The mere emergence of choice does not beget discovery but often times precludes it. There are over 3.5 million songs on Spotify that have never been played. Easy solution to minimize this: curate. Show me 1,345 different cheeses and my brain will experience sensory overload and revert back to its comfort choices: American or cheddar cheese. But, if Fairways' "cheese expert" tells me Brie Cheese will send me into a mini-obsession, I'm at least sampling it. That's how curation works and that is why Beats Music(largely based on music expert curation of songs and playlists) was worth over $400 million in Apple's $3 billion acquisition of Beats by Dre.
People want choice and they want experts to help them choose. Red Bull Sound Select and Afropunk curated a live playlist of the future for their concert at Rough Trade last Wednesday with performances from Ho99o9, Denitia + Sene, Cakez Da Killa, Princess Nokia and SZA.
Experimental trashcore rap duo Ho99o9 out of Newark were the first performers of the night and proved that experimentation, if a few degrees off, ventures into organized confusion. For 30 minutes, the year and a half old group of theOGM (Jean) & Yetti999 (Eaddy) bellowed out indistinct growls, crawled on the stage floor, used the mic stand as an imaginary penis for the crowd to suck, all while splices of images of crucifixes, leashes and phrases such as "subliminal TV" flashed on a screen behind them. This was not a performance that had spectators in mind. No breaks in between songs to converse with fans or simply moderate the uncontrollable energy. Especially when Eaddy jumped in the crowd to incite an impromptu mosh pit, the alienated crowd stood around timid to join in and it turned into a ping pong ball match.
Princess Nokia falls in the complete opposite spectrum of Ho99o9. Formerly known as Wavy Spice, the Spanish Harlem native juxtaposed Ho99o9's. While Ho99o9's chaotic performance alienated the crowd, Princess Nokia's performance had the intimate relationship with the spectators of a feminist sleepover. With songs such as "Huntress" and "Young Girls", the petite songstress projected her voice commandingly at the crowd to engage in women empowerment, calling the mosh pit she incited a "safe place for women." Minor technical malfunctions rendered her drummer silenced but the overall performance was immersive even with its amateurish feel.
Denitia and Sene's Soundcloud describes their song "feel better." as "dream pop" and their performance was ripe with the instrumentation to match such a title. Sene would move from frantically banging on the drum machine to facing the crowd and baring his soul through somber vocals in less than 30 seconds at certain points. The chemistry between the two was so palpable it would make a blind man in the dimly lit warehouse/stage hybrid of Rough Trade blush. At one point during their performance of bouncy "Casanova", Sene sings "I love you and I need you" and then embraces Denitia. Small interactions such as those paired with the right lyrics makes the intimacy visceral instead of merely entertaining. The crowd felt Denitia and Sene as much as (if not more than) they heard them.
Cakez Da Killa has the most deceptive name of all the performers. While his name consists of two of the most overused tropes in Hip Hop (cake, killa), the boisterous rapper was anything but ordinary. While his attire was less eye-popping than his usual outfits, his performance was the most energetic and enjoyable part of the entire show by a mile. Cakez engaged in choreography, interspersed the classic "Touch Me, Tease Me" Case record and strutted across the stage like it was a catwalk in the matter of 3 minutes of his raucous banger "Goodies Goodies". Cakez gave this show more than life He murdered the stage.
The vast majority of the crowd attended the Red Bull Sound Select show to watch TDE's first lady perform her emotionally riveting Z EP she released months earlier. Spectators got exactly that but they didn't get ALL of SZA. From her conscious choice to stay in one spot down to her multicolored knee length SUPREME buttoned shirt being the only thing covering her body, the New Jersey native's performance was a demonstration of a star forming her stage identity while not revealing too much. Even when surprise guest Willow Smith appeared to perform their unreleased "Dominoe" collaboration, the woman with hair big enough to not miss and a voice powerful enough to not be mistaken for anyone elses, simply stood to the side, barely moving while Willow belted out her vocals. The lack of movement on stage forced everyone in attendance to focus on her vocal talents (excellent) and lyrical prowess (even better) on stripped down songs such as "Ur".