Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Look, I'm gonna be blunt. I can't take it anymore.

Hip hop shows.

Yeah, maybe I'm just on a bad run right now. Maybe it's just Texas and New Mexico (and Oklahoma and Kansas). I mean, it's not like we're the mecca of hip hop down here. Maybe I'm getting old...too old for this ish. But I'm about to lose my mind up in here. I realize it's how artists make the cash (merch, door, etc.). I understand it's how artists develop careers, but I'm sick of it. Maybe, and just maybe, artists need to step their game up and bring it, f'real.

Either way, this ain't about the artists. This about the attendents. And this is, furthermore, about how much I hate these cats that crowd these shows anymore. And to be fair, yes, I fall into one of these categories. Let's be real: hip hop heads can be seriously annoying. I mean, it's like hating my own kind, but we get hung up on some really stupid ish sometimes. Listen to some old head talk about how they don't do it like they used to. Listen to some young buck talk about Aesop Rock like he's the second coming of Rakim. Listen to these college kids talk about Wu Tang like they was there! Shaddup, homie. You ain't even knowing. Go comb ya beard. Here's my watch...go pawn it and buy a new Jansport.

But I digress.

I believe I was talking hip hop shows. Let's get to the nitty gritty, shall we?

Let's break it into six different categories. First we have the...

I'd say that, no matter how many people clap when the act asks, "How many of ya'll smoke weed?!" only about 25% of them would fall in this category. The other half of the crowd clap because they're afraid their buddy will throw him under the bus in front of the boys. The pothead at the shows, by my definition, are recognizable by their unnecessary exuberance. They don't just bob their heads, they do the cool hand tricks too. They do the hand snares and finger high hats. They're first to put their hands in the air when commanded (unless it's a lawman). They're very reactive to the entire concert experience. The white variety don't really go off until a black guy comes out and then they col' wild out because they suffer some acute white guilt. White emcees, overall, bore them and, more importantly, remind them that they too are white and playing a black sport. They yearn for acceptance from the black audience members, yet, are still scared to engage in conversation with them because, let's be real, there's very little connection. Instead, they validate their attendence by taking on the really tough hip hop topics on the concourse like the ever-heated, "rap vs. hip hop" discussion and they usually liked the "earlier stuff better." Their favorite artist is Eminem, but when you ask them, they'll say Kool Keith. Yeah right, homie.
Normally, they fall right behind the pothead in annoyance factor. They show the same signs of racial bewilderment. They yearn for acceptance and, furthermore, an understanding of this hip hop thang, but let's be real, too much Ani Difranco has ruined her ability to fully understand the culture. She smells like incense and/or patuli oil and because she identifies so much closer to the alt-rock festivals of the mid-90s, she shows less rap hands and more the "rock" signs like the horns or even, yikes, the occassional peace sign. And then there's the rain dance. What the...? Normally, she came with a boyfriend or a close friend and, from the moment she walks in the door, she turns on "impress" mode and everything she does is a desperate move to increase her cred. Hanging out too close to her will kill your cool. The artists usually toy with these girls throughout the show because they know there's very little chance that they will know a lick of the lyrics or, even simply, who the hell the performers are. Hear me out. This, by no means, is meant to imply that women can't genuinely enjoy hip hop shows. Just those of this variety.
A rapidly growing population in the hip hop scene (accounting for approximately 15% of the current hip hop audience--but growing up to 20-23%), the introvert typically falls into the upper echelon of fandom. They buy the merch, the burned CDs, they memorize every lyric, they pick up every side project and they usually named Kevin, have horrible acne, drink four to six sodas a day and have a weakness for beef jerky and chocolate. They enjoy the show with their hands at their sides and, even though they know the albums from beginning to end, they'll keep it at lipping the lyrics and the hands will remain in the pockets for the duration. Take Aesop Rock's number one fan here.
Yeah, trust me, this Aesop shirt has seen better days, but the dude wears it anyway...every other day. You pin him for a techie, however, he holds a steady job at the local photo lab where he listens to Def Jux all day in his knock-off MP3 player. You wanna talk hip hop with them, but the damn geeks don't ever say anything except for nondescript mumbling between each other. Here's homegrown's buddy who watched the entire performance through the view-finder on his phone.

This is fairly typical of this breed. This fella is perfect intent on simply filming the performance and enjoying it later instead of gettin down with his bad self and living in the moment. Nope, one hand holding the camera, the other in his pocket nervously rubbing his thigh. They are like tourists at the zoo who are mere observers. And a simple freestyle or adlib during the show completely throws their universe in an imbalance. "But that's not how it goes!"


The tough guy plays a very important role in the concert experience. Alot of heads completely misunderstand this breed. I'll put it this way. In every show, some dude's gonna act a fool and you'll think to yourself, "I wish someone would put them in their place," and if your show's like any show I've been to recently, the security is sparse at best. Well, tough guy here is your man. And if you're not a total prick (more than them--which is downright impossible), you're on their side. So long as you don't do something that bums everyone out. Just look at them like "security who paid at the door." 10% of the audience is a healthy amount, but it's a delicate balance that needs to be maintained. Anymore than 10% and you're likely to have either one a riot or, two, a massacre on your hands. Their usually quite disconnected from the artists (unless it's a Non Phixion show, of course) and only show up because, well, they like to flex. They're hoping someone will bust a free over the beat from "Deep Cover" so they can bob their head, but that bob is purely for their enjoyment and no one elses. They could care less what you think. They're much more prominent at rock shows, but that's because there's more pricks acting a fool at a rock show. More opportunity. If you gotta problem with these dudes, you might be a humanitarian or, more likely, you've done something stupid at some point that warranted some correctional measures. The tough guy is not to be confused with...


The fly guy is a cross breed, normally. For that reason, he makes up the largest portion of the audience--somewhere between 30-40%. The have both a short history of legal problems (usually misdemeanor) and a short history in hip hop. They're always a fan of the "something new"--something that was played at a house party or strip club and they roll with that. It could be an Atmosphere record or even Mims. Either way, their hand-to-mouth fandom is fairly representative of the majority of listeners out there today. He usually is wearing lots of white. That includes, but not limited to white Yankee caps (tilted of course) and maybe even the white doo rag, white undershirt, white sneakers. Their history would suggest a potential for violence at the show, but it usually is personally served unlike the tough guy who will just beat the snot out of someone because he doesn't like 'em. He's usually quite participative--he "throws his hands in the air" and says, "ho!" He doesn't want to be the life of the party, but he also doesn't want to be the party poops. He genuinely wants to have a good time, but Slim Shady here, at the end of the night, doesn't know a good show from a bad show because if the beat's loud enough, it's dope. I guess I don't really have a problem with these cats, except that generally, they ain't gotta clue about hip hop from more than five years ago.


The head is normally bored by the entire experience of the show. He wants, with everything in him, to enjoy it, but it's "just not like it used to be." This cat normally makes up about 5-7% of the audience but the percentage could change based on your metro. They usually show up with a Cold Chillin' shirt or something as a flag of their righteousness, but no one really cares. They might even get mistaken for someone's pops or, worse, a narc. Rarely will you find them up front, but rather about two thirds of the way back with their arms folded and only slightly bobbing their head and, more often, looking around the crowd for things that will ultimately piss them off. Their jaded, upset, full of discontent and they're usually only taking notes for a blog post where they'll blast the whole scene because they lack the ability to enjoy anything. As pissed off as they normally are, they'll buy some merch on the way out. They enjoy the DJ breaks and hope that someone will mix some "South Bronx" so they can bust their hands in the air and be noticed by the younger concert goers as a real head.

D'ere it is. Happy Wednesday.


K-Fleet said...

I believe we're the last of a dying breed of Heads out there. We generally would like to enjoy the experience because 1) we probably dropped money on it, and 2) are hoping that rap isn't dead, but are still waiting for a sign. We attend the events to be true to the foundation it was brought upon and to pay homage to those who built the art.

toadlift said...

Do you remember the "ponytail aerobics" guy from the Blackalicious show? He never stopped the entire night and he was dancing too close to us. What category would he belong in?

j3 said...

definitely the pothead.

i remember him well.

Lance said...

man, i avoid hip hop shows specifically because I dont want to be the down fag getting looked down on. Whiter than bread btw.