There was a moment on Friday night when, in the general vicinity of an IKEA, all six feet, three inches of Waka Flocka was jumping into a crowd of teenagers, waving a Flosstradamus flag. Flosstradamus, meanwhile was sending a cacophony of drums and drum-like electronics and rapid-fire laser noises and blown-out saxophone out onto a crowd of some 15,000 more teenagers who were rubbing against each other with their eyes rolled back in their heads.
But the night didn't belong to Flosstradamus or Waka Flocka. It didn't belong to Griz, who followed them, or Diplo, who orchestrated this whole thing. It belonged to two dudes from Atlanta who started making music long before all those kids out on the lawn at Fiddler's Green were born.
Mad Decent, the label/media brand led by producer/DJ/smirk-purveyor Diplo, has done a remarkable job of gathering a certain kind of young, insatiably curious music fan with a high-speed internet connection. They have congregated most obviously at the label's annual Block Party, which was, for its first several years, a small affair bringing solid lineups of online-friendly pop and dance music to clubs in major American cities. It has grown exponentially since 2012, reaching a zenith this year with a lineup that might have made sense at a massive amphitheater like Fiddler's Green even before it included the OutKast Summer Music Festival Reunion Explosion.
So the Mad Decent Block Party came to Englewood sitting comfortably close to a sell-out before they even opened the gates around noon on Friday. The afternoon sets peaked with Houston rapper RiFF RaFF. He actually, you know, rapped this time, which was a nice change of pace. But it's strange to see such naked hedonism by the light of day.
Then it was Run the Jewels, the El-P and Killer Mike collaboration you may know from the best hip-hop album of the last couple years. They have spectacular onstage chemistry:
"I feel like we're in a giant community theater," said El-P. Killer Mike laughed and, with sudden intensity, said, "We're gonna win this talent show!"
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Some people liked that one, including all fifty or so who clearly bought tickets to this thing expressly to see Run the Jewels. They have a second album coming out this winter, and it will probably be great. El-P's grumble makes an excellent counter-point to Killer Mike's solid brass bark.
Flosstradamus, Griz and Diplo followed. Waka Flocka showed up during Flosstradamus's set to yell some stuff into the microphone and, as mentioned, wave a flag. Griz wore a Rockies hat and played saxophone. Diplo made a weed joke. Let's stop talking about anything other than OutKast.
Devotees of the OutKast reunion tour will know that Andre 3000 has worn a jump suit with a different slogan at nearly every show. Topics include folksy wisdom ("everything is temporary"), food puns ("children of the cornbread"), self-reference (F#CK 3000), sex questions ("umm, you still on yo' pyramid?"), big questions ("across cultures, darker people suffer most. why?") and questions that mock your attempts to interpret all this ("art or fart?"). In Denver, it was "replace your toothbrush."
He's also worn a big red price tag that says "SOLD OUT" or, on at least one occasion, "SOLD." That, like the slogans, contains as much or as little meaning as you'd like to find in it. He could be expressing disdain at this whole reunion concept or he could be mocking people who express disdain at this whole reunion concept or he could be mocking people who look for deep meaning in his every utterance or he could just like the way it looks.
The music he makes with Big Boi offers similar breadth of interpretation. If you look hard enough, you can find in OutKast's lyrics references buried within references, riddles threaded across entire verses, messages re-directed with subtle suggestion. But the two rappers are also unparalleled purveyors of sheer pleasure. There is equal reward in diagramming their sentences and dancing with wild, oblivious abandon to their music.
The curtain dropped a little past 9:30 to reveal Big Boi and Andre 300 inside a massive box in the center of the stage. They started with "B.O.B.," a song that has lost exactly none of its urgency in the fourteen years since it was released. It got better from there. Imagine, if you are vaguely interested in hip-hop or even pop music generally over the last quarter-century, hearing the following list of songs delivered to you live by the humans who made them:
B.O.B. Gasoline Dreams ATLiens Skew It on the Bar-B Rosa Parks Da Art of Storytellin', Part 1 Aquemini SpottieOttieDopaliscious Ms. Jackson Kryptonite (I'm on It) GhettoMusick The Way You Move She Lives in My Lap Prototype Hey Ya! Hootie Hoo Crumblin' Erb Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik Player's Ball Elevators (Me & You) Roses So Fresh, So Clean Int'l Player's Anthem (I Choose You) The Whole World
Yeah, it's the same set list they've been playing all summer, and yeah, the festival tour screams of passionless cashing in. But when you have a track record like that, you deeply deserve to cash in. You're certainly entitled to your opinion here, but for me the best song of the night was "The Whole World," with a crowd of thousands there to sing gleefully along to that immortally catchy chorus about our mean-ass society and Killer Mike on hand to deliver his thesis statement on the power of the English language.
That was the last thing they did, right after "International Player's Anthem," a song created by six people born in the '70s. The adults standing out of their reserved seats knew every word. The kids rubbing together on the lawn knew every word, too. Artists like Flosstradamus and Griz may well be the future of music, but OutKast is forever.
Thanks to Robert Castro for letting us show you a couple of his photos from Friday night's festivities. Look for more soon on the Ultra5280 web site.
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