Big K.R.I.T at the House of Blues

Another week, another concert to cover. This makes me a very happy person. On Thursday, October 3, 2019, I had the privilege of covering the hip-hop legend Big K.R.I.T (Justin Lewis Scott) at the House of Blues.

Trust me when I tell you that this dude has been in the rap game for a long time and is a walking legend. Starting his career more than 14 years ago, he has a list of accomplishments that are staggering.

As a prominent protestor of many of the racial issues that America faces today, he has become a symbol of motivation for movements like #BlackLivesMatter.

He has performed and spoken multiple times at the BET Hip Hop Awards, and even received three nominations for “Rookie of the Year” and “Best Mixtape” in 2011, where his career really started to pop off. 

Big K.R.I.T has elements in his music that show roots to some of the more classic elements of hip-hop, such as deep soulful beats and tongue-twisting lyricism. Collaborating with big artists such as J.Cole and Lil Wayne attests to his impact and respect within the hip-hop scene.

With all of this said, I was super excited to see this man live and get some fire pictures of him! Unfortunately, I was running a little late to the show at House of Blues San Diego. I arrived at about 9 p.m (the time when the headliner usually hits the stage) and picked up my media pass. 

Literally, at the exact second I walked into the main room, Big K.R.I.T. walked on stage to start his performance. Photographers are only allowed to take pictures in the photo pit for the first three songs of the performance, so I hustled my way to the front immediately. The timing could not be more perfect, because if I was even ten minutes later, I would have missed my opportunity to cover the show.

As soon as Big K.R.I.T took the stage, you could tell he had been doing this for a long time. His energy was through the roof. I looked back at the crowd to see all of the audience in the front row singing every single word. He clearly had a bunch of loyal fans. 

He continued the next three songs that I saw with that same energy, moving and bouncing around the stage, rapping his lyrics with a passion that is rare to see. 

After three songs, security booted me out, and that is all that I saw. Being able to see a legend like Big K.R.I.T up close was really great, and I am happy with the photos that I got. 

Big K.R.I.T will continue his “From the South with Love” tour until his last show on November 16th, in his hometown of Atlanta, GA. Check out his music here.

Written by: Justin Neeley
Photos by: Justin Neeley

Tobi Lou at the House of Blues

Up-and-coming artist Tobi Lou delivered a memorable performance that seamlessly merged rap and melodic pop into one lighthearted and fun show on Saturday, September 28.

I arrived at the House of Blues, the hottest venue in all of San Diego, about two hours before Tobi Lou got on stage. A little too early if I must say, as I sat around for an hour before the employees let me in to the event. The show was held on the smaller stage called “The Voodoo Room” which I had never been to before.

The show began with the artist named Lil Trxptendo who brought a lot of good energy into the early hours of the performance. At the young age of 17, Lil Trxptendo has brought his music into the limelight, a feat that he was very proud to discuss in between songs. At one point, he even invited four audience members on stage where they all danced together and had a “woah” off. For those of you unfamiliar, a “woah” is a popular yet easy dance move that has come into the limelight during 2019.

The next artist to hit the stage was Femdot, a rapper out of Chicago. With the recent release of his project 94 Camry Music, the energy was off the charts. His live performance consisted of a mix of hype songs that had the crowd jumping and smooth, introspective tracks about his struggles. 

As I waited for Tobi Lou to come on stage, I stood outside the venue to get a little bit of a break. Sitting there going through my photos so far, I turned to see Tobi Lou, with his easily recognizable four puffs of blonde hair, himself just hanging out with his squad getting ready for his performance. He was approximately 5 feet away for a solid 20 minutes, and I wanted to say “what’s goooood bro can I get a pic” so bad but felt like that would be annoying right before his performance. Maybe I was just too deep in my own head.

Anyways, Tobi started his performance with one of my personal favorite songs “I Was Sad Last Night I’m Ok Now” and it was nothing short of great. The audience had been waiting a long time and knew all the lyrics to every song. He emits a bubbly, lighthearted, yet confident stage energy that was rare to see from an artist that is still considered “on the come up”.

I hadn’t heard of Tobi before going to the concert, but I actually consider myself a fan now. His style of music is right up my alley, and many of his songs have since been added to my go-to playlist. His “Happy + Extra Sad” nation-wide tour will be continuing until 10/20, where his final show will take place in his hometown of Chicago. If you like upbeat, modern rap music with a taste of bubbly pop, check out Tobi Lou here.

Written by: Justin Neeley
Photos by: Justin Neeley


Peep This Joint: JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs Album Review

All My Heroes are Cornballs marks a shift from Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA’s signature visceral sound as his latest project trades his aggressive energy for more melodic flows.

This project is JPEGMAFIA’s third studio album after the critically acclaimed Veteran which received much applause from critics for its off-kilter production and politically charged lyrical content. Despite the surprising incorporation of singing and more melodic content on All My Heroes, JPEGMAFIA successfully expands his artistry by including more vulnerable lyrics concerning his newfound success and utilizing new melodies that aren’t as prominent in his discography. 

For those new to JPEGMAFIA, he is a rap artist hailing from Baltimore best known for his experimental sound that includes glitchy production with brash lyrics and provocative song titles. Take the song “I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies” from Veteran, which addresses singer Morrissey’s racist controversy with a merch t-shirt of activist James Baldwin. JPEGMAFIA aka “Peggy” has gained a cult-like fanbase with his unapologetic approach to his projects. 

Coming off a successful sophomore effort, Peggy continued his method of producing, mixing and mastering all tracks on his albums. He wrote on his Bandcamp page for All My Heroes that he felt obligated to make a successful album after Veteran’s reception. “This album is really a thank you to my fans tbh,” he wrote. “Veteran was the first time in my life I worked hard on something, and it was reciprocated back to me. This the most ME album I’ve ever made in my life.” 

His focus on creating an album that expresses himself fully turned up successful with this project where he reveals more aspects of his identity than what we were initially exposed to in his past discography. Right off the bat, the projects opens with “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot” where Peggy spits defiant bars over a sparsely-filled instrumental. He ramps up this aggressive energy at the end of each verse with a booming bass that’s very reminiscent of his past work until the chorus hits. A quick juxtaposition fills the listener’s ears as Peggy switches from yelling to auto-tuned crooning over a seamless beat switch. This shift to more melodic singing isn’t new to fans of Peggy, but is a more prominent aspect of this project compared to his previous work. 

The song, “Kenan Vs. Kel” highlights this shift where Peggy croons in auto-tune, “I don’t know this,” as he laments over his nervousness in having more well-known artists wanting to feature on his songs. This vulnerability in dealing with his new-found success is expressed as Peggy asks in the chorus, “How we gon’ make this work?/ But like, how can I make a good beat?” His vulnerability in this song signifies a change in his image from a defiant, “in your face” type of rapper to a more introspective and sensitive individual struggling with fame and success. 

Despite the shift, JPEGMAFIA still remains true to the confrontational and brash nature of his lyrics that many fans associate him with some of his other works on this album. Take the song, “Beta Male Strategies” for example, where he addresses keyboard warriors who criticize vehemently online yet hide behind internet anonymity. In this song, Peggy spits, “Say what you said on Twitter right now/ You only brave with a board and a mouse,” and leaves them with a warning, “Don’t get capped by a n‐‐a in a muhfuckin’ gown.” The song title itself also bolsters his bashfulness as he refers to these keyboard warriors as beta males. Songs such as this are familiar territory for JPEGMAFIA fans and remind listeners that despite his vulnerability in his latest work, he is still as loud and abrasive as ever.

If you’re a fan of JPEGMAFIA and haven’t listened to this project yet, you should definitely give this record a spin. Some songs that I recommend checking out are: “Jesus, Forgive Me, I Am A Thot”, “Grimy Waifu”, and “Free the Frail”. Overall, the inclusion of more melodic content that starkly differs from JPEGMAFIA’s past work marks a significant growth in his art and helps elevate his status as an up-and-coming rapper.

Peep this joint if you haven’t already!

Rating: 7.5 / 10 

Written by: Johann Oribello

Vince Staples & Buddy at The Observatory North Park

Born in Compton & raised in Long Beach, Vince Staples has risen to be one of the leading artists of west coast, new wave rap.

On April 2nd, he performed at The Observatory North Park along with up-and-coming artist Buddy (famous for tracks such as “Black” ft. A$AP Ferg, “Trouble on Central”, and “Trippin’” ft. Khalid). Similar to Vince Staples, Buddy was born in Compton and went to highschool in Long Beach, CA. Throughout their “Smile You’re on Camera” Tour, they have consistently sold out shows (including the one in San Diego), and made good money selling stylish merchandise at venues.

The Observatory North Park served as a fantastic host site for the event.

Considering that the venue is one of the best in SD, it helped that their was a large enough space to hold a huge rap-loving crowd. For those over 21, the venue includes a bar that serves drinks throughout the night. Additionally, security consistently ensured their was no underage or irresponsible drinking

As the crowd slowly poured in more and more, spaces were condensed and mosh pits were formed. Vince Staples’ entrance was as grand as his latest album and immediately made an impact, causing hype throughout the crowd. His presence fueled the energy of the fans and consistently maintained an open environment for those screaming the lyrics they had memorized

As a Vince Staples fan who has been listening for years…

I was ecstatic each time an old song was performed. Vince Staples recognizes crowd favorites and catered to those long-time fans. In addition to his new album, he performed songs from every single one of his albums and even some long forgotten mixtapes.

The visuals and lighting used for this show were extremely well done and added to the grandeur of things. Smoke was used to create an ambience that filled the stage as the lights created a silhouette of Vince Staples. The live video playing in the background features low-res footage shot with slow shutter to make it seem as if Vince Staples were moving in slow motion, but in real time. All in all, it was very impressive.

When concluding his show, he walked off and let his friend take the stage in a special way. They played a video of Mac Miller performing an NPR Tiny Desk concert; to add to the mood/sentiment, it was shown in widescreen format as well as black-and-white. Seeing as Mac Miller has passed and I never got to see him live, I truly appreciated the deed; it was as if Vince Staples was touring with him and it felt so authentic as if he was really there; they used audio from a live performance where he thanked fans for coming and was speaking from the heart. It was heartwarming to see that 90% of the audience stayed for the entirety of Mac Miller’s “performance” as it was just a video that was not advertised/warned.

What San Diego received was an overall great show with great stage presence from both performers and a hyped crowd that fell more in love with the artists/music. As they continue their tour, we in San Diego can only appreciate the good time that they carried in with their arrival that night.

Written/Photographed by: Eduardo Orozco