I expected to see a lot more teenagers at a 16+ rap show held on 4/20. They were definitely there in big numbers, but a significant portion of the audience at Gramercy Theater for the last night of the Beast Coastal tour, presented by Green Label Sound, was made up older, Brooklyn-residing hip-hop heads. A good thing too, I thought, because this was a homecoming show for Brooklyn's own Joey Bada$$, the tour's freshly 18-year-old headliner. Two other Brooklyn-based acts, The Underachievers and Flatbush Zombies, rounded out the bill.
Before things started, reggae played and the small venue filled up with smoke, security doing their best to scold apparent offenders. Soon The Underachievers, who are signed to Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label, took the stage. They moved with boy band levels of coordination, like two kids who'd been practicing this in their bedroom for years. After “T.A.D.E.D.,” the best track from their Februrary mixtape Indigoism, drew a strong reactionin, they asked the audience the night's most often-spoken question, “Who here likes weed?” Everyone there liked weed. Flatbush Zombies followed, walking onstage to the goofy entrance music of WWE's New Age Outlaws. Topically dark but bright with house party energy, their set peaked at “Face Off”, a song inspired by last year's breakout of bath salt-induced cannibalism.
New blunts were rolled during a short break. Then the lights dimmed and DJ Statik Selektah, serving as Pro Era's house DJ, led a vigil for Capital STEEZ, the Pro Era member who passed away last December. As prompted, the crowd lifted their fingers and lighters (almost everyone had one, eschewing the artificial glow of phone screens) in the air. Just hours before the show, Joey Bada$$ wrote on Twitter that STEEZ' last work would be released this summer. Selektah played one of these unreleased tracks, its beat featuring chirping birds.
Joey finally walked onto stage for his verse on “Like Water,” introducing himself to polite applause. He burned through a few low key cuts with rotating assistance from Pro Era members Chuck Strangers, CJ Fly and Nyck Caution, the most charismatic of the bunch. After performing “pantiE raid,” a deep cut from the first-ever Pro Era mixtape, he gave thanks to his longtime or “not bandwagon” fans, a weird thing for such a young guy to have. “I don't know if I'm feeling fully appreciated right now," he said to an increasingly red-eyed crowd as his even-keeled set pressed on, like an RA knocking on a dorm room's door.
Around 11:30, after the entire Pro Era gang gathered together to do DJ Premier-produced "Unorthodox," "High School" (an accessible track about going to math class stoned) and knockouts “Resurrection of Real” and “The Renaissance,” Joey announced that, only halfway through their planned set, they'd soon be asked to leave the stage. Pro Era members dove into the crowd and shot Super Soakers as they closed with "Survival Tactics." The house lights went up; the audience booed but exited quickly. Outside, some parents picked up their obviously blazed children. Two teens wearing matching Pro Era shirts told their dad that the show was awesome. Elsewhere, Joey Bada$$ had a few extra minutes of the faux-holiday to celebrate the end of his tour, surrounded by friends. All of the kids, it seemed, were alright.
Stream Pro Era's Beast Coastal tour playlist, hand-picked by the guys themselves: