Propain Warehouse Live November 19, 2013
Late in Propain's set at Warehouse Live Tuesday night, no less an authority on the current cultural zeitgeist of Houston rap than Kirko Bangz took a second to sum up the mood of the evening.
"This is your time," he told the headliner, a huge grin lighting up his boyish face. "This is your moment."
It was impossible to disagree. Tuesday's concert was a celebration not just of the success that Propain has achieved this year with his potent Ridin' Slab mixtape, but of his ascendancy to the top of the Houston underground. A quick look around at the young, packed-out crowd in the Warehouse studio was all one needed to understand that Propain is blowing up (heh) in the city. He may not have the radio, but he's damn sure got the high schools.
There was as much youthful energy onstage as off, on an undercard stacked with an impressive slate of young talent. Cash Jackson and MC Beezy both turned in strong sets in warmup duty, and in a town with a long legacy of supremely talented rappers on the wrong side of "fucking obese," it was a treat to watch some youngsters with enough juice left in their joints to bounce around the stage like superballs. Their excitement was infectious.
The best of the openers were the Freshest MCs, a collaboration between local standouts Dante Higgins and Undergravity. The trio traded killer verses over headbanging beats, with Higgins wowing the crowd with his freestyle skills. The group's electric chemistry made their set feel too short.
The air in the room really began to crackle with anticipation, though, when the band began tuning up. I'm sure there have a been a few disastrous rap shows somewhere involving live bands, but I can't say I've ever seen one. Supplementing hip-hop with live instrumentation is virtually always a good move, and the audience began buzzing as soon as the guitars were plugged in.
Soon, the band lit into the R&B-tinged intro to Ridin' Slab, and bodies started grooving for real. Decked out in a sparkling chain and a letterman's jacket, Propain spat his lyrics hard, stalking the stage with a fierce look in his eyes. This was a big show for him, maybe his biggest yet. He'd clearly prepared accordingly.
"I knew y'all was gonna show up for me," Propain told the rapt audience. "Now I gotta show up for y'all."
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Lucky for us, that meant dropping one of the hungriest rap performances in recent local memory. Behind him, the band bashed out a terrific racket of crashing drum fills and wailing guitar solos. They made Propain and Doughbeezy sound like rock stars when the latter popped up to tag-team the appropriately named "Louder."
But the musicians were also able to smooth it out when required, such as on the reflective "My Life." It was a little heavier, thematically, than most of the night's more triumphant jams, but the rapper sold it with rock-solid sincerity.
No one seemed to bat an eye when Kirko Bangz and Slim Thug, two of the city's most accredited hip-hop hitmakers, joined Propain onstage for "Got a Problem," the lead single from Ridin' Slab. It's a testament not just to Propain's rising star power, but to the remarkable solidarity of the H-town underground that such friendly appearances are simply expected by the audience at this point.
The young cats in the audience were just a little too cool to lose their shit even when Z-Ro the Crooked materialized to help out on the skull-crushing "All Day," but they were plainly enjoying themselves all the same. Me? I may have squealed a little.
Hey, what can I say? Basking in the shine of a young local talent on the rise is an exciting way to spend a Tuesday night. Propain successfully seized the moment and delivered an outstanding show with a little help from his friends. If he can keep translating all that kinetic energy into forward momentum, he may yet stretch his "moment" into a movement.
Personal Bias: Curious outsider.
The Crowd: Mostly young. Mostly black.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I drank a Three-Wheel Motion, a Swamp-ass, a bellini..."
"What the fuck is a bellini?"
Random Notebook Dump: I still don't quite get why people don't like to cheer or applaud at these "Young Houston" rap showcases. Folks just stand there, waiting for the next song to start. I find it odd.
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