From our calendar this week:
Meek Mill’s path to success hasn’t been a smooth and straight ride. A handful of years back, the rapper got signed by T.I., but before anything could come out, he got arrested and sent to the slammer for eight months. Then last November, on the night of his album listening party, the super-successful Dreams & Nightmares, he was detained by police but released. It still made headlines and put the brakes on a big tour, guaranteeing local dates from the Maybach Music Group emcee for a bit. If that wasn’t enough, last month, his name came up in the shooting incident outside of French Montana’s hotel on Columbus Avenue. Meek was on the bus, but it turns out it was more of a fan-on-fan incident. The brother either can’t catch a break or isn’t trying very hard.
But hey, dude’s been winning: Puma signed him on as a brand ambassador, his big non-mixtape album debut put him high on Billboard charts, and he sold nearly 300,000 copies in the first two weeks. When he got signed by Rick Ross alongside Wale, he was ushered into a boys’ club of which he’s certainly taken advantage, collaborating with artists that orbit in Ross’ universe, like 2 Chainz, Drake, John Legend and Mary J. Blige. No one can deny the success of anthems like “Amen,” “House Party” (with Young Chris) and “Young & Gettin’ It.” And tonight, the Tower Theater’s sure to be packed with proud fans who love what Meek brings to the Philly hip-hop game: commercial and critical success that puts him in the family of the Roots, Beanie Sigel and Freeway.
8pm. $30-$45. With Ace Hood. Tower Theater, 69th and Ludlow streets, Upper Darby. 610.352.2887. thetowerphilly.com
Wednesday, April 10th
Hezekiah Davis is a self-proclaimed “sarcastic asshole,” and he got it from his funk-punk parents, who raised him in West Chester and Delaware. The comrade-in-arms of other Philly nu-soul giants like Bilal, Kindred the Family Soul and Musiq Soulchild, as Hezekiah, he’s more of an emcee, but on this new project, one he’s been working on for a couple years, he sings. And you know what? Dude’s got pipes. They’re not Bilal-level pipes, no, but the transition from rapper to funk and soul-spiked hip-hop band leader has not been unfriendly to the West Philadelphian.
Davis’ collaboration with Tone Whitfield, a bass specialist and producer with a healthy pedigree of his own, and soulstress Marjani Clark for last year’s The Crow yielded a new and fresh voice in Philadelphia music. The first single, “Hello to the Bad Guy,” is a snare-propelled and grimy guitar-driven track that hoists Hez’s plaintive, questioning tone above the fray. Meanwhile, the puppet-heavy video behind “Next Episode,” a pretty piano-backed insult track about an ex who he’s “through” with, is sultry, groovy and down-to-earth. “At least we tried, ya know?” he asks. His emulation of Gil Scott-Heron and Grace Jones is not lost in these songs. He brings that classic Philly-flavored soul to this new project. And he and his supporting crew play the middle opening set for Smokey Robotic tonight, channeling the likes of Erykah Badu and Mos Def.
8pm. $8-$12. With Smokey Robotic + Kokayi. Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684. johnnybrendas.com
Photo c/o Philly.com’s staff photographer, Alejandro A. Alvarez.
This is sad. Details emerged late last night and early this morning about a shooting outside the Holiday Inn Express on Columbus Avenue. Montana’s tour bus was en route to the hotel with an entourage and rooms booked inside for an after-party. Fans were following, too, in cars and, most likely, hoping to get in on said after-party where Meek Mill was sure to be. He was a surprise guest at the sold-out TLA show last night and French and Meek Tweeted and Instagrammed about it. In fact, one of the most tiresome moments of Instagram throughout the whole ordeal was when Montana posted a photo of Philadelphia police questioning a man in the lobby of the hotel with the text: “ain’t nobody got time for this shit.”
See, it basically sounds like a drive-by shooting. Shots were fired from a sedan that pulled up alongside the bus into the crowd hanging out around the tour bus. It was a mix of fans, entourage, artists, management and groupies, presumably. And when shots were fired, guns were pulled from the crowd around the bus and a car was found near Jefferson full of bullet holes. It seems that the police are confident that the shooting was not aimed at Montana or Mill but was more of a conflict between groups of fans.
As the cops arrived, everyone started to get questioned. I can only imagine what that process was like. One of the bizarro details from this Philly.com story is that drugs were found stashed in hotel lobby cushions. Once witnesses to the shooting were corralled into the Holday Inn lobby, looks like they realized they might be taken to a police station.
26-year-old Juwann King was shot in the abdomen and pronounced dead in the hospital late last night. Another 28-year-old, whose name hasn’t been released, was shot in the shoulder and is going to be fine/alive.
This is brutal on many fronts. A shooting after a show that seems kind of pre-meditated? Frightening, and makes us all a little more paranoid. That a 26-year-old is dead as a bystander? Tragic, and our thoughts and prayers go out to King’s family. Montana being glib and ignoring this tragedy in his social media? Crass, and unbecoming behavior from a young, up-and-coming “star.” Meek Mill being involved in all of this? Man, when is he gonna stop playin’ with his probation game? This situation just sucks.
Last night we got an invite to attend the PUMA-sponsored Meek Mill event at Sigma Sound in northern Chinatown. Shit was real.
1. Can we just get all these details out: Puma and Meek Mill are a team, they put this thing together with Villa and DJ Booth where they auditioned emcees with a 5-minute tape in the cities of Cleveland, Chicago and Philadelphia. Meek and his committee, consisting of reps from PUMA, Villa and DJ Booth chose two to open last night – Lyn Charles and Thurz opened up for a pretty short set by Meek himself.
2. Lyn Charles is from Philly. His Soundcloud is solid, Philly-reppin’ flows over curated and sophisticated samples. It doesn’t sound like everything else that’s Maybach Music-touched.
3. Gotta say, his appearance didn’t really match the modest class his songs sound like. He wore an unbuttoned button-down shirt with jeans belted around the top of his thighs. He looked not wholly unlike Dice at the “US Music Awards” from Glitter (it was on HBO yesterday).
4. They had a cash bar to start, but that didn’t last long before they opened up the bar. It was a private event, people were able to buy tickets by copping PUMAs. At the beginning, Coors Lights were $4, well drinks were $7 and the premium stuff, like Ciroc and Patron, was $9. But the bar opened around 9:15pm and when I asked for a whiskey ginger and then a vodka soda, I was told they have pineapple juice, cranberry juice, Coke and Sprite for mixers. That made things less awkward for me.
5. Thurz was real good – good energy and tons of it, engaged the audience (or tried) and hyped up the audience significantly. Check in on his SoundCloud and find a Black Thought collab. He’s from L.A. and did a fair amount of Cali shouting out which was pretty lost on everybody. But on “Riot,” he raps: “Too many rappers in the closet, like Narnia.”
6. It was pretty instantaneous that when Meek took the stage, the room started getting a little blunted.
7. The space is beautiful. Beautifully-finished wood floors, some tasteful modern furniture peppered in the back 2/3 of the space, a well-protected sound booth in the back next to a little VIP area and a stage big enough for a few rappers and a DJ. Tracy, their charming manager, was a show-stopper in a stunning, silky, super-short shirt dress and flesh-like tights that made it seem like she was just wearing a short dress. Sigma’s got a cool history – check it.
8. Confession: I had to Shazam most of the DJs’ sets between rappers. There were two 2 Chainz songs, “I’m Different” and “No Lie” (featuring Drake), and a Lil’ Wayne song, “No Worries.” Just to give a you a snapshot.
9. Meek put on a pretty short and tight set. Doing all the songs I’ve heard and expected: “Amen,” “Young n’ Gettin It,” “Burn,” and “Dreams and Nightmares.” He did lots of shortened versions of songs, naturally, which is pretty standard from most big name emcees at this point. Do a shorter set but get in as many songs that people would know. Which isn’t hard to do for Meek fans, most likely, ‘cus he’s been all over that Maybach money. You know this.
10. Not to end on a Debbie Downer note. But Meek was slated to head out on a few gigs in Chicago and London to keep on keepin’ on after the success of Dreamchasers 2. Looks like that might not happen after an arrest that violated his probation. But if you’re down for a Boardwalk Hall Atlantic City Sandy Benefit featuring Meek, Maly Money, French Montana, Tyga, Lil Chuckee, Honey Cocaine and DJ Drama, tickets are anywhere from $38 to $112 for the Friday night super concert.
A bunch of Top 50s came out today. NPR, Stereogum and Rolling Stone busted out their Top 50 Albums of 2012 lists and they’re worth your considering – CUZ I’M GONNA DO ONE, TOO. Tomorrow. S’gonna be fun.
There’s a little bit of Philly love on these lists. Mostly Meek Mill, P!nk, Sharon Van Etten, Titus Andronicus (if we keep trying to claim them as our own, d’ya think they ‘ll move to Philly from Jersey?), and Swearin’. Oh, and THE BOSS came out on top of Rolling Stones‘ list. Seriously. Love you, Bruce, but, Rolling Stone has lost their damn mind.
See what we did there? See, Free used to be a Roc soldier, a Jay-Z asset. But now, as an individual who’s choosing his own path, following his own chi and calling all the shots, it shows and it sounds real good. There’s ferocity here. The new record, out yesterday, earned a solid XL rating from XXL (Hey, so did Meek Mill). Out of curiosity, we browsed through a few pages of reviews to see how often an XL gets bestowed and it’s not as frequent as Larges, but a rare Medium (2 out of 60) must feel like a punch in the gut.
Free expertly used some guest spots. And normally a solo emcee who enlists a long list of guests means they need help, but here he uses em’ just right. The opening track’s got our girl Marsha Ambrosius on it, followed by a beautiful Vivian Green spot, plus Suzann Christine on “Wonder Tape,” Musiq Souldchild, less-than-amazing moments from Neef Buck and Wale, and a stunning turnout from Nikki Jean. There’s something that really works about the force and energy that Free brings, tempered by a chill, composed female vocal. It’s a hip-hop trope that works for a reason. When ladies sing the hook, it just sounds good.
It’s easy to feel pride for our city and for Freeway when you listen to this one. And for that we salute you, Free. You done good. Here’s an Amazon link, plus it’s on Spotify and iTunes.
It’s almost painful to read, in part, because it’s very thoughtful and takes a career-conscious look at one of our city’s finest. Thing is with Freeway, it just seems sometimes like he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. He’s been working hard and reppin’ Philly for years now and then some youngblood like Meek Mill comes up, gets a Rick Ross nod, and has a #1 record. Freeway’s seen many twists and turns and ups and downs in his time in the game. And, well, we’ll let you read the whole thing because it’s actually kind of a good read.
After indulging in alleged white person pursuits, the watching of Homeland and Dexter, we switched over to the basic networks for some Late Night. The routine generally consists of Letterman, a little check-in here and there on Jimmy Kimmel, and then a switch over to Jimmy Fallon at 12:30a. That is to say, as you know, Leno and Craig Ferguson are typically to be avoided unless a sweet guest or sick musical guest are sugarcoating their hosts’ bullshit.
But last night Philly was front and center because Bradley Cooper was promoting Silver Linings Playbook. B Coops, a Philly boy, was asked about the shooting of SLP, because it was shot here and there’s even a Philadelphia storyline seemingly built into the film, and about what it was like to shoot here. And then he did the accent. When pressed about what a Philly accent is like, Coops obliged and used a South Philly twang to drop a “hoagies” reference. It was a little weird, to be perfectly honest. Letterman just asked about Jennifer Lawrence a lot and they kind of bro’d out about how sexy and talented she is. Then Letterman pulled a story out of BC about working with Bob DeNiro that involved an emotionally-packed bedroom fight scene – to which Dave took the opportunity to whip out the People with Coops on the cover of their Sexiest Man Alive issue. As if to say ‘People’s sexiest man is talking about rolling around in the sheets with old man balls.’ It was awkward, the interview was short, and it looked like Dave wanted him off the set.
Then on Fallon, Meek Mill closed out the night with a performance of “Young and Gettin It.” Philly’s young-up-and-coming-emcee-superstar was promoting his new Dreams & Nightmares (which the AV Club wasn’t brutal with, just generally a little skeptical). And it was a little Philly reunion as the Roots provided some backing support while Meek and Kirko Bangz spit their verse in all-black.