Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Game At The Granada

Hip hop is the most sonically interesting, lyrically challenging and culturally important music of the last quarter century.

So why does hip hop so often fail to thrive in a live setting?

The Game, one of today's biggest and best rappers, was simply awful last night at The Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas. It was so excruciatingly disappointing that I abandoned the club 45 minutes into The Game's performance.

Almost everything that makes The Game's recordings excellent- brilliant street poetry, innovative beats, contrarian perspective and relentless sense of danger- was absent. Had it not been for his distinctive facial tattoos and gruff voice, I might have suspected that the star had been replaced with an annoying impostor.

The Game seemed far more interested in popping bottles and bringing acolytes on stage than in performing music. Even when he remembered that the sold-out room was packed with fans who had forked over $30 to see him, The Game frequently demanded that his DJ spin hits by other artists.

"I pay homage," he explained. "It's what I do."

It's no different than if Radiohead spent much of a concert chatting up fans in the front row and playing covers of hits by Coldplay and The Cure. What's the point?

Because he's a gifted artist, The Game's lack of effort was exceedingly frustrating. Nipsey Hussle, on the other hand, was just plain bad. With his long hair, slight frame and juvenile obsession with marijuana, Hussle recalled fellow Los Angeles artist Snoop Dogg. But where Snoop is clever and charismatic, Hussle is amateurish and annoying.

Kutt Calhoun was far better. It didn't hurt that the Kansas City rapper brought much of his Strange Music family with him. Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, B-G Bulletwound and Big Scoob helped him out.

Calhoun may lack The Game's talent, but unlike the headliner, at least he gave it his all.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)


Hayden said...

What are you talking about???? The Game's performance was AWESOME!! I dont know what you were expecting?!? He played all of his hits and everyone there was loving it!! Everyone showed The Game mad love and he gave it back. I'm pretty sure you are the only person that was dissapointed with the show.

Happy In Bag said...

A lot of people did seem to have a great time, Hayden. And that's cool. I just wasn't one of them.

Joel said...

I was thinking about this last night. It's interesting that The Game, who has sold millions of albums is playing the Granada, while acts who have sold far fewer albums (Neko Case, Shins, Vampire Weekend, New Pornographers, etc.) have no problem selling out the larger Liberty Hall just up the street. Why the disparity?
(Your boys in the Roots, by the way, have had no problem selling out the Voodoo Lounge both times they have come through town.)

Happy In Bag said...

It is a fascinating subject, Joel.

The Game has sold about ten million albums. "My Life" is a current hit. Yet he plays to 1,000-1,500 fans.

So, here are my three best guesses:

1. Fans know that hip hop concerts (at least the shows without an actual band) are often unsatisfying.

2. "It's the economy, stupid." And the hip hop community might be harder hit than the Vampire Weekend fan base.

3. Fear. There's a (false) perception that rap shows are dangerous. People stay away.

Your thoughts?