The second installment of the Smokers Club Tour rolled into Northern Lights last week, filling the unfortunate calendar slot of a random Wednesday in October. We can fill this place for a rap show (see Snoop Dogg earlier this year) but maybe a veteran name on a Friday or Saturday is a necessary component in doing so.
I mention “a veteran name” because the small-but-lively crowd was directly responsive to the night’s experience-sorted billing order: Undercard openers Corner Boy P and Fiend were met with relative indifference. Harlem’s Smoke DZA, a rapper who has made a small name for himself in (predominantly Internet-based) rap circles with the Lex Luger-produced “Loaded” and the ASAP Rocky-featuring, malt-liquor-and-Promethazine homage “4 Loko,” received similarly little fanfare. Digital download numbers and YouTube play counts apparently don’t carry much weight in Clifton Park.
Big K.R.I.T. took the stage shortly after DZA’s set, backed by frequent collaborator Big Sant, and worked through a well-curated set that highlighted the relative newcomer’s most popular and most agreeable tracks. “Time Machine” and “My Sub” were met with stone faces, as were “Just Touched Down” and “Country Shit,” a track I thought would hit home with even the most casual of Southern rap fans. There has always been chatter that Southern rappers like to perform closer to home for better and more receptive crowds, and the lethargic crowd for K.R.I.T. proved why. Maybe, unfortunately, a tour dubbed the Smokers Club, sponsored by Raw rolling papers—which were continually tossed into the crowd during the night’s set breaks—is guaranteed to be lethargic. This would have been the night’s case, had Method Man not taken the stage. More on that later.
After a small break in the night’s action—a break that included the stage lights being flipped off while handlers shuffled furniture around the stage—a hobbled, crutched Curren$y appeared. The New Orleans veteran broke his ankle a few weeks ago while hopping off the stage at Rock the Bells Los Angeles. While many artists would cancel their tour, Curren$y brought his living room to us, performing mostly from the couch or leaning on the shoulders of rappers-turned-human-crutches. Smoke DZA, Big K.R.I.T., Trademark, Roddy and more, were all on stage, hanging out in the impromptu living room, helping Curren$y move around when necessary. Tracks from his Pilot Talk series, recent mixtapes like Verde Terrace and the Alchemist-helmed Covert Coup solidified why the rapper seems to never leave my iPhone. His prolific output is consistent and almost always fun to listen to; he’s talented and charismatic, even when hobbled on a couch, high as all hell. He seemed to genuinely like the crowd, lauded us for keeping it “gangster 100” and “being so cool for understanding [he] had to sit down the whole time.”
Disclaimer: I enjoyed Method Man’s set and I genuinely think he is a talented rapper; I just can’t figure out why he’s on this tour. Method appeared, letting us know he hated “this pretty shit” and wanted to take it “back to original Wu-Tang shit.” He rattled off his namesake track and then killed the extremely hyped but downsized crowd with his verse on “Ice Cream.” Then an unavoidable Ol’ Dirty Bastard tribute seemed to really, honestly move the artist. He got the crowd jumping to “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit” and closed with “Da Rockwilder.” He was loud and proud and is clearly into defining what is and isn’t “real” hip-hop. He’s a New York rap purist, which is why his inclusion on this tour is so confusing. Curren$y has been leading a charge to rid the hip-hop community of blunts and move smokers to papers (remember that Raw sponsorship), while Meth stated Wednesday that he’s not into papers and admitted to a blunt addiction. I also believe that every artist present last week—outside of Method man—has hopped on a track with at least one or two other artists also present. Method Man’s aggressive, raw, blunt-fueled New York sound was a strange way to end a night marked predominantly by paper-twisted, Southern-bred rap and hip-hop.