“How many of you motherf**kers been to a TDE gig before?” were the first words uttered by a smooth-talking DJ in a red hoodie in Astra Kulturhaus on Wednesday night.
TDE stands for Top Dawg Entertainment, the record label that houses Schoolboy Q, his support act Jay Rock, and several other hip hop acts such as SZA and Kendrick Lamar. They were not shy about warming the crowd with Kendrick’s M.A.D. City, quickly establishing the fact that Schoolboy Q is not afraid to be compared with his Californian contemporaries. Jay Rock played an incredibly engaging set, to which the crowd knew most of the lyrics. Between the mosh pits, a cover of Kendrick’s “Money Trees” and more than a few respectful shout outs to the headliner, there was already a fresh, easy sense of community that only a hip hop crowd can aspire to.
“The ever endearing DJ slinking around the furniture like a cat on CBD oil.”
Schoolboy Q finally hit the stage with his album opener “Gang Gang”, ending the performance with a fake gunshot to the head to wake up anyone who wasn’t already giving one hundred percent. The rapper paid homage to the late Kobe Bryant in “That Part”, a dark and dirty track about artistry and integrity. The mood was fun and relaxed as he took the time to throw water bottles to the crowd, dance to chants of “Schoolboy Q” and sign vinyls in between songs.
The light show was simple but very effective. A mellow purple took over the room for an understated but emotional performance of “Studio”, followed by some intense red strobe lights on “X” from the Black Panther soundtrack. “John Muir” had the entire onstage crew dancing to its weird synth lines, with the ever endearing DJ slinking around the furniture like a cat on CBD oil. For “Dangerous”, another track from the rappers latest album “CrasH”, the room was almost pitch black with some strobe lights kicking in as the spooky instrumental built up. This was all made the creepier by the two homeboys sitting with paper bags over their heads for the entire twenty-plus song set. I held off putting them in my notes assuming they would get up at some stage, but they never did.
The energy was unrelenting as he brought the show to an awesome close
Schoolboy Q’s chops were very much front and centre for an a capella version of “Numb Numb Juice”, which provided a refreshing and impressive break from the drum and bass-heavy set, which was followed immediately by “Collard Greens”, a production that plays as naturally to an audience’s collective hips as one could possibly hope for. From this point onwards, the energy was unrelenting as he brought the show to an awesome close, with highlights including the reflective “CrasH”, a high energy, fully-fledged rendition of “Numb Numb Juice”, and finally a moody but hard-hitting performance of “Hell of a Night”, a title that any self-respecting journalist would be remiss not to make a pun about.
Overall, this was an excellent show that felt like the first night of a tour, even though the crew has been on the road for almost a month. Something often lacking in hip hop gigs is good sound, but the engineer ensured every word could be heard without sacrificing the beautiful feeling of bass resonating in your crotch. Everyone on stage throughout the night was on the same page and carried an undeniable sense of purpose. Most importantly, Schoolboy Q had the audience in the palm of his hand and gave them a show to remember. If you need proof that hip hop is still in a good place, I would suggest checking out the show next time he’s in town. I promise you’ll have a hell of a night.