SXSW Review: Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, Bun B @ Austin Music Hall

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We return with coverage of South by Southwest with the spotlight on Friday’s events. We hit a bit of a hiccup on Thursday, breaking our cardinal rule of ‘park thy butt at one venue and call it a night.’ We started at the ACL Live to check out the soul review, jumped to Brazos Hall to see Joey Bada$$, then had the ill-fated idea of trying to catch Snoop Dogg at Viceland. Our night ended fruitlessly waiting in line for an event we’d never get into. Nonetheless, we made up for lost time covering two sets on Friday – some of rock’s best jam artists at Auditorium Shores and the Mass Appeal’s hip hop showcase at the Austin Music Hall.

SXSW touches on every genre of music that imagination can conjure up. Whether you’re into folk and experimental rock or country and blues, there is pretty much a showcase every evening to quench your thirst. We caught up with the white boy rappers over at the Belmont on Tuesday night so Friday we thought we’d go directly to the source and check out the premiere rap/hip hop showcase of the week hosted by Mass Appeal at the Austin Music Hall.

Since we were over at Auditorium Shores, the first slice of artists evaded us. Sadly, guys like Alexander Spit, Harry Fraud and Nylo will have to be broken down by another outlet. We got there as Roc Marciano, outfitted in a plaid shirt and Gilligan style bucket hat, was taking the stage. The Decon Records artist was originally part of Busta Rhymes crew and appeared on Wu-Tang Clan’s 2005 collaboration album. He’s been working over the past decade, but hasn’t yet found the formula to break through the chains to stardom. While he rolled out the rhythms, he had a bit of a problem charging up the Music Hall crowd. He’d often try to amplify the energy quotient by saying “let me hear you Austin” which was greeted by murmurs and still bodies.

A$AP Ferg hit the stage next. He’s part of the A$AP Mob who is probably best known for A$AP Rocky who is circling the globe supporting Rihanna. Coming off his warm-up gig supporting Snoop at the Viceland Thursday night, A$AP Ferg brought along a couple of his crew who were a bit crazy. Their sole role seemed to be to fling themselves offstage into the sweaty crowd at high velocity. There was one time the crowd wasn’t ready for this stage diving impulse, and he seemed to part the crowd down to the concrete floor. He popped back to the stage dancing about, but these guys are going to have some monster bruises in the morning. As a young guy, you can tell A$AP Ferg is still finding his footing in the game, but he’s got good energy and the crowd really responses well to him. I think the A$AP Mob may have another player on their hands.

Detroit’s Danny Brown was supposed to be taking the stage next, but his plane must have taken a left turn at Oklahoma. Bun B saddled up to the stage instead. Bun is an old school rapper who was half of the now defunct UGK. Due to his UGK partner’s incarceration and untimely death, Bun B was forced to branch out on his own and has released three albums since 2002. He added a maturity and depth to the Mass Appeal line-up. In his brief set, he sampled tracks across his Trill trilogy and got the crowd moving. He may be a little long in the tooth pushing 40, but he still knows how to throw down with the best of them.

Pusha T was originally a part of hip hop duo Clipse. He broke from his brother to pursue his own career. He soon signed with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Records in 2010 and has since released a mixtape (Fear of God) and his debut album (My Name is My Name). It looks like Kanye knows how to pick ‘em as Pusha T really revved up the show with his verse.

Kendrick Lamar may not be a household name at this point, but mark my words he will be. The Compton-based artist’s latest release Good Kid: M.A.A.D. City has been showered with critical praise and is on the fringes of going platinum. In his young music career, he’s already worked with the titans of the game including Lil Wayne, Drake, Dr. Dre and Wiz Khalifa. This year, MTV crowned Lamar the hottest MC in the game.

He capped off the strong Mass Appeal bill, and as he hit the stage the audience came alive. People who were milling around, talking with friends, stopped everything to pack ever closer to the stage. He wasted no time ripping off hits from Good Kid like “Poetic Justice” and “Swimming Pools (Drank).” Rappers came from the wings on a song-by-song basis to help out Lamar with his rhymes, but they were largely window dressing. This was Kendrick’s show. He kicked up the vibe as the set list matured, and the crowd loved every moment. Mass Appeal certainly picked the right man to anchor their hip hop showcase at South by Southwest.

If you haven’t seen Kendrick Lamar at SXSW yet, you clearly haven’t been trying. He’s already played a half dozen shows, but for those who still haven’t gotten their fill can see him at the Viceland tonight (March 16) at 12:30pm.

This wraps up our hip hop coverage for the week at South by. Tonight, we have a few interesting musical options to explore. There is no telling how our evening will unfold so be sure to check back with us on Sunday to see how finishes the week at SXSW.

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