By Jason Williams, DC Music Live
K.Michell. Jhene Aiko. Bridget Kelly. Elle Varner. Not names plucked at random, but four young and promising R&B songstresses who through blending their talents and experiences carry on a musical tradition that Etta James, Patti LaBelle and countless others forged. In a similar vein, hip-hop, from its inception, has never had a shortage of enterprising young men who took their real and sometimes enhanced stories of street life and spun them into chart topping success. Some would suggest that XXL’s annual Freshman Class is the closest thing to a formalized “who’s next” list. Personally, I think you have better odds picking today’s Powerball numbers than knowing a rap legend in the making. Nevertheless, Pusha T, born Terrence Thornton, never made XXL Freshman Class list. Possibly because King Push was an established artist before the official/unofficial honor even got started. However, what the treasured few of XXL’s Freshman Class and Pusha T had in common was a tremendous amount of doubt if they could live up to the hype.
A co-starting role in G.O.O.D Music’s Cruel Summer, which was one of the most popular releases of 2012, was impressive but not new territory for Pusha T. We have seen it before during his time with The Clipse and numerous Neptune projects. As 2013 rolled around Pusha T likely had his last best chance to prove that he was a legitimate solo artist. As My Name Is My Name (MNIMN) was released in October it was far from a disappointment but it didn’t quite reach the status of triumphant.
If nothing else MNIMN achieved the goal of putting Pusha T in the conversation of rappers you had to look out for. Following several successful late night TV appearances and music videos, checking out Pusha T live for the low price of 20 bucks was a no-brainer. As with many too good to be true deals, there was a catch.
Unfortunately, getting through the multiple layers of security at Echostage was but the first obstacle the crowd would face this evening. The doors opened at 8 p.m. and as far as concert etiquette goes it would be reasonable to assume that the headliner (unless otherwise specified) would be onstage within two hours of the venue opening. This rule and many others were ignored. Echostage only has one kind of seating, VIP and on a night when the audience was “treated” to three hours of unknown opening acts; no mater how high those prices were it was a bargain.
Not to disparage up-in-coming artists, but as the acts and the hours started to pile up the scene turned into an island of misfit MC’s, where the audience would rain down boos for any misstep, but the flaw that all the opening acts had in common is they weren’t King Push.
At exactly 12:57 a.m. the wait was finally over. Pusha T hits the stage. Kicking the show off with the first song from MNIMN “King Push.” The audience perked up but the drop of the beat didn’t produce the typical squeeze toward the stage that is normal at concerts. Accompanied by a hype-man that Pusha T did not introduce the two weaved through the Virginia natives’ catalogue with a bulk of the material coming from MNIMN.
The first major reaction from the crowd came when Pusha T took center stage, one hand extended
in the air and started the Rick Ross assisted “Hold On.” The audience followed suit as they pulled toward the stage. Next Pusha T did a few songs from Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but before Pusha T went into the set he briefly retold the story of how he packed for a week to join West for the recording session and end up staying a month. It is well-known that Pusha T’s performances during that trip along with a cosign from Rick Ross is what lead to Thornton’s deal with G.O.O.D music, but at this hour there was no time for extend stories.
The pace of the show quickens and builds to the feverous highpoint of the evening Pusha T’s cover of “Don’t Like.” Soon after that high we were taken back to MNIMN and it’s lead sing “Numbers On The Boards.” A false farewell followed where Pusha T said goodnight but his DJ didn’t move and the houselights didn’t come up. That still did not keep about a 1/3 of the audience from heading for the exits. They couldn’t have been fooled because Pusha T was back onstage within four counts, but at that point those who decided they had seen enough were not turning back.
The encore set included “40 Acres” and concluded with one of Pusha T’s first hits “Grindin.” For those that lasted this marathon of an evening it was an appropriate and well-earned reward.