Torii MacAdams has a lower middle class timeline
Disappointment’s a motherfucker. I’m dumb enough, ugly enough, and old enough to have experienced all the bitter, tropical flavors Disappointment comes in, particularly in regard to rap music. I bought Murs’ disastrous major label debut, Murs For President. I still have a shirt he autographed at Rock The Bells laying around somewhere. The Clipse released the disappointing Til The Casket Drops, then Malice found God and became No Malice. MF Doom hasn’t released anything even passable since 2009.
I’ve also seen Migos live.
On the way to Jewel’s Catch One, Jeff [Weiss, word courtesan] theorized that Migos have played enough shows that they couldn’t possibly be bad, which was a reasonable thing to say. Migos’ catalog is, if not diverse, wildly fun at its high points; few young rappers can claim to be more quotable than the Atlantan trio, whose adlibs and anthemic choruses should make for an exciting live show. It didn’t. Migos were largely inaudible (perhaps intentionally) because of their overly loud backing vocals. Having a backing track makes sense for the Grammy’s (or the American Music Awards, or MTV VMA’s, or…), largely artless, made-for-tv spectacles of industry insiders drugging, tooting, and fucking their own horns. It’s borderline insulting in front of a paying crowd of about 400.
Here’s the kicker: if Migos were going to use backing vocals, they could have, at the very least, expended some energy entertaining. Riff Raff still can’t rap live,* but he engages the crowd with hair-braiding, pizza-throwing antics– it’s a tacit acknowledgement that, if he’s not going to perform music, he’s going to entertain. Migos neither rapped, nor did they entertain. Shit, they barely moved at all. They weren’t marched on stage at the behest of a firing squad– they were present, willfully, in front of a crowd eager for action, and sleepwalked through a 28 minute set. Had this been a crowd of white frat boys, Migos’ reluctance would’ve been understandable, but the crowd was large, tightly packed, surprisingly diverse, and clearly yearning for any provocation to get rowdy. The provocation never came; even for their biggest hits, “Fight Night” and “Versace,” Migos more or less stood in place. Watching Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset shoegaze and shuffle around, drowned out by their recorded vocals, should’ve been an opportunity for the peasants to shout “Fuck Versace, the emperors aren’t wearing any clothes!” Instead, they said nothing and still got their ears nailed to a post.
Despite the aforementioned qualities of the crowd–all positive–this was still a collection of depressingly slack jaws. The human selfie sticks that ambled around Jewel’s Catch One, checking their Instagrams, are simply beyond satire. I saw a baby-faced man-child with a Marilyn Monroe skull^ tattooed on his forearm explain to his female companion that he couldn’t drive, because his license is suspended. Two art school dildos in pedophile glasses frames mocked my friends for being enthusiastic about an exhibit at LACMA. People forced their way onstage to take photos of the crowd, as if their self-mythology wasn’t just that. The mostly loathsome Baby Boomers, unfortunately, have pegged my generation’s worst qualities correctly; we’re illiterate, self-obsessed, and can only express ourselves via sarcasm and gifs. I, too, can be found guilty of these crimes. I’m part of the problem. I can be a snarky pseudo-insider, a too-cool nihilist slow to text my girlfriend back. If I had any self-respect, I’d have booed Migos, but I didn’t. No one did. As Migos finished their set, everyone walked away, quiet, somnambulant, not necessarily content, but suitably sated by their gruel.
If this seems overly negative and generalized, it is. I was there with friends who I’d consider highly intelligent and passionate, and I saw a couple rappers whose work I respect lurking around the VIP. Those with critical faculties not muted by their G Pens, myself included, need to demand more from young rappers on stage. Every single over-30 rapper I’ve seen live can perform without a backing track; they’re from a generation that didn’t tolerate fuckery, and neither should we. We shouldn’t stand idly by as an essential part of rap’s artistry and excitement is forgone in favor of greed and laziness–no amount of No Label 2 downloads should give Migos a pass.
*Which is kind of unbelievable, actually.
^It’s like, half-skull, half-Monroe. You can get t-shirts of shit like this at Hollywood & Vine. It’s a really stupid tattoo.