Schoolboy Q finally brought the Blank Face Tour to Vancouver and it was worth the wait
Vancouver, BC – After catching Schoolboy Q at Squamish Valley Music Festival of summer 2015, you may have been one of the many fans who have been patiently awaiting his return ever since. While it’s really been just over a year since his last appearance in B.C., the past 12 months have been full of many milestones in music for the Los Angeles rapper (many of which have been some of his debated, greatest releases to date).
You may be one of the listeners who have concluded that the release of Blank Face LP this past summer, was a defining moment for the emcee that placed him back in the top ranks among the lyrical best. His previous album Oxymoron gave us those classic hits with crowd value, but there was resounding criticism for its’ marketable value over depth. The follow-up with Blank Face didn’t disappoint and contributed a strong line-up of features with current, yet classic sounds amidst rolling, dense 808s from the rapper. With a list of features including Kanye West, Vince Staples, Anderson. Paak, and SZA – it was easily one of the most diverse projects to come out this year. Any real Q fan will probably concur that Blank Face was Schoolboy’s lyrical re-birthing into the industry as an artist who brought bars which were now on the same level as the likes of Kendrick Lamar.
So, when our colleagues at Timbre concerts announced that he was booked to bring the Blank Face LP tour to the West Coast, there was a quick dash to partake on the opportunity to see him showcase the new material. It’s been a crazy fall full of memorable concerts, but this was one of the few events that sold out well in advance (and many were scrambling to find extra tickets if they missed the boat early on). The addition of Joey Badass as the opener only made the concert even more desirable. If you were in Vancouver this last Saturday chances are that you were either at this show, or watching it from your snapchat at home and wondering why you ever thought it was worth missing (and probably crying).
The Forum at the Pacific National Exhibit offered the perfect setting for the event. All age events sometimes invite a younger audience, but the crowd that stretched down the block was a proper mixture of both young and old, and largely comprised of ecstatic dudes with their girlfriends trailing behind them. Doors opened at 7, but lines were moving slow as people filed into the barn-like venue (which subsequently set-back the start time of the show until well after 8 pm). This didn’t seem to affect concert-goers too, or maybe they were just too amped to care that much. The crowd in front of the stage was eagerly packed with the most eager fans who were awaiting the appearance of Joey. If you attempted to make your way through there little chance that you weren’t going to get back out.
His entrance went unannounced and unregistered until he could be heard through the arena chanting “Pro Era, Era, Era, Pro, Era, Eraaa!” It was this signature Joey chant which drew in most of the gentlemen in the vicinity, and started the mosh pit early (it was a constant battle of trying to get closer to the rappers without getting decked in the face). The energy was high, and Joey only helped raise it by encouraging the audience to open the middle up, and start pushing.
Early on he brought out “Christ Conscious”, but it was “Big Dusty” that really got the crowd hyped. Having seen his set earlier this summer at Pemberton Music Fest, I was predicting his acapella freestyle of the track – but he was more invested this time around. Similar to this summer, he questioned the general audience to find out which of his fans had been down for him from the beginning of his journey as an artist. To them, he rapped with an unparalleled conviction which was admirable and sincere. The effort was noticeable as it wouldn’t do him justice to classify him as an opening act, but instead more of a contributing headliner who brought a set that comparably stood on its’ own.
Following a short intermission, Q’s DJ was already spinning tracks and the population of people were crowded around the stage and the extending flanks of seating. When you got a look at the overall arena, it was breathtaking to see just how many people had come out for the rapper (as well as a testament to prove to our city that rap artists can draw comparable crowds to EDM fan bases). There wasn’t any huge light gesture to introduce the emcee, and he casually sauntered onto the stage with a towel draped around his neck to the reaction and applause of his thousands of fans. After pausing for a moment to take in our embrace, he started into “Gangsta” from his earlier album Oxymoron (and squashed all fears that his classic crowd pleasers wouldn’t make the cut).
He reminisced early into his show about his previous stop in Canada, and exclaimed, “Is the West Coast gonna’ be more turned up than Toronto?!” to which he received overwhelming screams from the arena. He held his arms open to the chants, and walked between the sides of the stage, fully expecting his audience to show up with the same level of engagement that his music deserved. He continued to elaborate on how he’d been to Vancouver a few times, but had never brought his actual tour to the West Coast. To the audience’s delight he concluded, “Therefore, we have to do shit from Setbacks and Habits and Contraditions…we gotta do some shit off Oxymoron tonight.”
The rest of the show followed in suit by paying tribute to the tracks which made him the superstar that he now is, but also inserting his most relevant and skilled bars to remind us all that he’s undeniably one of the best in the game right now. Tracks from Oxymoron included “Hoover Street”, “Collard Greens”, “Studio” and “Man of the Year”. And, Blank Face saw insertion with tracks like: “Groovy Tony”, and “Overtime”, among others. The audience easily maintained its’ energy throughout both lyrical and crowd favourite tracks, but “Hands on the Wheel” had everyone moshing. Minus the momentary technical difficulties when Q seemed to blow the whole sound system, it was a seamless evening and flaunted smooth handovers between tracks.
By the time “THat Part” came on, I’d seen enough to realize that this was the most hype concert of fall 2016. While his set time was supposed to have a curfew of 11 pm, he shouted to the audience that he would stay with us until they kicked him off stage (and they almost did when they cut his microphone between his last tracks). There wasn’t any crazy visual shows, and the lighting was simple yet effective. But, the sheer number of fans that came out prepared to wild out with the rapper was damn impressive, and there were very few people that you could find casually standing around. While Kanye and Drake put on shows this fall that drew numbers, much of their audiences watched from the sidelines and many took a spectator approach. On Saturday night Schoolboy threw one hell of a party and showed Vancouver what it is to be both a dope rapper, and a great entertainer. After this weekend, we honestly can’t wait until he makes his next return to the West Coast.
Review by Kira Hunston for HipHopCanada
Photography by Jamie Sands for HipHopCanada
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