Review: Rae Sremmurd, Lil Yachty bring rap's young new school to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg
Let's not go crazy calling Rae Sremmurd and Lil Yachty's concert Tuesday at Jannus Live a glimpse at the future of rap.
Yeah, it seems like their booming, processed-to-hell mix of mumblecore rapping and outer-space outlandishness is everywhere these days, from A-listers like Kanye West and Future to up-and-comers like Travis Scott and Desiigner. The Grammys even changed a category this year to better reflect this growing genre of half-sung, half-rapped hip-hop.
But Jannus Live wasn't barely half full on Tuesday. Yes, it was early in the week, and yes, it rained early. But considering this was Rae Sremmurd's first big headlining show here, and Lil Yachty just sold out the Orpheum six weeks ago, you'd think more fans might show up.
For their part, Rae Sremmurd performed like they wouldn't have cared if they were just playing to 20 fans in a parking lot. They exploded out of the gate with Start a Party, with Aaquil "Slim Jimmy" Brown rocking a fluffy red robe and clutching a bottle of Hennessy and his brother Khalif "Swae Lee" Brown soon following suit.
"We're drunk in this motherf---er," Swae said. No doubt. Considering all the brown Slim and Sway sprayed all over the stage, if the duo isn't endorsed by Henny, it's a missed opportunity.
Be that as it may, it didn't dull the Mississippi duo's indefatigable youthful energy. The band dropped odes to grinding (Came a Long Way), ladies (Come Get Her) and cash (Throw Sum Mo), and spent each track popping and bouncing and gradually shedding layers of clothing. By the time Swae spiked and smashed a pineapple on the stage near the end of their hour-plus set, it felt like a natural conclusion.
Subtle, Rae Sremmurd is not. But you try being subtle with hooks this heavy. Each time they dropped one of the Mike Will Made It-assisted bangers from their albums SremmLife and SremmLife 2 -- the big, booming By Chance; the resounding Real Chill or No Flex Zone -- the crowd lit up. Same with their hyped-up heat through Ty Dolla Sign's Blase and their hazy, elliptical closer Black Beatles.
They even closed with a message for the youths in the crowd. As they departed to a track of their song Up Like Trump, Swae said: "When you go vote, don't vote for Donald Trump, because he a b----. F--- Donald Trump." Never let it be said Rae Sremmurd doesn't care about current events.
Lil Yachty, the Atlanta teen and XXL Freshman who sold out the Orpheum just six weeks ago, is a more divisive representative of the new school, what with his repeated, casual dismissal of the greats who came before him.
"F--- all them old n----s, man, it's the young n----, rich n---- tour," he hollered amid incessant cheers of "Lil Boat!"
At times during his 30-minue set he bounced frenetically with the audience, as when he stripped his shirt and walked the edge of the crowd on Wanna Be Us, or plunged into the arms of fans and their cell phones during 22. Other times he paced the stage leisurly, head slightly bowed, letting his crew and backing track handle too much of the vocal.
That's a shame, because that vocal has potential, frequently Auto-Tuned and warped into something almost alien on songs like All In and Wanna Be Us. Other times his voice boomed through clearly, atop a glaze of deep, dark bass on Shoot Out the Roof and in a frenetic downhill rush on Carnage's Mase In '97. (Yachty couldn't quite keep up with that one, yielding once again to the backing track.
But he worked the crowd when he needed to. There was big fan response for his verse on D.R.A.M.'s Broccoli and a snippet of Drippin. He implored fans to open a circle pit on the weirdly dreamy Minnesota and illuminate the darkended courtyard with their phones on 1 Night -- his biggest single, and, with its hypnotically processed choruses, a song that feels almost like a mantra.
Rae Sremmurd and Lil Yachty aren't the only new schoolers out there; there's also Anderson Paak and Vince Staples and Raury and Chance the Rapper and other cats taking hip-hop in vastly headier places. But put together a 25-under-25 list in the world of hip hop, and they'd have to be on it. The future's a big place, and there's plenty of room for them to grow.
-- Jay Cridlin