The “Hypeman.” Let’s discuss.
It’s a relatively skillful position in the hip-hop world. One must complement yet not step on the lyrical toes of the star emcee. One must engage the crowd in a bowling lane-like manner, providing the set-up then letting the star complete the knockdown. One must insert the proverbial “who runs this motherf**ker?!” at opportune times and to the alienation of neither male nor female audience members.
It’s a tricky task, this hype-manning.
Which brings me to Twista’s Friday night set at KS 107.5’s Jingle Jam at the Fillmore Auditorium. Can you imagine trying to “man” the “hype” for a rapper who at one time held the Guinness Book World record of “fastest emcee on Earth”? Didn’t think so. Turns out Twista’s red vest-and-cap-wearing stage man couldn’t help his star-counterpart keep his ball out of the gutter.
As the Chicago emcee with a habit of spitting rapid-fire missiles over R&B-themed tracks took the stage with his Kanye West collab “Slow Jams,” the crowd took to a steady, arms over head sway — one in the air (like they just didn’t care) and one snapping bite-sized cell pics. While Twista’s DJ hunt-and-pecked on his Macbook, adding that ubiquitous dancehall alarm drop to signal the end of a song (come on guys, this isn’t a mixtape circa 2004!), Twista played to an 18+ crowd whose tolerance for anything but the hits seemed meager.
Instead of riffing off his weird, sometimes meaningless spurts of breakneck storytelling (his albums have an almost Kool Keith level of randomness) he took the crowd through a predictable setlist of radio friendly joints — “Overnight Celebrity,” “Let’s Go” and “So Sexy.” As a novelty, Twista’s speedy rhymes are noteworthy but on stage he seems better equipped to share the spotlight with a more commanding presence — a line he’s walked successfully during his recording career.
Fabolous is another rapper who, like Twista, has skirted super stardom for most of his career — a result as much to do with his frequent run-ins with authorities as with his minor chart toppers. But with a seemingly newfound direction, the rapper is touring behind his first chart-topping album to date, July’s “Loso’s Way.”
Stronger stage presence and a more polished set proved he deserved hierarchy on this split bill (riding the wave of hit single “Throw It in the Bag” doesn’t hurt either). Taller and skinnier than Twista, Fabolous’ set was a physical and emotional departure from his Midwest-bred opener. He provided quick, precise delivery on “Breathe” and “Make Me Better” plus enough cool hooks and interludes to justify his wearing Ray Bans at night. Inside.
Fabolous is right to align himself with the innovative and thematic R&B singer the-Dream (whose vocals Fabolous enlisted for “Throw It in the Bag”). It wouldn’t take a whiz kid to guess which song closed out the night (something about a bag and shopping? and throwing?) but rather than leave Jingle Jamming fans with thoughts of Fendi and zero-percent interest dancing in their holiday heads, Fabolous flipped the script and rewarded the crowd with a special gift for fans of his deeper catalog: “Throw It in the Bag”… the remix!
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Craig Randall is a Boulder-based writer and PR pro with an identity crisis. He credits both “Let Me Love You Down” and “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” as life-changing tracks. Check out his website.