl returned in the beginning of last year, he came as the long-lost hero who would save rap music. That’s a lot for anyone to handle, let alone an 18-year-old.

Now, a little over a year since “going missing,” Earl is on his comeback tour, and he seems like he couldn’t be happier. That’s unsurprising considering the huge fanbase that Odd Future has built up since his departure. I arrived at the Metro at 7:00, which was when the show was supposed to start. I figured there would be a decent crowd there already but nothing too huge – every rap show I’ve been to before included several openers and lots of waiting. Much to my surprise, I waited over an hour for anything to happen on stage, and pretty much the entire floor was packed when I arrived. When things did start happening, though, this turned into one of the most fun rap shows I’ve been to.

I’ve always thought Earl was probably the most talented member of Odd Future. I like how he draws obvious influence from Wu-Tang and MF DOOM in his flow, but also is very much his own man. When he returned to the States, I was excited for what lie ahead, and so far it’s been everything I had hoped for. He ditched the murder and rape stuff in his lyrics (mostly) and adopted a much more honest and heartfelt tone. He’s also made the rounds with big shots like Flying Lotus and even DOOM himself on a recently released track. His second album, “Doris,” was released this summer to much acclaim. With all this already under his belt, there’s no doubt he will soon become something of a legend in hip-hop.

His skill as a showman is not quite so refined, but the Metro crowd hardly cared. OF member Taco kicked things off for Earl, playing one trap banger after another. When Earl finally took the stage with Vince Staples, the house was nearly brought down. Earl was clearly taken aback by the unrelenting energy of the crowd, and remained characteristically reserved but definitely overwhelmed at the sight of people losing their minds to his music. He seemed to be concentrating hard throughout the show, maybe a little too much. A little bit more swagger on his part could go a long way towards his stage presence, but he was rocking with it nonetheless. Maybe it was because his mom was in the crowd, whom he introduced towards the end of the show. She seemed ecstatic to be there and was even dancing a little bit. Who says Odd Future isn’t family friendly?

Just about every song Earl knew was played, which he mentioned at the end when announcing his last song (“I’ve only made like 20 songs my whole life, I just did all of them.”) Highlights included the famed OF remix of “Orange Juice,” “EARL,” and just about anything off his new album. Vince Staples held his own as well, with the two going off on a cappella freestyle tangents frequently and skillfully.

All told, it was a sign of great things to come for the only 19-years-old artist. As he matures, so too will his music and aesthetic (hopefully), and that is great news for hip-hop fans.