Les featuring Slim Thug, Killa Kyleon, Mug, Doughbeezy, Propain, Amber London, Roosh Williams, DJ Mr. Rogers Fitzgerald's June 27, 2012
Twice this year already, Les, one of the new rap generation's most interesting performers, has released mixtapes. Neither of them were anything less than Absolutely Very Good And Enjoyable, remarkable considering many have trouble releasing single songs that could be classified as such. He is one of the city's most inspired talents.
Thursday night, he had his first headlining show. It seemed like it had the potential to maybe be an important moment in his career, which, by extension, could've been important for rap in Houston moving forward. So I went, because holy fuck if after he becomes famous he gives an interview and says something like, "Really, what set this all moving was a show I did in June of 2012 at this place called Fitzgerald's" and, in turn, I don't possess the ability to turn to whomever is next to me and say, "Yeah, I remember that show. It was transcendent. It was obvious he was destined for stardom after that night." well, that'll be the worst. Historical asides are the best thing of all. And music writers are absolutely insufferable.
A few notes from the show:
**There was a guy there handing out fliers advertising a company that could get you more followers and more likes on Twitter and Facebook. I don't know if it's a legit thing, but I know how you can get more likes in real life: DON'T BE THE GUY HANDING OUT FLIERS FOR SHITTY COMPANIES.
** The most enjoyable surprise of the night: Roosh Williams, an underappreciated talent that will likely struggle to gain the following his talent merits because he is a) a rapper who is not black; and b) a non-black rapper that is non-gimmicky -- or, more specifically, not caricaturally hip.
Turns out, he fucking crushes live. He wiggled onstage for a guest verse and dropped a FURYHAMMER on everyone's balls (and vaginas too, probably). His verse was dynamic, well written and interesting, changing levels and pitch and intonation without hiccup. It was the most enjoyable 90 seconds of between 11:45 and 11:59 p.m., made all the more impressive because he got onstage for his own set immediately after and replicated the entire experience.
--SS, Roosh Williams Live Show Fan Club President
(1) Not a real word. Sorry, English language.
**There is a female rapper in Houston named Amber London. And she is actively trying to recreate the nihilism of West Coast gangsta rap from the '90s. And it is tough tommies. That's a video up above of her song "'94 Cool Shit," which she performed to great success.
I spoke with her after the show (she's decidedly less intimidating off stage). More on her soon, for soon. #WhyIsNobodyTalkingAboutTheRisingCorpsOfFemaleEmceesInHouston
** There was a White guy there wearing a shirt that read, "Ultimate Hustler" in big, bold letters. I'd initially found myself skeptical of his claim, but then I noticed that he was not only wearing a snapback cap on his head, but also one on his belt buckle. Controversy settled. If, at any time during your existence, you find yourself with more hats on your persons than skulls, you have ascended to Ultimate Hustler status.
** DJ Mr. Rogers (above) was in charge of moving the evening's narrative forward during the shows. He was unassailable as always, but his most important moment came during the down time between London's set and Les's set, during which he stitched together a solid 20 minutes of classic Houston rap songs.
That doesn't sound especially hard -- really, playing classic Houston rap at a concert in Houston is like a blow job: The only way to fuck it up is to not do it -- until you consider that nearly everything he played had some sort of deft music-nerd addition that made it especially easy to appreciate.
An example: He played E.S.G.'s "Swang and Bang," except he laid the vocals over a lift of the part of "Swang and Bang" that Drake sampled for "H.Y.F.R." on last year's Take Care, basically folding the song over onto a modernized version of itself. I mean. Now, if you'll help me up off my knees, that'd be just swell.
** Regarding the ability of Les to operate as the star of his own show: He has it. He invited several people to perform with him up onstage -- the indelible Slim Thug, the eternally cool Killa Kyleon, the hulking Mug (physically, he is a force of nature in person; it's like if a Prius decided to stand up and grow arms and legs, a beyond-affable trait for a proper gangster rapper to have -- but never once looked uncomfortable or nervous that the energy might be siphoned away.
His most impressive moment came when he relinquished control of the show entirely, inviting Propain, Delo and Doughbeezy out concurrently to perform verses from songs that have no ties to himself. He stood back, admired his contemporaries, then moved along. It was like Jordan passing the ball to Kerr in the '97 Finals for the game-winner, then collecting his MVP at the celebration afterwards.
Oh, also, of course Bun B showed up. He actually closed the show. It was a sign of respect from Les obviously, but it was also a sign of respect from Bun B too. He has to rate as the most accessible rap legend to ever be rap legended. Some potential new nicknames for him: Mr. Trill of Rights, Good Trill Hunting, Trilt Chamberlain (FAVORITE), Trill Russell...
**Regarding the existence of Les, let's grab the meat of a review of Settle 4 Le$ Vol. 2, his world beater tape from 2011:
It's hard to write about Le$ without getting too philosophical. He seems like an actualization of the Internet's influence on contemporary hip-hop; rooted in tradition, but gassed with personal ideologies and anecdotes. He's the same but he's different; he's a rap isotope. And his latest tape, Settle 4 Le$ Vol. 2, a squish of horns and Day-Glo sonicism, is the glorious manifestation of the juxtaposition, a seeming ode to Negritude, were it bounded instead by weed tropes and a want for regional progressivism rather than race.
There are no moments where he hurries along, no moments where his presence can be rushed in any sort of way. He walks, WALKS, w...a...l...k...s throughout, pausing only to admire to his hair or Carlos Santana's affinity for meditative bridges. It isn't measured against anything other than itself, and even then it's only done so obliquely. Le$ is just as concerned with meritocracy as most rappers are, he's just noticeably more couth than most.
That is still all very true, the only difference being that he's spent the months since the tape's release blending his rap swerve into the cosmos, making the difference between the two even more imperceptible. He's simply able to offer what very few other young rappers can:
A fully realized version of the rapper that he wants to be (specifically the postmodern gangsta rapper). Remember how perfectly aware Devin the Dude was on his Just Tryin' To Live tape? Les operates at that same level about 70 percent of the time ALREADY. It is never not impressive.
Personal Bias: I transferred two of Les's mixtapes to cassette, a task no less cumbersome than carrying a hippo to the top of the Appalachian mountains.
The Crowd: Was not nearly as numerous as maybe should've been.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Propain is really good at looking important." -Me, to the guy standing next to me, but probably really to no one in particular.
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Random Notebook Dump: ...Trill Cosby, Trilly Dee Williams, Billy Dee Trilliams, Trilly Bob Thornton, Trill Clinton, Trill O'Reilly, Trill Gates, Trilly Crystal, Trill Belichick, Trill. I. Am, Trill Smith, Buffalo Trill, The Buffalo Trills, Prince Trilliam, Trilliam Shakespeare, Ted Trilliams, Trillmatic, Trill Collins. All day.
Random (And Totally Self Congratulatory) Notebook Dump: Last year, in a review of Settle 4 Le$ Vol. 2, I described Les as being 1:30 a.m. on a Wednesday night (but really Thursday morning). Last night's show ended right after 1:30 a.m. on a Wednesday night (but really Thursday morning). Malibooyah.