Hopscotch Music Festival
Friday, Sept. 11, 2015
Sweating through a white longsleeve from his own Play Cloths line of streetwear, Pusha T looked out onto his Raleigh audience with a confident nod, fully cognizant of his command not only of the room but of the genre he’s made his name in. “Ain’t no more rap superheroes left,” he said to applause and hoots. “All them motherfuckers is victims.”
While Pusha T may be pushing 40, the former Clipse spitter exhibited godlike endurance last night at Lincoln Theatre during Hopscotch. In the midst of a herculean second act of his musical career, Kanye West’s favorite rapper ran through a crowd-pleasing 45-minute set stuffed with mixtape highlights, G.O.O.D. Music features and album cuts from his 2013 solo bow My Name Is My Name. His DJ dropped bombs, while the Virginia native knowingly whipped his wrist in time with his signature coke raps. An unidentified singer appeared intermittently, once to back up King Push on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy standout “Runaway” and again to sub-in for Chris Brown on single “Sweet Serenade.”
Sufficiently turnt, attendees roared for radio killers like “Mercy” and “Don’t Like (Remix),” as well as “Millions,” “Trouble on My Mind” and other fan favorites. “We about to get into that gangsta shit,” Pusha said before his DJ unleashed the beat for “Exodus 23:1,” his incendiary 2012 diss track that took shots at Drake, Lil Wayne, and pretty much the whole YMCMB family. Insisting his next solo album is “95% done,” he returned to the stage for a three-song encore capped by Clipse’s “Grindin,” a prescient dope dealer anthem that preceded the rise of trap music.
This is what I came to see at Hopscotch, what compelled me to drive nine hours from the Netflix-and-chill comforts of my New York City couch. Fueled by scotch and the promise of a celebratory late-night Hot Pocket scored from my hotel mini-fridge, I’d held my ground on the floor at Lincoln for a few hours already, determined to see the greatest rapper alive. Friday’s hip-hop offerings had been too good to pass up, and for fear of venue capacity nightmares, I decided against venue-hopping between there and Kings, where Le1f, Nocando and others put on what I can only imagine was a solid show, too.
Indeed, Lincoln’s lineup presented some of the I-95 corridor’s finest rap acts. Chapel Hill’s Skyblew kicked the night off with a band that sometimes grew to as many as six people. His set spread positive vibes and jazzy grooves, deftly butterfly-pimping for the early arrivals. Up next came Chaz French, a promising Washington, D.C., rapper with ties to rising star Goldlink. With a couple of energetic water-tossing hypemen in tow, he delivered shouty turn-up jams, including the Falcons-produced banger “Aquafina.”
But it was Awful Records patriarch Father that truly whipped the Lincoln crowd into fighting shape for Pusha. “Who here knows who I am?” asked the Atlanta misfit, decked out in a tie-dye T-shirt and black bomber jacket. Toting a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and giggling, Father led with the title track of this year’s Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First, and it was abundantly clear by the flood of people on the dancefloor that they sure as hell knew who he was. They shouted along with the self-medicating emcee’s hypersexual bars, forgiving him when he forgot the lyrics to “Please Stop Making Fake Versace” and instructed his DJ to cut the song short. Closing with the seditious “Everybody In The Club Gettin’ Shot,” he exited the stage with his bottle and a broad smile.
My Friday wasn’t all about hip-hop, though. Seeking to indulge my chin-stroking tendencies, I hit City Plaza for San Francisco’s ambient rock act Tycho. Electrical issues stalled and marred their set, with the sound cutting out two separate times. To pass the time, frontman Scott Hansen made sheepish apologies while I mercilessly teased them on Twitter, citing everything from gypsy curses to court-ordered injunctions filed by Boards Of Canada. Given the instrumental nature of their music, he was surprisingly chatty during these silent stretches. Yet when things once again got going, they got easygoing. Their epic summer jams synced well with the video screens playing California surfer dude footage and Alejandro Jodorowsky clips.
However, local duo Lost Trail truly scratched the itch in my hirsute cleft at The Hive. Cross-legged and barefoot on the floor, Zachary Corsa played treated guitar while Denny Wilkerson Corsa sat in front of a table with an assortment of noise-making implements. As echoes and loops compounded into shimmering layers of escalating melodies, she casually employed several of these traditional and tribal instruments to build their shamanic psych out into the sonic equivalent of a forest fire. After a half hour of intimate shredding, Zachary laid down his guitar, giving way to Denny’s shortwave undercurrent.
I doubt I’ll ever get the smell of burning embers off my jeans.