Wale put his all into the show. (photo: Sean Costin, camerainmyhand.com)
1. Dude's got major D.C. pride. Our nation's capital isn't known for its great musical contributions, but Wale reps his hometown hard, from the Washington Nationals gear (we also saw of these in the crowd) to his backing band, the legendary go-go group UCB. Together they gave us a crash course in go-go music (a style of funk popular in D.C.) history, with renditions of the Junk Yard Band's "Sardines" and Experience Unlimited's "Da Butt." The city also gets a major shoutout in Wale's "Chillin'," his recent single featuring Lady GaGa.
2. Chi-Town represented. Sure, the show was mostly about D.C., but the locally based openers served notice that our city still has plenty to contribute to hip-hop. Bin Laden Blowin' Up closed out its enjoyable set with the infectious "Chi Don't Dance" (the refrain: "Chi don't dance no more/all we do is juke, all we do is juke"). Mic Terror displayed perhaps the most technically gifted flow of the night in a set also featuring Million $ Mano and DJ Willy Joy. We got a taste of Mic and Joy's upcoming collaboration, and the future sounds mighty good. Wale even brought a little bit of Chicago on stage with him, as Naledge, of Kidz in the Hall, made a surprise guest appearance.
3. The crowd came to party. Maybe it was the live band, or Wale's superior stage presence, or the steady string of good music (the upbeat set list included strong performances of "Nike Boots," "Back in the Go-Go" and even part of "Rising Up," the Roots song on which Wale has a cameo). But this was one of the most consistently hyped audiences we've seen in the city in some time. There were even a few people dancing and cheering during the show's biggest misstep: final opener Colin Munroe. It's not that his music was bad, but it just didn't make sense to have the Canadian rocker on a bill filled with hip-hop acts, even if he has recorded a song with Wale and does a decent re-interpretation of Kanye West's "Flashing Lights." You can bet that with this kind of energy on display, Wale will be back soon--although it'll likely be in a bigger club.
Want to know where to catch more shows like this? Centerstage just picked its list of the top hip-hop stops in Chicago.