For most hip-hop acts, there is a threshold that must be crossed before entering the realm of Jay-Z-esque fame, that awkward cliff hanger that most artists find themselves lining up for, only to spend forever peering over onto success, rather than toppling into it. Wale, with two critically acclaimed studio albums and a list of collaboration tracks that includes work with Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, is the next man in line for super-stardom.
Everything about Wale's Sunday concert was a ringing reflection of his supporters' recognition and embrace of this soon-to-come turning point. Though the rapper has long enjoyed a cult-ish group of followers and comfortable digs, his packed performance at the Yost suggested that the rapper may need to start considering less intimate venues for his shows.
The Yost, which is tucked away on North Spurgeon St. with giant white neon letters to display its name, had set up bars of metal railing across the immediate sidewalk area to herd foot traffic, though by our 9:30 p.m. arrival time, there was none.
Everyone had migrated indoors. Girls and boys, the former decked out in tight tops and kitten heels and the latter in low-slung hood rat jeans, were crammed into every available corner of the Yost's restricted audience space and second floor bar.
It was a collection of Wale's fiercely loyal fanbase--a group that, despite two albums of collaborations with with artists like the ever-present Lady Gaga and popular up-and-comer J Cole, remains predominately diehard hip-hop heads more interested in flow than production and swag; an audience which has yet to be overrun with the teeny boppers that would be sure to infest theaters once the rapper starts topping the charts.
"Now them broads gon' follow. Chains so big can't pop my collar!" Wale rasps into the microphone, decked out in what looks like Nike kicks, a cap and a cotton blue tee. His dreaded hair falls in his face as he raps and sways in near comically drunk bravado.
And Wale gives his fans what they want. Leaning back to jiggle a golden chain around his neck, he asked fans to scream by section. Hordes of teens and twentysomethings oblige, throwing their hands up in the air towards the sweat-coated performer who repeatedly asks the left side to redo the shot, explaining, "Some girl on the left side of the railing was just staring up at me, not moving" before asking somewhat seriously, "Bitch, are you alive?"
The evening was rife with like interruptions, from Wale taking pictures of fans to Wale's hype crew pouring alcohol down people's throats. But the Washington rapper's flow never ebbed. The songs kept coming: the electronic anorexia-inducing "90210," the celebratory "Beautiful Bliss," and trumpet-heavy "Sabotage" transitioned into each other seamlessly.
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Navy blue lights bathed the crowd as the heavy beat of "Pretty Girls" faded out and Wale once again addressed the audience, informing them that he'd been drinking and smoking weed earlier in the evening, flashing a girl in the audience a smile and pointing, "I see you in your shirt girl." Ever pimping--even though he'd ditched the gold chain earlier in the evening.
The Crowd: hood kids with mad rhythm
Overheard: "Look at that girl, shes totally drunk!"
"Chains So Deep"
"Lotus Flower Bomb"