So I’ve covered lots of different arts events for my job, but until recently, I’d never had hiphop concert duty.
I know that probably shocks you all. (“A 39 year old, white mom living in the suburbs? Of course she’s down with OPP!”)
And I’ll confess that I dabble in the genre, downloading hiphop songs that catch my ear now and then. But the artist in question – Kid Cudi – was one I didn’t know anything about before, so I was starting from scratch. Not a comfortable place for this serial preparation-freak.
So while in full “fight or flight” mode, I downloaded Cudi’s album and new single (“Erase Me”) from iTunes and listened whenever I had a few minutes – which wasn’t often. And when it came time to go to the concert Saturday night at EMU, I was nervous that I didn’t know enough, but I also figured it was good for me to step beyond my comfort zone sometimes, and that I’d just do the best I could.
The set was short – only about an hour – and I was in a nearly empty section to the side of the stage, a little behind Cudi. But being in a nearly empty section was far from the only thing that made me stand out.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. But like most people, I occasionally like to think, “I’m still kind of cool and hip. I’m aging well – still got that student vibe going.” Please. I wasn’t cool and hip, even at the coolest and most hip portion of my life. But lest that truth escape me, all I need to do is attend another hiphop concert on a college campus.
Here are a few things I noticed while feelin’ Cudi’s rhymes:
1. At some point, clapping after songs at concerts became passe. Who knew? I discovered this while applauding, and then noticing that no one else anywhere near me was clapping, so it just became this stupid, isolated sound among the hoots and screams and raised arms. Maybe this evolved once people had to have a cell phone/blackberry/iPhone in one hand at all times; or maybe hiphop fans, or young people more generally, see clapping as over-the-top or old school or undignified. I don’t know. But I watched the people around me, and it appeared as though the thought of clapping never even crossed their mind. For me, it was like a freakin’ reflex that I couldn’t turn off. Years of conditioning are hard to just turn off. So I kept finding myself clapping, only to stop myself again. I could just imagine those college students within hearing distance: “Who’s that gomer? Oh, it’s just an old mom. Whatev.”
2. This has been true for a long time, but whenever I’m at a show where the main floor is a chair-free mosh pit, I spend a good portion of the evening feeling grateful that I’m in a relatively comfy seat and not in the midst of that sweaty, smelly, loud, claustrophobic shoving match. And because my section was largely for press and VIPs – and was thus nearly empty – I didn’t have to stand at all, which was fabulous. (I’d been regretting my shoe choice, thinking that when I picked them out for the evening, I hadn’t considered that I might have to stand throughout the show, but fortunately, I lucked out on this point.) Again, this is hardly new – I think I was over being part of the jumping main floor masses at about the same time I graduated college – but something I still note with relief from my current perspective as an old lady.
3. Lighters are back. I know, I know. I thought cell phones had made them obsolete as concert gear, but at Cudi’s show, there were way more lighters held up and waved in the air during the marquee songs. Of course, a guy down the row from me was puffing on a blunt, so everybody may have just been lighting up simultaneously and decided to keep the flame going. Who’s to say, really?
4. This sounds SO grumpy and crochety, but I’ll admit, seeing a hiphop concert made me miss seeing people playing real instruments in order to accompany the vocalist. Seeing a guy working a laptop just doesn’t have the same effect.
5. In the song “Soundtrack 2 My Life,” which Cudi did early on, he appreciatively wonders about how his mom, a single mother, somehow managed to get him the things he wanted for Christmas. And this is part of what’s sold me about Cudi. Being on the other end of mom divide, I can now say that open appreciation of moms is something I shamelessly respond to.
6. However, Cudi also led the crowd in screaming his name several times, which lost him some points with me. No matter what, it’s hard for me to imagine getting to a point where I’m telling thousands of people, “Hey, I know you each spent more than 30 dollars to listen to me perform for an hour, but I still need some emotional validation. How about you say my name, like, six times or so? That would be cool. Ready? This side say ‘Jenn,’ this side say, “McKee.’ On my count. Go!” Ugh. Enough, already. They love you. Sing or something.
In the end, my experience covering a hiphop show was a good one, in that it introduced to some music I’ve come to really like in the last week, and I didn’t have to leave for the show until Lily was in bed, so she didn’t even notice I was gone.
But I don’t really see a future for myself writing for Vibe, either. That’s OK. I’ll stick with the variety I get at my current job.