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The lineup of the Smoker's Club tour at the Observatory read like a roster ripped straight from a list of acclaimed mixtapes from the past year or so. On one side of the spectrum was Memphis veteran Juicy J's lovably ignorant drug-and-party rap with Brooklyn teenager Joey Badass' worship of 90's hip-hop on the other. And, while that may sound like a disastrous mash-up of performers suited more for a larger scale festival, the Smoker's Club festivities ended up unfolding incredibly well.
After crowd was properly hyped up with DJ sets and a couple original acts, D.C.'s dominating forceFat Trel
stepped onto stage. Opening with theRick Ross
sample "Deep In The Game," Trel kept the energy and crowd involvement at a spirited level from the moment he first started rapping into the mic till the too-soon climax of his set. Through speaker-rattling tracks likeLex Luger
produced "Respect With The Tech" and "Swishers and Liquor," the dreadlock-swinging Maryland native stayed agile and aggressive, and the packed audience seemed to gladly return the feeling.
Brooklyn-bred Joey Badass--accompanied by some of his Pro Era crew-- followed Fat Trel, introducing the essence of Golden Age hip-hop to the alcohol-guzzling sea of onlookers. Though a few fans in the crowd didn't seem all that responsive to Badass's intricate, attention-demanding flows, this was a tour based completely on hip-hop, and the East Coast newcomer did a fantastic job of representing a purist approach to his style, one bereft of typical gimmicks common among many buzz-catching blog rappers. The only thing that dampened an otherwise admirable outing was the sound; tracks such as "Survival Tactics" should have sounded a bit more clear in the house speakers.
Harlemite Smoke DZA arrived right as the atmosphere of the Observatory started to induce floods of heat and sweat. As if in some sort of bug-eyed trance, DZA jumped from track to track as if each series of lines was part of a sinister, psychedelic episode of hypnosis.
As the amount of performers on the bill rounded down to one, Juicy J brought his tripped out flows into the headlining slot. Bouncing around like the doped-up Energizer Bunny, the Memphis veteran threw the caution of age to the wind. If he really has lived even half of what he speaks in his songs, drugs must have had the opposite effect of what they have had on many other unfortunate rockstars.
For the entirety of his set, Juicy J seemed to live up to all the expectations set forth by his substance abuse anthems. He oscillated wildly from all parts of the stage, gathering up a conga line of ladies to hop up out of the audience to join him, and always made sure to speak to his fans about the important stuff in life -- drugs and partying. Say what you will about him as a lyricist -- Juicy J is one of the most entertaining performers in his circuit.
Critic's Bias: Fat Trel's "Nightmare on E Street" is one of the best mixtapes to come out this year. Go grab it as soon as possible.
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The Crowd: A mix of every single type of person who goes out to watch live music. Live hip-hop can unite people just like massives and raves can.
Random Notebook Dump: Pretty much everyone at hip-hop shows nowadays seems to do their best impression of the movements and mannerisms of 2 Chainz and Lil B.