Jan. 7, 2015
As good as Young Thug was last night at The Observatory, his crowd was even better. To the right of me, a wealthy-looking, middle-aged, white man was freak dancing with a Persian girl at least 30 years his junior. Behind me, a group of African-American dudes would periodically walk over to the old white guy and try to give him a dap. To my left, a group of Vietnamese kids passed around a hi-tech, futuristic Elon Musk vape pen. In front of me, a group of Latinos and Latinas rolled immaculate blunts with zen-like focus in the crowded pit of the sold out show.
There were women in high heels and evening dresses, others decked out in HBA (Hood By Air) gear. Dudes dressed in Jumpman get-ups, mingled with Mac Demarco look-a-likes sporting tattered flannel and burnt out surfer locks. Some people looked like they had to leave early because they had a geometry test at 7:50 the next morning. A grizzly-bearded man in a Big Dogs sweater was there taking his disabled son to see the show. Wyatt and Fletcher Shears from OC’s own experimental punk band The Garden were in the house, all decked out in Jeffrey Lee Pierce regalia. Despite the reputation Orange County still has as an ethnically homogeneous, cultural wasteland, the scene at the Young Thug show in Santa Ana was true diversity in full effect. However, it wasn’t all that surprising.
Since the release of the song “Stoner” in the early part of 2014, the Atlanta rapper galvanized rap nerds and hardcore gangstas alike. His sound experiments with ethereal trap beats and a scat/singing style of rapping that hinges on oddball melodies with gritty street tales about doing harm to his enemies and making sure he and his posse are financially stable.
Even though the show started around 8 p.m., Young Thug didn’t hit the stage until around 11:30. So for three and a half hours, we were dealt a series of opening acts, surprise guests, and multiple DJs who had the Power 106 weekday lunch hour set loaded up in Serato. Travis Scott’s “Antidote”, Future’s “Fuck Up Some Commas”, and “Watch Out” by 2Chainz where played multiple times over the course of the evening. OG Maco of “U Guessed” it fame came on and did a high energy performance of some of his new material. Then, Rich The Kid came on and did a similar thing, flanked by a guy that I swear was wearing tzitzit (tassels worn underneath a shirt by religious Jews).
Finally Young Thug himself appeared and performed all the hits, “Stoner,” “Lifestyle,” “Best Friend,” and even the Jamie XX produced “Good Times.” He might not have had the spastic energy of OG Maco, but there’s no denying that Young Thug has a certain kind of stage presence that keeps your eyes on him, even if he isn’t doing a whole lot. Unlike, other rappers that night, he kept the lipsynching to a minimum, allowing his DJ to keep one track playing the beats of each song at full volume, while using pre-recorded vocals to accent his live rapping and singing.
When the set finally ended and the lights came up, it was clear that even though a Young Thug concert isn’t the most profound or important of conferences, we still saw the makings of an entertaining artist that a good cross section of OC could agree on.