Hip-hop shows have become music's big moneymakers. Aside from festivals, massive rap shows have taken on an ever-larger slice of the live entertainment pie. Elaborate stage design, pyrotechnics, acts both current and part of the third generation that helped establish hip-hop as a cash-cow business — they’re all there. One once wondered if a rap act could sustain being a touring act much like the Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. We just had Drake in town for two sold-out shows; the other three big September shows all occur within a one-week span of each other.
Hip-hop and R&B rule September in Houston. As for the rest of the fall, it’s a rowdy batch of party kings, good old soul and Lil’ Chano from 79th in Chicago.
BAD BOY FAMILY REUNION
Toyota Center, September 15
Sean Combs is a maker of things, a Howard Hughes-like impresario whose careful branding and business moves have landed him on top of hip-hop’s Forbes list every other year. Music was Combs's first love, and it was under his first moniker, Puff Daddy, that he earned the majority of his clout. What was supposed to be a one-off at the 2015 BET Awards in which Puff reunited the majority of successful Bad Boy acts (Lil’ Kim, Faith Evans, 112, Ma$e, Total) has now become a full-fledged tour. There is no greater nostalgia act on the road this year, regardless of genre.
Toyota Center, September 20
In modern rap, nobody has worked both grandiosity and minimalism better than Kanye West. Rap’s Stanley Kubrick is a director in regards to live shows. The Glow In the Dark Tour (2008) brought forth a spaceship, a slanted stage and a glimpse of the future. Watch the Throne gave us two titans on a cubed Olympus to rap at us for two hours straight. The Yeezus tour put Kanye on a mountaintop; what is his Saint Pablo setup? A hovering stage and warm lighting on him at all times. There’s no floor section to sit. Either you’re moshing underneath him as he performs, or you’re watching the spectacle from afar. Either way, it’s still the best live show rap has to offer.
NRG Stadium, September 22
What can Beyoncé do next? If you caught the first leg of the Formation World Tour, you saw a performance that has also found some of its segments broken up for award-show fodder. Now, with her return imminent, either fans are getting an exact encore of May’s spectacular performance — which ranks among her best ever — or an entirely different show. It all depends on her.
Warehouse Live, October 1
Representing the New Toronto has paid off for Tory Lanez. Singing and rapping has made him one of hip-hop’s newest buzzmakers, with classic samples of hit ‘90s R&B and reggae records. His debut, I Told You So, may feel like a diet-Drake album because of certain topics broached (Warehouse Live shows in regards to Bun B) and overall template. But the best indicator of Tory Lanez's becoming his own man? The best view that separates him from other artists? His live show. The last time he was in Warehouse Live, he literally walked on the crowd like Jesus and hung from the lights, all to drive people into a frenzy.
SCHOOLBOY Q, JOEY BADA$$
Revention Music Center, October 5
A little under a month ago, ScHoolboy Q gave fans a dry run of his “Blank Face” tour by performing all fan-selected records. The energy was kept pretty high, and TDE’s complex goofball with a hard exterior warned fans that the real show was even better. Q’s live show has picked up in recent years, moving from simply stand and pace to engaging and festival-like.
MAJIC 102.1 "MAJIC UNDER THE STARS" FEAT. CAMEO, ZAPP, MIDNIGHT STAR, CON FUNK SHUN & EVELYN "CHAMPAGNE" KING
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, October 15
A legendary lineup of ‘70s and ‘80s funk. Each act on the bill has contributed to some form of happiness, whether it be via disco, funk, R&B or balladry. Decade-spanning acts such as Cameo and Zapp can bring things out of people that can't really be described. Smiles, passion, energy. Capturing the idea of what each act and each band meant in its heyday is one thing. Seeing them recapture the magic, the soul and the essence of that era can only be respected. Even beloved.
CHANCE THE RAPPER
Revention Music Center, October 15
Somewhere around 2013, Chance The Rapper morphed from a wide-eyed Chicago kid who looked up to Kanye West to owning the Internet with his Acid Rap mixtape, to eventually conquering the idea of what an “indie artist” is. He calls Beyoncé his aunt because that’s Chicago for you (and she’ll oblige him). His Coloring Book project is on track to be the first stream-only project to be nominated for a Grammy, and his clever mix of secular Christian roots with modern hip-hop and childlike fun makes him a twentysomething with an eye on happiness in rap, regardless of the trappings of the world.
RAE SREMMURD, LIL YACHTY
Revention Music Center, November 1
Rap’s resident party-starters have built their relatively short career off high-energy, no-nonsense performances. Youthful joy and exuberance have made Rae Sremmurd perfect not just for the clubs but for arenas, for BBQ playlists and for absolute good times. SremmLife, their debut album, is close to being called a classic solely because of how it makes people feel. SremmLife 2 has its breakout single, a de facto anthem, in “Black Beatle." The Tupelo, Mississippi, brothers have graduated from hosting parties at abandoned houses to rocking festivals and stadiums. Now they serve court all over the world.
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LEGENDS OF SOUTHERN HIP-HOP FEAT. MYSTIKAL, JUVENILE, TRICK DADDY, BUN B, 8BALL & MJG, SCARFACE
NRG Arena, November 11
Puff Daddy & The Family's having a reunion tour is the micro sense of a nostalgia trip. A bill with No Limit’s most unpredictable rapper and fellow bards who number among the greatest orators of the ‘90s? That’s a macro nostalgia trip. Bun always delivers live; same for Scarface. And Juvenile has been undefeated since 1998 and the opening tuba section from the dance floor’s most important song ever: “Cash Money Records taking over for the ’99 & the 2000…”
Revention Music Center, November 20
The transition from Mac Miller's being a “frat rapper” into a spacious, even soulful one happened not too long ago. Fans haven’t abandoned him because of the change; they’ve adapted to his newer sounds and moods. “Dang!,” his song with Anderson .Paak, is one in which Miller’s soulful inflections and wide-eyed glimpses into life, love and human interaction stand out even more than ever. His upcoming album, The Divine Feminine, is geared squarely toward the fairer sex. Maybe even that particular fan base will pack his latest batch of shows.