I walked into the Rockwell stage of The Complex looking across the vast amount of people that had showed up. It sure felt like a hip-hop show—every five people or so there was one group partaking in “puff-puff-pass.” I thought, “It doesn’t matter how much weed these guys smoke, as soon as the bass drops, they will be anything but laid-back!” The place was already bumpin’. The DJ was dancing around onstage behind his turntable setup and was blasting tracks by A$AP Mob and Riff Raff to get the audience pumped up. Like a good DJ, he demanded feedback from the audience and knew what songs to play to get them warmed up.
This is where I, personally, have a problem with hip-hop shows—people are here to see the rap groups, not the turntablists. I felt as if they are given too much time to play because the audience will get restless, and this show was no exception! About halfway through the second DJ’s tedious set, the audience started chanting “Flatbush! Flatbush! Flatbush!” and then they started to shove. Oh my God, the shoving! The pendulous audience began to sway and, like dominoes, one person would lean and the next ten would go down. Eventually, the shoving got so intense that the show had to be paused because people kept slamming into the barricade that separated the bar from the GA section. All while that was happening, one guy on stage was trying to keep the peace and make sure the audience didn’t get their panties in a twist. They told everybody to move slowly away from the barricade and warned if anyone pushed someone in an attempt to get up front they wouldn’t hesitate to cancel the show. I was like, “God dammit! Someone is going to be a dick and try to work their way to the front and get the show canned.” Fortunately that did not happen and the show went on.
Soon the stage went dark and the silhouetted figures of Issa Gold and AK walked out on the stage. Soon they started the chanting “Beast! Coast! Beast! Coast!” paying respect to the scene they started with their brothers in Flatbush Zombies and Pro Era. As soon as the beat to “Philanthropist” dropped the whole place was jumping up and down with their arms moving back and forth in the air. The levels of hype were at an all time high—if it’s anything the Underachievers know how to do, it’s put on one hyphy show. “Sun through the Rain” and “The Proclamation” were among the songs that got the most cheers, but the show closer “The Mahdi” put the crowd into an all-out frenzy. When they weren’t rapping about weed or their hometown of Brooklyn, they were talking about it with the crowd a lot—AK stated that every time he came to Salt Lake, he had to smoke at least one joint.
The Underachievers set the bar pretty high for being the first official act of the night, but I was convinced that Flatbush’s would be even crazier, and boy, was I right! Enter the beard-laden Zombie Juice, he looked as if he had just been torn away from his joint and just remembered he had a show to do. He grabbed the mic and greeted the audience by singing the chorus to “Thugnificense,” enticing the audience to do the same. In the midst of the crowd going “Got some weed, roll it up! High as Hell, don’t give a fuck” the next thing I heard was the opening theme to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange playing over the PA. Juice was soon joined by Meechy Darko and Eric Arc Elliot whose booming chants got the audience fired up once again. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, lyrical identification, and the number of shirts, it was obvious that this crowd was here too see Flatbush, which was really surprising to me. The last time Flatbush was here they played the small room in the Complex and that brought in about half of its capacity. Now, in the big room, they drew a crowd eight times larger than last year’s turnout—pretty sweet.
By this time, the stage was covered in a haze most likely caused by the continuous exhaling from the audience. Things got wild when Flatbush’s songs with the best hooks hit the speakers—“Death” (“Watcha gonna do when them zombies come for you?”) and “Bliss” (“I don’t give a shit! Why? ‘Cause ignorance is bliss! Right?”) got the wildest reactions with some major dancing going on in the middle of the crowd. At one point, they decided to invite some lucky women to come up on stage and dance with them for a few tracks—it’s always a nice gesture to do so, but this, however, felt weird. The girls that they brought onto the stage all started dancing and jumping around but then one grabbed another girl and started to make out with her. She then turned away from the audience, bent over, and started doing the infamous twerk routine. Normally, this wouldn’t bug me as much, but these chicks looked so young! At the very most, they were fifteen. I could be wrong—they might’ve been older than they looked, but it was still very uncomforable.
Flatbush finished out their set with “MRAZ” and their A$AP Mob crossover “Bath Salt” and closed it up with the club version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to enhance the overall vibe of the show. It wasn’t long before the hip-hop supergroup Clockwork Indigo—consisting of the two preceding acts took the stage. First, Gold and AK took the stage and warmed the audience up with an Underachievers track, “Gold Soul Theory.” Then Flatbush came out and played the ever so laid-back, if ever, a stoner-oriented track “Palm Trees,” with everyone rapping, “So when you blow shade, it could never harm me.” Clockwork Indigo went back and forth between their songs like “LUAM” and “System,” and more Flatbush and Underachievers songs. Then there was “Benefit Concert”—the hook, which incorporates the lyrics “mosh” and “pit,” evoked the pit to reach a level of rowdiness that had not yet been achieved that night—it was truly enticing watching people slamming into each other.
Clockwork left the stage for a bit and left the DJ fidgeting around on stage. He teased the audience a little bit with a beat everyone recognized. Soon the beat that starts off Flatbush’s Better Off Dead mixtape filled the room, Meechy (draped in an American flag) walks on stage and spits, “I am redesigning the mind of the masses that fear a black man with tattoos and bandanas,” and the audience replied, “But when a white man wear tattoos and bandanas and joins a bike gang, it’s all cool with the balance!” and boom! Clockwork is back on the stage with Flatbush Zombie’s “Amerikkkan Pie!” Soon the song, as well as their set, was over, but as I was leaving, one final quote echoed throughout the room—“I’ve got one more thing to say—open your fuckin’ mind! The end!” We were left with the appropriate “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix to see the audience out.