Rap concerts have become something of a tradition here at UMW. From Lupe Fiasco to Talib Kweli and now Wale, there’s pretty much a 100 percent chance that Mary Washington students will be privy to some serious verbal theatrics at least once a year.
Say what you want about Giant Productions, but over the last three years, they’ve at least given the campus a pretty decent taste of contemporary hip-hop.
Yet until this past weekend, students have had to self-consciously nod their way through these shows in Dodd Auditorium, painfully aware of the irony of an audience of mostly white kids standing in front of rows of plush seating and throwing up their hands in time to a rap beat.
Last Saturday night though, the campus-wide excitement of finally attending a concert on the rugby field for the first time since Eve 6 reunited there in 2007 was apparent before Wale even took the stage, as the more enthusiastic members of the crowd even took to chanting the rapper’s name.
Unlike previous rap performances on campus that have featured just a rapper and a DJ, Wale brought his own five-piece band, UCB, to lend a little more backbone to his rhymes. Prior to Wale taking the stage, UCB noodled around on their instruments and engaged in a few masturbatory guitar solos that loosened up the crowd and stoked excitement for Wale to a fever pitch.
Opening with a couple high-energy tracks that stemmed mostly from his major label debut, “Attention Deficit,” Wale aimed to raise the energy level even higher and mostly succeeded with recognizable fan favorites like “World Tour” and “Chillin.”
He got by with a little help from his hype-man too, whose surprisingly feminine voice––despite not doing much to hype up anything––nailed all the right notes during the choruses.
Audience reaction during the concert ranged from drunken shouting towards the front of the stage to joking chants of “whale” from the more skeptical audience members who hovered near Hanover Street.
Apparently some local residents were much less enthused about the performance.
For those who haven’t heard already, after Wale’s Homecoming performance last Saturday night on the Battleground, Pres. Hurley wrote a letter to the Free Lance-Star, apologizing for the noise level of the concert and the content of the rapper’s lyrics, which several Fredericksburg residents found offensive.
He also suggested that the band Train, responsible for radio-friendly gems like “Drops of Jupiter” and “Meet Virginia,” would be a good choice for the school’s next outdoor concert.
Personally, I was a little confused as to how anyone could have been surprised about the profanity, considering the administration knew a rapper was scheduled to perform that wasn’t Will Smith.
Apparently, I also picked the wrong place to watch the concert because, despite standing just 20 feet from the stage, I could hardly make out a word that Wale said when he was rapping.
The sound issues were a real shame too, because despite dropping a flop of a major label debut, Wale can still rap circles around contemporaries like Kid Cudi, Drake, and B.o.B., who have all found some level of commercial success recently.
The sound problems worked both ways too, though. At one pause in the set, crowd members started chanting out song suggestions that Wale couldn’t seem to understand.
“Freaks? Release? I can’t understand what y’all are saying,” Wale yelled back at the crowd, before explaining his confusion: “I’m sorry. I haven’t seen a white person in six days.”
Wale fell back on this endearing mixture of humor and charisma––and even did a little free-styling––to make up for losing a little momentum midway through the set.
Granted, Wale has likely done these kind of college shows before, but occasionally it did feel like the rapper was just going through the motions. The worst part was probably when Wale lifted up a UMW Homecoming shirt to the crowd and asked: “I guess this is the part where I sign a shirt, right?” At least he was being honest, right?
To his credit though, Wale brought the energy back up for the finale and the encore, jumping and motioning like a coked-out air traffic controller while his posse, who spent most of the concert behind the band with their arms folded, sprang into action all over the stage.
The enthusiasm quickly spread to the audience near the front of the stage who went totally nuts for the last couple of songs. And to those people snickering in the back, who seemed less than impressed with Wale’s Homecoming performance, the only thing I can say is: at least it wasn’t Train.
[Photo credit: Paul Tindall/Bullet]