Paid Dues 2012
NOS Events Center, San Bernardino
Posted by the Paid Dues media check-in, the announcement, “ATTENTION: Photo Pit Closed for Odd Future Performance,” seemed an ominous sign. Though it likely was just to ward off further lawsuits, it felt a little pretentious — and Murs' indie hip-hop festival always has been anything but.
Though it's grown even since last year, when Lil B was still a curiosity and Black Hippy performed on the smallest stage early in the day (Kendrick Lamar headlined yesterday, for contrast), there remains a kind of hip-hop family-reunion feeling. Your favorite rappers come out to be fans of their favorite rappers. Fashawn was wandering around the grounds in house shoes, red SOLO cup in hand. Odd Future geeked out kinda adorably and literally tumbled into the photo pit to watch Dipset. Hell, even Jerry Heller was spotted lurking around the artists' trailers.
Yeah, standing on asphalt in 87 degree-weather with a sea of people who flooded in to catch Wu-Tang Clan's super early 4 o'clock set was as sweaty as you'd expect it to be.
The indoor stages, as usual, wrestled with sound issues; TiRon & Ayomari and RA The Rugged Man's shows especially were plagued. We got shut out of DJ Quik's set because the smaller indoor arena reached capacity, quick. We heard he brought Bizzy Bone out and are still kicking ourselves.
But the breeze picked up by late afternoon, far fewer people seemed to be passing out than at recent San Bernardino festivals and the vibe was that of a family picnic, except with people you really like. Here are a few more highlights from the day.
Top Dawg Entertainment, the label that recently announced it had inked a deal with Interscope, rolled out its roster with tactics something like a coolly patient, big-picture war strategy. Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, and Schoolboy Q were methodically trained to strike precisely when the iron was hot. After yesterday's show, it's obvious Ab-Soul, the last member of TDE supergroup Black Hippy, has been well primed.
Schoolboy Q called Ab-Soul the “Einstein” of the group, and he certainly seems to have studied and learned from his peers, especially Q. Sans hype man, he rapped confidently, fiercely and relentlessly. For a set time that coincided with Wu-Tang's, his crowd was large and knew most of his lyrics. “I'm out this muhfucka. Soul!” he said before walking offstage. Just watch. Dude's about to attack.
Taco and Left Brain were grilling hamburgers onstage, and an archway made out of balloons was later released into the night. That Odd Future put thought into their stage setup is charming. But yesterday afternoon, Tyler confessed nervousness on Twitter, and though we're never sure if he's joking, the Wolf Gang was subdued at the beginning of their show on the beastly main stage.
Mike G, however, seemed to set everything right, silkily gliding through his feature on Vince Staples' Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1, “Swiss Army.” Low key and supremely smooth, Mike G might be the anchor of Odd Future. By “Tron Cat,” they had regrouped and were the hyper kids everybody expects them to be.
Tyler dove off the stage, a mosh pit broke out, some kids started a fire in the audience, and Trash Talk joined Odd Future onstage. The energy up close might have been more frenetic — Hodgy did that awesome running on top of people's hands thing he always does — but watching from the edge of the crowd, the sky seemed to swallow it up.
The show we were most anticipating was the most disappointing. Cam'ron is one of our all-time favorite rappers, a genius, swaggering thug spitting weirdo rhymes that would get most kids beat up on the playground. He swings so high on the swing set it almost comes off the ground, and everybody respects fearlessness.
Odd Future finished their show, and we expected an old-school hip-hop delay. Yet with barely a break and no fanfare, Cam walked onstage and started rapping “Killa Cam.” After about ten minutes solo, during which he did “Wet Wipes,” “Down and Out,” “Suck It or Not,” “I Really Mean It,” the rest of the Diplomats emerged. Juelz Santana, Freekey Zekey and Jim Jones all took turns doing verses and solo songs, and Cam was nowhere to be seen.
Cam finally ambled back out, and Dipset played pretty much every song we've ever wanted to hear live. But it sounded like Cam'ron was losing his voice, and he kept pulling Santana and Zekey aside to whisper something in their ears. Pretty sure they were making the set up as they went along.
Three 6 Mafia
Hands down, the best show we saw. Juicy J seems to have been reinvigorated by his recent friendship with and signing to Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang imprint. He morphed the entire arena into the kind of bouncing, thrashing mass you'd find in a tiny, dingy club in Orange Mound. DJ Paul lived up to his reputation as a dog you do not trust as he turned around a girl onstage from grinding her ass into his crotch to facing it. They played the kind of set that tears the club up (“Slob on My Knob,” “Stay Fly,” “Who Run It,” “Side 2 Side”), but we don't even really remember much more, as we were, in the parlance of the day, turnt up.