Greenpoint’s Huron Street is usually a pretty desolate place but on this brisk Wednesday night in early November, a throng of people wrap around the block. The line breaks by the front of a massive warehouse, where a neon sign reading “Motel No. 7” teases what lies in store. Once inside, it all comes together. Jack Daniel’s has produced two nights of top-notch music with a difference—the space has been turned into an on-the-nose motel experience, which includes a made-for-tonight pool surrounded by plastic lounge chairs, a sitcom-y hair salon, and a series of bars equipped with bottles of Jack Daniel’s and mixers. Everyone is committed to the Motel No. 7 theme, from the bellboys holding the doors to the waiting staff serving mini chicken and waffles and veggie burritos. Up on a stage, the DJ plays everything from Fleetwood Mac to mid-2000s hip-hop to Destiny’s Child. It all builds anticipation for the night’s main act: T-Pain, the Tallahassee-born singer/producer/rapper who will be releasing his much-anticipated album, Stoicville, this December.
Before he hits the stage, however, Indian American rapper Himanshu Suri—who goes by Heems and is best known as one of the members of defunct rap group Das Racist—makes an appearance to rile up the ever-growing crowd. He performs wacky but super catchy songs from his debut album Eat Pray Thug, which was released earlier this year. Upstairs, a series of VIP guest rooms are each decorated to match a specific taste: from karaoke fun to more sophisticated lounging. Just before midnight T-Pain is introduced, and given a warm welcome. Dressed in black, he arrives on stage with a posse, including a group of background singers, and proceeds to perform a medley of his most famous tracks. Swarms of people move up to the stage when he starts in on “Cyclone,” his 2007 hit collaboration with rapper Baby Bash. Other high notes from his past records and collaborations include a remix of Unk’s “2 Step” and his softer “I’m Sprung,” but it’s “Buy U A Drank” that everyone is waiting for. T-Pain opens the song with a couple of impressive vocalizations before chanting the now classic opener: Snap ya fingers, do the step, you can do it all by yourself. The crowd sings along and at one point he stops, points the mic towards them, and leaves it to the inhabitants of Motel No. 7 to do the work. By the time it’s a wrap, everyone reluctantly files out—but they’ll be back for round two tonight.