Young Thug delights fans with career highlights, for the first night of Redbull Sound Select's "30 Days in Chicago."
Wrigleyville, Chicago, once a working class neighborhood is now a nightlife hub, from bars to restaurants to clubs, tourists and locals often navigate the area on foot at night, the streets busy outside, as the venues are inside. The pocket within the Lakeview community of Chicago also receives its name for the Wrigley Field, a baseball stadium built over 100 years ago, the home to the Chicago Cubs; thus the area has become inextricably tied to sports fans. Last night, however, the palpable excitement on the streets in Wrigleyville, specifically, on North Clark street, wasn’t due to any particular sporting event. It was due to a hip-hop event. Chicago, in and of itself, isn’t unknown for its rap music either, to be sure, however, it wasn’t a Chi-town native who had the city so animated; it was an ATLien.
It was the first night for Redbull Sound Select’s 30 Days initiative. Each year, Redbull Sound Select chooses a city to take over for thirty days of shows, a full month -- Chicago clearly won for 2017. As if in an effort to prove their love for all things music and its culture (we already believe you Redbull!), Redbull’s 30 Days consists of ridiculously affordable shows, for a diverse set of ridiculously good artists. What better way to launch than with the elusive Young Thug?
Thug is elusive in almost every sense of the word except when it comes to shows, actually -- concerts, he does, although this past year has even seen him take it down a notch compared to the run he did in 2016-- in 2017 he’s only played 54 shows (compare this to Migos’ 2017 run, which includes 127 shows, or even 21 Savage, with 91 shows on his resume for the year 2k17). Rather than a proper tour, Thug’s shows this past year have been relegated mostly to festival participation, which is never quite the same experience as seeing just the one artist you love (yes it’s true love), in a headlining show. There’s a variety of factors as to why - setlists are shorter, crowd is less predictable (do they actually like Thug or are they just here ‘cause he happens to be performing at an open time??), the experience just isn’t as immersive. With that being said, it’s safe to say I literally hopped on a plane for the opportunity to see Thugger headline for the opening night of RBSS’s 30 Days.
By the time I arrive at The Metro, the venue already looks to be to capacity-- 1,100 people to be precise, which is actually a pretty small venue for Thug, who is now capable of selling out venues that hold upwards of 5,000 to 9,000 people. As I’m snaking my way up the flights of stairs to head to the balcony, I catch a glimpse inside the floor of the venue, with a crowd packed like sardines, wall to wall, in an near-obnoxious state of turn up already; the excitement for Thug’s set visible and felt. Luckily, given the fact that I’m the size of a small child, I find a much-less crowded standing space in the VIP area to the far left of the stage, where I can stand with a clear view of the stage (!). Leikeli47 has finished her set, she’s the ski-masked-wearing MC who was one of the openers tonight, and so it’s up to the DJ to keep the excitement alive until Thug graces the stage. I’m already calculating how many songs he’ll be able to perform, how long will the set be, will he do oldies or newbies, will he just run through hits, and will we be bestowed with anything Super Slimey for the first time??? Will my phone battery make it through the night??? These are very important questions, and as someone who has never seen Thug live until now, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Thug is slated to go on at 11:20 PM, and on top of all the above questions swimming through my head, I’m wondering how timely he’ll be -- he seems like the kind of person who never even knows what time it is, while Redbull, on the other hand, seem like the type of people (company?) that always knows precisely what time it is.
Then, as casual as ever, Thug saunters onto stage and starts rapping his opening verse on Super Slimey cut “Three.” It’s also only 11:27 PM -- just seven minutes late; this rap concert is already proving extraordinary. Thug, who is known for his eccentric fashion choices, is layered up, layers which will ultimately leave his body as the show progresses, before finally ending his set shirtless -- however he begins the night with a beige, short-sleeved trenchcoat, a cartoon t-shirt depicting some weird totem pole design, paired on top of a black long sleeve hoodie, his red-tinted dreads tied up and sunglasses on. The live rendition of “Three,” which is cut short before Future’s verse, feels more rock-imbued when heard live, less electronic. This is actually a pattern throughout the show, and obviously attaches to a larger trend within rap music, the borrowing from rock and its performance ideals. Basically, Thug has his crowd acting like they’re at a rock concert at points, or else, he himself is on that tip-- whether it’s intermittent acapella and acoustic-like jam sessions in the middle of a song, or having a swarm of people waving their hands back at him, or, when he asks all fans to raise the light on their camera and join him in unison-- a call and response style that feels more rock’n’roll.
After the brief “Three” interpolation kicking off the show, Thug heads into a Barter 6 favorite, “With That” -- already it’s a good sign of things to come. Over the course of the night, Thug opts to mostly perform fan favorites, picking and choosing from the highlights of his career, resulting in an outstanding set list (find the full setlist below).
While he seems to keep his fan in mind, still, Thug isn’t much of a crowd-talker, and most of his interactions with the audience can be templated as follows: “If you fuck with [insert Thug concept] then say ‘hell yeah’!” The first “hell yeah” of the night went out to Beautiful Thugger Girls. The country-esque intro of “Family Don’t Matter” begins to play, as Thug walks across the full length of the stage; something he makes good use of for the entire night. While the first few songs find him moreso just walking-- walking to one side, saying what’s up to the crowd there, then walking to the other side, and doing similar-- the slow-creeping Caribbean vibe of the “Wyclef Jean” beat amps up the excitement across the room, Thugger included, as he growls through lyrics, “Daddy boy, never play with toys / Better not play with 'em boys / New AK with them boys New feng shui with the boys.” He is not a schizophrenic dancer on stage, like, say, a Lil Uzi Vert, who busts out the strangest but still somehow appealing dance moves when he is live, doling out as much energy as possible given his pint-sized shape. Instead, Thug gives off more of a calm, cool and collected vibe as he performs. He does jump around from time to time, and he motions with hands as most rappers do, but he also expends his energy wisely, choosing mostly, to amble and hop around a bit.
That’s to say nothing bad of his performance; because it was dope. He’s backed by a vocal track at times too (it seems unavoidable for any rap show these days), however, his natural voice is also quite clear, and starkingly akin to what you hear on any streaming service -- also shout out the sound system in general, because the whole show had a clean sound.
“Wyclef Jean” continued the trend of fan-favorite cuts from recent releases-- back to Beautiful Thugger Girls for “Tomorrow Til Infinity,” where Thug gets country-rock again for a minute, as he finishes acapella and has the crowd clapping along to create the beat. From there, the hype builds, with Thug jumping a bit more at each new song, while the crowd matches and doubles his energy, that is, before “Worth It” starts, and things get sombre (how could it not with lyrics like “I keep my heart locked up in a safe”?). For this record, he actually ends up sitting down in front of the DJ booth, finishing the song acapella once again. The emotion of the song is felt in the crowd for a few moments, but it’s soon forgotten, as Thug bubbles right back up with “On Fire.”
This is about the time that we're ushered into the most lit performances of the night. Thug announces to the crowd that he wants to do some “gangster shit” because he’s in Chicago, and rather doing his single of the exact name (would that have been too obvious?), he mows into “Floyd Mayweather,” and the crowd is jumping in unison to it. In quick succession, we are regaled with some classic Thug records -- “Ain’t About the Money,” “Two Cups Stuffed” (for the “day ones,” he says, and those day ones are everywhere in audience, apparently), “Pick up the Phone” and “Lifestyle” are all performed within this period. However the most memorable songs of the night come about when Thug performs his solo track off Super Slimey, “Killed Before,” an early fan-favorite and stand-out from the mixtape, as well as the hit “Best Friend.” “Killed Before” is also led by the call-and-response “hell yeah” (“if you fuck with Super Slimey say ‘hell yeah’”), and the crowd has a fit, intuitively knowing what’s to come, perhaps. Thug himself also extends his lanky arms as much as possible for this record, jumping across the stage, apparently equally excited to be performing the record. Everyone’s agreed-upon favorite line, “Different coloured diamonds, I’ma peeeaaaaacock” has a very strong crowd performance, with Thug choosing to take the backseat when that bar comes around.
It’s these set of records, the ones that prove to be the most exciting part of the night, that are also ultimately leading us to the end of the show. The show’s final song (“Relationships”) proves to be one of the least exciting moments of the night (a great song by the way, and the performance itself was not bad, this is just in contrast to what came before). Before I know it, Thug has casually walked off stage, much in the same way he arrived, without saying another word to crowd.
Family Don’t Matter
Tomorrow til Infinty
Ain’t About the Money
2 Cups Stuffed
I Got Me A Check
Pick up the Phone