One of rap’s biggest solo stars and the most popular rap group since OutKast joined forces to bring Kansas City the “Nobody’s Safe” tour, a heaping taste of Atlanta rap via an imperfect yet ultimately satisfying concert.
The concert was an indelible example of how hip-hop culture has morphed into pop culture and Atlanta rap’s role in that transition.
If Young Jeezy’s performance in March at Uptown Theater represented “old Atlanta” and the early era of trap music popularized primarily by black hip-hop audiences, Future and Migos showcased the genre’s second wave of resurgence and its heightened impact to a zealous crowd of nearly 10,000 fans of all ages, backgrounds and races.
The previous time Future, born Nayvadius Wilburn, visited the Sprint Center last July, he was a subordinate, touring alongside Drake on the “Summer Sixteen” tour. Technically, he was a “co-headliner,” but with what seemed liked barely half of Drake’s stage time, his performance was more tease than taste.
This time, however, helming his first headlining tour, Future took to the stage with the same prolificacy he brings to the booth, delivering a jam-packed barrage of more than 30 songs from throughout his career during his hourlong set.
It was an appropriate approach. After all, Future owes as much of his success to the copious way in which he creates his music as he does to the music itself. Since 2014 alone, he has released five studio albums (four of which debuted at No. 1), five mixtapes (all critically acclaimed) and a collaborative mixtape with Drake (also No. 1). Earlier this year, he became the first artist in history to debut two albums in consecutive weeks at No. 1. He’s no slouch in the booth. Or the stage, for that matter.
Future isn’t a great live performer just yet. In fact, he’s somewhat of an awkward one, but he does seem to be tinkering with ways to put on an engaging show.
He raps mostly about drugs and drug dealing, but loves to dance, and chose more often than not to do so throughout his performance (even though he’s not that good). As his biggest hits blared from the Sprint Center’s bone rattling speakers (“Karate Chop,” “Jumpman,” “Low Life,” “Mask Off” and “March Madness” were highlights), there was rarely a time when Future himself wasn’t dancing and flailing about as enthusiastically as his fans in the crowd.
There aren’t many rappers who tour with a dance troupe, let alone an all-male one; but Future does. He was joined during more than half of his set by a group of spry dancing young men, including @SheLovesMeechie, an Atlanta youngster whose homemade online dance videos to popular rap songs have been viewed hundreds of millions of times on social media.
He brought out a cartoonish dancing life-size bobblehead doll of his disc jockey and hype man, DJ Esco, and repeatedly stroked the Sprint Center’s ego, calling them “the livest crowd on the tour.”
These are all discernible attempts by a rapper known for a sometimes robotic, detached persona to create an engaging, interesting concert atmosphere; gestures that deserve to be recognized and at least appreciated as a solid attempt by an artist to deliver to and for his fans.
Sunday’s show highlighted how there is still room for improvement and better judgment. One particular curiosity being Future’s decision to occupy more than half of his performance space with a clunky, unimaginative secondary, two-tiered stage; one he barely even bothered to perform on.
It was superfluous and a waste of budget that might have been better allocated toward bigger pyrotechnics, a more dazzling light display or any other number of production flourishes employed by other hip-hop A-listers like Kanye West, J Cole or Drake.
But who needs production gimmicks when you’ve got arguably the biggest trap party soundtrack of the year?
Atlanta rap trio Migos, consisting of rappers Quavo (Quayvious Marshall), Takeoff (Kirshnik Ball) and Offset (Kiari Cephus), had no trouble rousing the crowd into a frenzy during their 50-minute set despite being relegated to what seemed like less than a third of the stage (due to Future’s silly setup).
From the moment they took the stage just after 8:15, the crowd cheered and rapped along as eagerly to the group’s recent hits from their No. 1 album, “Culture,” (“Slippery,” “T-Shirt,” “Bad & Boujee,” etc.) as they did to the group’s older material (“Hannah Montana,” “Fight Night,” “Handsome and Wealthy,” etc.).
The group did make the strange decision to not perform “Versace,” the song that jump-started their careers, an obvious misstep in any scenario, but especially considering this was Migos’ first KC performance.
The trio still seem to be finding their stage legs. Sauntering rather haphazardly from side to side, the rappers seemed as if they haven’t quite figured out what their live performance is. It’s understandable, considering this is their first major tour, but still something worth focusing on in the future. A little time spent studying the maneuverings of OutKast, Kendrick Lamar or even Odd Future might be beneficial.
And still, looking at crowd engagement alone, it’s hard not to call Migos the winners of the night. Whereas Future’s set sometimes lulled (not all material from his newest albums “FUTURE” and “HENDRXX” stick or seem to resonate) there was hardly a moment when Migos didn’t have the crowd ecstatic.
Their only true mistake might’ve been calling the Sprint Center crowd “Kansas.”
They weren’t alone. Canadian singer/rapper Tory Lanez, who opened the show alongside rapper Zoey Dollaz and New York rapper A$AP Ferg, mentioned “Kansas” at least five times during his 30-minute set: “I’m from Canada, y’all. I’m sorry.”
Guess he still needs more culture.
Future: Draco, Super Trapper, On the Way, Karate Chop, Itchin’, Bugatti, Same Damn Time, Move That Dope, Sh!t, Thought It Was a Drought, Freak H---, Real Sisters, Love Me, Trap N-----, Stick Talk, Layup, Blase, New Level (with A$AP Ferg), Jumpman, Too Much Sauce (with DJ Esco), Trust Issues, I’m So Groovy, Comin Out Strong, Good Dope, My Savages, Wicked, I Serve the Base, Peacoat, Used to This, Low Life, F---- Up Some Commas, March Madness, Mask Off
Migos: Get Right Witcha, Slippery, What the Price, Dead Prez, Kelly Price, Hannah Montana, Fight Night, Freak No More, Pipe It Up, Call Casting, T Shirt, Bad and Boujee, Handsome and Wealthy