By Jose Mujica
May 2, 2018
Quality Control, one of the hottest record labels championing the modern Atlanta trap sound, brought their A-list roster to the Queen City last night. Boasting a star-studded lineup featuring Lil Baby, Trippie Redd, Lil Yachty and Migos, the Spotify-sponsored RapCaviar event had the crowd buzzing with anticipation. The size and hype of the crowd only grew as the sun set later into the night, as most eagerly awaited the headlining showstoppers. The DJ managed to keep the crowd enthused and on their feet between sets playing hits from Drake, Blocboy JB and Kodak Black among other contemporaries. The starring team of auto-crooners, all well-known for their melodic rapping styles that have come to define this era of mainstream pop-rap, showed just how dominant their wave is as people of all ages and backgrounds were in attendance. From hypebeasts to women dressed in their finest club attire to the middle-aged adults accompanying their very young children, the diverse fan base the Migos and their labelmates have obtained is a testament to their breakthrough into mainstream hip-hop culture. One could catch the scent of aromatics in the air as the bass shook the floor beneath our feet, as it felt like a brief glimpse of what a mainstream hip-hop music festival in Charlotte might look like.
The show began with Lil Baby, the newest and least known Quality Control signee. He showed promise, and at times a charisma although his energy was subdued during most of his set. Gaining mainstream exposure after his breakthrough hit, “My Dawg” late last year, the newcomer has been making waves across Atlanta and beyond with his emotional, introspective subject matter coupled with an uncanny ability for earworm melodies and delivery reminiscent of Young Thug. Wrapping up his set with his “Freestyle” track that’s been blowing up nationwide in the last few months, he ensured that anyone who didn’t know his name going into the venue would leave knowing he’s an artist on the come up and one to look out for.
Trippie Redd hopped on stage almost immediately afterwards, with not much wait at all. The rapper/singer from Ohio, is a talented “soundcloud rapper” that for some reason has yet to cross over into mainstream notice. He controlled the stage and moved the crowd with ease during his set. It’s easy to see why he’s so often compared to Lil Uzi Vert when singing his hit song “Love Scars.” He spoiled the audience with a hype and high-energy performance as the crowd responded in kind, particularly during “Dark Night Dummo,” Trippie’s latest hit featuring Travis Scott, as the crowd bellowed the lyrics throughout the entire song.
After a short wait, Lil Boat, aka Lil Yachty hit the stage. Yachty, who was dubbed one of the “leaders” of the soundcloud/mumble rap wave in 2016, made a name of himself with his upbeat, happy “bubblegum trap” musical style. Since his debut on the national scene, he’s probably more known from various confrontational interviews than his music. He’s quarreled with venerable hip-hop purists blaming Yachty and his ilk for what they see as a decline in the culture of hip-hop. Yachty responds with his typical unyielding optimism and the nonchalant irreverence as one may expect from the “King of the Teens,” but the best argument he puts forth isn’t in the hot seat, but on stage. It’s clear to see why Yachty has such a loyal fan base if you’ve been to his shows. The crowd interactions and humorous banter help make his audience feel as though they’re participants and not merely spectators. Last night he encouraged his die-hard fans to pass security and get into the pit area and gave his shirt to a fan in the audience, later putting on a Lonzo Ball jersey given to him by another fan in the crowd. Towards the end of his set, he and his crew threw water bottles into the crowd, not to drink, but to splash everyone around when the bass dropped. Despite there clearly being people present who wouldn’t call themselves fans, when his set was over, not many were left without a smile on their face.
The headliners of the night were of course, the Migos. Currently the biggest rap group in the US, they also have an infamous reputation for late arrivals, short sets and unenthusiastic performances. Some of the fans in attendance may have seen them at Buku Fest in New Orleans earlier this year, where they showed up well over 30 minutes late and performed for even less than that. Fans were understandably hesitant but nonetheless hopeful that this time would be different. The Migos definitely kept the crowd waiting longer than any other act, seemingly toying with their fans expectations, but once the lights dimmed and the Migos name flashed on the screen all was forgiven and forgotten in a sea of adoring screams. Starting off with “Deadz,” the Migos performed a solid set a bit over an hour long going through their lengthy catalogue of hits. Performing “Higher We Go,” “Slippery,” “T-Shirt,” “Narcos,” “Stir Fry,” “Motorsport,” “Bad and Boujee,” amongst others, the never-ending hit machine out of North Atlanta definitely made their presence felt. Takeoff, who has received criticism for bad, low-energy performances, at times even hiding his face in a hoodie and barely moving onstage, seemed to have his game face on as he performed “We The Ones” to a receptive crowd.
The highlight of the night had to be Offset’s rendition of “Ric Flair Drip” in the Nature Boy’s very own hometown, where the screams of “Woooo!” erupted spontaneously well throughout the night. Quavo also revealed to the crowd that Charlotte was the first city outside of Atlanta they played on the come up, holding a special place in their heart. JCSU alumni can testify to seeing Migos performing at their homecoming show years before becoming household names.
Love it or hate it, the youth hip-hop movement is strong in Charlotte, and the culture is ever-evolving. That doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.