Long Beach Convention Center
The first annual two-day expo ComplexCon rolled into the Long Beach Convention Center over the weekend, allowing hip-hop heads the opportunity to geek out on the sights and sounds of everything that crowds their Instagram feeds on a daily basis. Whether it was live performances from blog rap darlings or embattled Top 40 superstars, panels that discussed sneaker politics or actual politics, forward-looking trends or throwback fashions, the inaugural fest had plenty in store. Of course even a first year festival created by Pharrell and Mark Ecko that's dubbed "Our generation's World's Fair" is still prone to some hiccups, mishaps and disappointments, of which there were a few. Here's our take on the Best and Worst of ComplexCon.
No other person living, except perhaps Kanye who wasn’t there, could have epitomized ComplexCon the way Pharrell Williams did. Although the gastronomic aspect of the event was sorely lacking, if given more time we’re sure Skateboard P would have likely made his mark there, too. Timbaland couldn’t keep Pharrell’s name out of his mouth during the producer’s panel; he stood with Native Americans at a space inside the exhibit hall to protest the DAPL; he debuted at the convention with his latest G-Star Raw collaboration sporting a handful of sprouting, frosted tip dreads; and finally blessed the stage each night flanking Kid Cudi and Travis Scott before droppin’ like it was hot with Snoop during the weekend’s final set. Pharrell could have very well stayed behind to help clean up the convention floor after day one to prepare it for Sunday.
BEST: The Panels
Competing with Pharrell for MVP honors at the inaugural ComplexCon were the number of panels that shed light on everything from education in inner cities to the future of E-sports. Wale arguably put on a better show at the “Sneaker of the Year” panel than he ever could have on stage.
“Kanye could sneeze on a pair of Superstars, call them the Vincent van Gogh Booger Adidas and everybody would go crazy,” he said of Kanye and Adidas’ 2016 sneaker dominance. Out of impassioned spite with the Air Jordan XXXI, Wale dropped them in the middle of the stage sending gasps through the meek ballroom.
On Sunday, John Singleton, in a discussion with DeRay McKesson, seemingly challenged himself to see how many times he could say “cracker” and “muthafucker” in a 45-minute span as he was probed by the activist regarding his film choices, and interactions with both Hollywood execs and neighbors who don’t like his loud jazz music.
Tension in the generational gap Rap debate could’ve been ginsu’d with Vince Staples going head to with legendary MC, Pete Rock who appeared on the panel after dissing the latest hip-hop generation of “mumble rappers.”
BEST: Security Mishaps
While most reported security interactions come attached to negative accounts, security gaffes this weekend in Long Beach were pretty damn funny. 2Chainz cussed out the outfit after an attempted ousting of his personal photographer.
“Hey, dickbeaters,” he started at them. “Hey lurch, get your hands off my photographer, killer. I pay good money for him to capture this swagger,” 2Chainz lampooned in a pair of Adidas (designed by none other than goddamn Pharrell) and several chains, oddly enough.
Other instances saw security carry out adolescents as they kicked and threw tantrums like toddlers being denied candy at a grocery store check out line. Meanwhile others were able to hop over the pathetic excuse for a fence into the VIP area at the main stage—too bad there really wasn’t much to do in there. One slippery attendee found himself on stage during Kid Cudi’s set, giving a slight shimmy before collapsed at a security guard’s feet like a defeated gazelle in the Serengeti.
BEST: Political Commentary
Likely the most sobering part of going leaving the Utopia that was ComplexCon is Tuesday’s kerfuffle of an election. However, in an attempt to be move beyond roles as mere Fuckbois and Instagram models, several political statements were made at the convention. Again, Pharrell and the Native American MHA Nation, hosted an Adidas-sponsored protest throughout the weekend to shed light on the DAPL and the burgeoning protest of the pipeline. Before Migos took the stage Sunday night, DJ Brittany Sky summoned the audience to vote before dropping the young leftist anthem, “Fuck Donald Trump.”
BEST of the Worst: Free Four Loko Samples
Cause, like, hell yeah I wanna destroy my liver, kidneys and endocrine system at absolutely no cost.
After all the green, brown and black splotches throughout the weekend, the swath of trite hypebeasts in camo print clothes at ComplexCon actually began to blend in, only not with the environment but with each other. Occasionally, it wasn’t even the traditional camo colorway that was co-opted to the point disdain; some rocked pink camo, others had blue and red. It was tasteless 99% of the time and the 1% who did it well just kinda mixed in. It was a real shame considering one of the highlights of the convention was the ability to bring the best of the fashion world to life. You camo freaks should just go into hiding. Forever.
WORST: Set Stoppage
Yeah, yeah we understand time constraints and set times but sound cut off a few of the highlights of ComplexCon and most importantly the end of Kid Cudi’s giddy, star-studded set, his first since checking himself into rehab for depression last month. It was actually Pharrell, on stage with Cudi at the time, who broke the news that the sound had been cut. Sure, it’s a bit ornery to complain after Cudi’s soul satisfying performance but he clearly had so much more to give the fans in that moment with P and Travis Scott rocking with him. Plus, another Cudi show is essentially out of the question at the moment.
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On Sunday, Migos DJ, Durel clapped at the sound booth for cutting Migos’ set short informing us that it was “that guy” responsible for blunting their performance.
WORST: No Special Guest Sunday
Long before Ubers lined up down Alamitos and Ocean to drop off an entire host of folks whose every move is informed by “the culture”, discussion and rumors swirled about the mysterious “Special Guest” slot at the closing concert. Speculation went up until, Snoop ended his set and the convention, leaving the eager and exhausted patrons underwhelmed as they filed out of the Long Beach arena. Many thought it might be Kanye considering the convention’s theme mimicked the design of his “Graduation” album and maybe as a way to make it up to us for cancelling his set as Sunday's original headliner for ComplexCon. Others thought Chance the Rapper might show, but turns out there was actually no chance of that at all. Some named Dr. Dre, a few thought Kendrick Lamar and one suggested a hologram but alas, no one. What will be a historical moment in hip-hop history was stopped a bit short of curating the most epic weekend for the culture ever. There’s always next year...