SXSW Review: Iamsu!, Redman, G-Eazy, Joey Bada$$

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I’m the last person worthy of evaluating a hip hop show which inextricably might make me one of the best candidates to review one.

Saturday night at SXSW was basically taken over by hip hop. One venue had Timbaland, the next had Nas and another featured the A$AP crew. After witnessing Ghostface Killah earlier in the day, I decided that it would be fitting to go see another Wu Tang member, so I went to the J Cole showcase at the ACL on my last SXSW night. For the record, when you say J Cole to me, I think of this English soccer player from the mid 00s.

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I had to text my hip hop friends to see the what his deal was.

When prompted to review a hip hop show, I was a bit lost. what metrics do I use? Since I use this now in my real job, I quickly defined some KPI’s (key performance indicators).

They were

1. Hands in the air % (percentage of crowd hands in the air, not folded, shows party willingness to physically participate)

2. call to response volume (when I say hey you say yo .. , indicates audience willingness to socially participate)

3. Phones in the air (indicates how much someone wants other people to know they are at the show)

4. % Balcony people standing – How many people are standing in the balcony. These are the people who made an active decision to be lazy. Getting them up is possibly hard.

Being tired and lazy (this was the last day of SXSW, after all) I quickly abandoned these KPI’s but might still incorporate these into future shows.

Here we go.


IAMSU! is a rapper from the Bay Area who if I looked at his band name, would probably mistake him for a Japanese electronic act. I believe he is new on the scene because the crowd response was not the greatest. Two things stood out about his show.

My favourite thing about his set was that his hype guy said “coming aaaaalllll the way from the West Coast…” To which I told Paul that was a two hour flight and that SXSW had bands from Pakistan, New Zealand and Nigeria. I found it funny anyway. Maybe I just find myself funny.

My second favourite thing about the IAMSU! set is one of my favourite things about hip hop shows – paying respect. A lot of acts will be like all respecting the past and make it a point to respect the ones who came before them. IAMSU was no different, being from the Bay Area he paid respect to the past by bringing out Too Short, who came out to a great reception and did a track.

It was a fun moment and to me it seemed like a passing the torch moment for Bay Area hip hop only when Too Short went off stage the crowd volume died down which reminded me of the Roman Reigns – Rock debacle at royal rumble.

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Still, you gotta respect IAMSU! for bringing a stellar game to the show. One thing I realized about Hip Hop shows is that it’s really a lot better when the fans know your music. I guess this is the case for most shows, but I feel like fans at a rap show need pre-defined cues to start throwing their hands in the air, or jumping around or something.

In between sets they gave away t-shirts and hats


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Redman might have had more personality than all the SXSW bands I saw put together. The man just doesn’t care. He had one agenda for the night and that was to tell the kids how much better 90s hip hop was than today’s “turnt up shit.” It was a 30 minute lecture with some rap thrown in. He also sprayed water on people and brought out Saukrates for a few tracks. We were like ‘holy shit, that’s Saukrates’ and but realistically, I was hoping for Ghostface or Raekwon, both of whom were in Austin. The crowd went crazy for it though and it was thoroughly entertaining. The saddest part of the show was when he wanted to do “The Rockwilder” and needed the crowd to do the Method Man part only the crowd didn’t know it.

For me, Redman was the best part of the showcase. An old legend showing the new kids how it’s done.

About this time I pondered how Kate Tempest would do in this crazy crowd.

G Eazy

Just when i started wondering about white people, G Eazy shows up. I could tell he was almost a main eventer because the big screen behind the stage showed his promotional videos instead of cigarettes/monster beats ads (no joke). He had this video running in the background and all I could think of was lung cancer.


With his dark slick back hair and strong jaw line I wondered at first if he was Jimmy Ray (who wants to know) or maybe he was Latino. Then he mentioned he was white so the mystery was solved. Skin color aside the man can rap, had some good beats and had the crowd dancing from the beginning to the end. I won’t lie, I looked around to see if it was only the white crowd responding or was it everyone. It seemed like everyone. The ladies loved him despite the fact that his lyrics seemed incredibly misogynistic, and that’s only the words I was able to make out. He gets points for enthusiasm and awkward dancing on stage though. I really wish he didn’t cop out and just went by his real name instead of his stage name – Gerald Earl Gillum. I can already see the kids saying “You gonna hit up the Gerald Earl Gillum joint tonight? That be turnt up!” (you can probably tell I just learned of that phrase and want to use it more to connect with the younger demographic).

In between sets they poured what appeared to be whiskey into what seemed like a bag and threw it into the crowd and also gave away a pair of sneakers. Why don’t indie shows do this? I’d go to more openers.

Joey Bada$$

Joey Bada$$ has this hoarse deep voice that a lot of rappers have. Seems to make things more legit. Then he said he was only 20 and I was like holy crap how many cigarettes has he smoked in his life and also, why is he wearing a Grant Hill Pistons jersey? There’s no way he would of remembered those days. Joey Bada$$ had the crowd going and he barely had to try. He’s got that angry man’s rap where you know you don’t want to mess with him. I don’t know how to describe it. How do you even review rap? I guess his things rhymed in a smooth manner. Like a limerick only with words that I can’t type here.

Also, lets say his songs has lines that end with the phrase “nig**” and he want’s the crowd to sing that. I’m still not entirely comfortable saying that out loud so does that make me weird or just too socially conscious? These are questions I feel like Joey Bada$$ wants me to think about.

Joey Bada$$ also brought all his friends onto the stage which seems like a really fun thing to do. They then sprayed water on everyone. Is that a thing? It wasn’t that hot in the Moody Theatre and it was already raining outside. Maybe this is what they mean by the phrase “make it rain”

I didn’t stick around for J Cole because my hip hop correspondents seemed very neutral about him. Regardless, it was a fun night and I learned a lot of things about hip hop shows.

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.

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