93.7 The Beat's H-Town Beat Down BBVA Compass Stadium June 20, 2014
Whether they want to admit it to one another or not, KQBT 93.7 The Beat and KBXX 97.9 The Boxx are embroiled in a war. A cold war, but a war nonetheless.
Friday was just another skirmish in the longer battle, as 93.7 debuted the first-ever H-Town Beat Down, a large summer concert-style event where big names from the world of hip-hop and R&B descended upon BBVA Compass Stadium. Having Future, the god-king of Autotune, love songs and general club artillery close the show was a rather neat twist, to send people home quite happy.
"Where my Day 1 Free Band Gang members at?" the rapper yelled, sporting a mix of blonde and black dreadlocks. He couldn't help but continue running through his set, one not as different as the one he gave fans in November when touring with Drake, but different nonetheless.
Future performs not on just crowd reaction but the sheer range of what he can do. He's spent the better part of three years dominating radio, from his own "Same Damn Time" to chorus work on songs like "Bugatti," "Love Me" and more; Friday, fans got all of that and then some onstage. Even some of his Honest singles, such as "Trophy (I Won)" and the title track, felt far more warmly embraced than what slotted R&B act Trey Songz could deliver.
Songz, maybe more than anyone else on the bill, had something to prove. Not only was he the lone legitimate singer there -- unless you count Future, which means Songz was the second-greatest singer on the bill -- he also has an album coming in a few weeks. The Trigga material got the ladies riled up; enough of them way too young to be singing and yelling at a shirtless man.
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One woman even debated tossing her panties at Songz, knowing full and well that said panties and Houston heat may have been just a bit too much. He can toy with emotions onstage, especially the female section of any crowd, all of them just waiting for the moment he takes his shirt off. Sex Symbol Songz, indeed.
The concert itself was built off the hits of its stars, and no two artists played it straighter than J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Cole had already given fans a gift last year with his "Dollar and a Dream," tour so the stop inside BBVA was just a dry run for what's coming down the line. J.Cole live isn't quite that compelling in massive venues like BBVA, though "Who Dat" sounds like something that would keep the Dynamo engaged before a match.
For tweens and those who could only recognize Cole's radio cut like "Work Out," "Crooked Smile" and "Power Trip", Mixtape Cole may not even register. Lamar, on the other hand, at least flexed in two feature verses from "R.I.P." and "Fuckin' Problems" among his good kid, M.A.A.D city stuff. It's time Kendrick, we're ready for that fourth-quarter album.
"The locals are getting only seven minutes? Unreal!", a woman who had come to see Paul Wall and company on a huge stage said with frustration in her voice. It was true, the local kings, the same parade of FPSF's "Welcome to Houston," with Trae Tha Truth in Mike Jones's stead, performed a maximum of 15 minutes. Trae's performance in particular was far more memorable and unique -- a completely a cappella set in honor of the fallen Houston rappers before him.
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The show's surprise guest, which wasn't much of a surprise if you checked social media, happened to be Our Omnipresent Trill Lord and Savior Bun B. He either finished up his Gumball 3000 duties to be presented with an award from the Beat and deliver an impromptu set, or they just sent a clone of him to do the honors.
If you blinked, you also missed Canadian Tory Lanez rock for five minutes. If you clasped your hands over your ears, you missed Meek Mill yell and rant about Instagram in a 15-minute set of rowdy energy. If you even sat down for anything DJ Mr. Rogers did, you missed the fact that Z-Ro's "Mo City Don Freestyle" has assumed the title of the greatest freestyle in Houston's history.
The Beat has been steadily fighting the Boxx's near 20-year stranglehold on Houston's urban radio, grabbing their highest share of the last month with a 4.5 compared to the steady 5.4 The Box can't seem to move above (per Nielsen.) Breaking in BBVA as a hip-hop concert venue is only the next logical step in eventually winning the war; the Beat's mix of national syndication and local flavor is working for now, with no apparent shake-ups in the future.
So now 93.7 has its Super Bowl to go up against The Box's Car Show in November. Let time determine whether or not Radio One's urban flagship in Houston continues its edict of promoting local artists up and down its Greenway Plaza offices.
Personal Bias: I'm going to name my child something with Future in the middle. Future Caldwell is coming for you blog bishes.
The Crowd: How many scantily clad women can you find in one setting? Chicks wearing sheer tops with nipple rings exposed were tame in comparison to some of the sloppier outfits.
Overheard In the Crowd: "They fucking ran out of beer!"
Random Notebook Dump: Friday was my first time ever experiencing a big time show on the floor. If you combine how young some of the crowd was with some of the artists on the bill, you can imagine how security had major issues trying to keep everyone in line.
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