May 8, 2021
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Tech N9ne and Freddie Gibbs

Soul Kitchen in Mobile, Alabama

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For years, Mobile was a location acts avoided. Even smaller neighboring cities were given preference. Some steps forward have been taken, but Mobile’s hip-hop scene is lacking. For an underground hip-hop act, the choice to perform in Mobile is bold or desperate.

There’s not a whole lot of places to get drunk and take in a show either. The Soul Kitchen (used to be a Woolworth’s) is one of the few options. Tech N9ne’s choice to come to Mobile was bold. He stated that they weren’t sure how many people would show up, and even the stage was somewhat small. On the flip side, the venue provided some intimacy, everyone had a great view.
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I didn’t know what to expect either. I took a hiatus from going to shows when I returned to Mobile. The show didn’t seem to be all that well promoted locally, the acts had no connections to the area, and I wasn’t sure what type of crowd would show up. I saw an enthusiastic crowd that while there primarily to see Tech N9ne, also loved hip hop in general.

I haven’t done anything akin to a show review in quite a while, pardon my ineptitude. I made no attempt to compile set lists, that’s a bit of a spoiler anyway. I probably should have brought my camera in (some venues nearly cavity search you, but this one didn’t even give me a pat down) and my cell phone was horribly inadequate. Forgive my lack of decent pictures.

The night started off with what I presume is a local opening act.tech3 If I had more journalist in me, I’d know more. They were solid, and the crowd started getting into them after a few songs. I was grateful that it wasn’t a crappy act that polluted my eardrums to say they opened for Tech N9ne.

At about the 30 minute mark, the show really got started with Psych Ward Druggies. They are a crazy live act, and it’s not hard to understand why a lesser known act would be chosen for the tour (though I’m puzzled by their ability to finance certain things). Four vocalists, a drummer, and a guitarist put on a show that is kind of a Slipknot of hip hop. They’re loud, and energetic. Tech N9ne stood near the back and watched their entire set. He was into it from the first song, while the crowd warmed up gradually. However, they got into PWD and seemed to enjoy the approximately 30 minute set.

Jarren Benton was next, and personally I thought he was one of the most enjoyable hip hop acts I’ve seen live. As one might expect, Jarren spent most of his set rapping double time. For me, the pleasant surprise came in the form of Alien Warr. He was the drummer, but was also a hype man of sorts. His frenetic activities matched Jarren’s rapping. He abused the hell out of his equipment and he made me fear for the well-being of his bass drum by repeatedly jumping up and down on it (he’s not a small guy).

Jarren connected well with the crowd, and during his set he brought two people on stage to rap with him. One surprisingly held his own. As his set neared the end, Jarren had the crowd jumping and then ventured deep into the crowd. He was running all over the damn place and I had to move my beer before he kicked it over.
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Prior to Freddy Gibbs’ set, he was given an introduction which sounded like part disclaimer and explanation. Freddy Gibbs is an interesting choice to share some of the spotlight with Tech N9ne. He didn’t appear to be a big draw, and it seems Jarren for example does a better job of connecting with this sort of an audience.

Having said that, Freddy is a good rapper and while perhaps not the perfect fit, is a far better choice than some others that I have seen (Nashville Pussy, complete with confederate flag on tour with ICP comes to mind). Gibbs brought some variety and his set went well. The crowd respected and enjoyed his performance. Like the two previous sets, he was on for close to 30 minutes.

Before Tech N9ne came out, the stage was cleared to reveal the complexity of the stage props. Despite being cramped (there was no room for the Independent Grind banner), they managed to get the pertinent parts of the props in place. The DJ table was removed, and the contrast was interesting. Tech N9ne technically had the least going on, onstage.

His set was fantastic. The light guy was as energetic as any DJ, and he put spins and flair into what he was doing, despite the fact that he was behind the crowd and practically no one could see him. I saw someone complain that some Tech N9ne sets are 50% Tech and 50% Krizz Kaliko. I wouldn’t say that was the case. Krizz is a hype man on steroids. He brings the energy one would expect from a hype man, he does it with a great vocal range, and with exceptional prowess on the mic. Tech spent some of the show without Krizz on stage at all, and the few times Krizz was on stage by himself, I felt it was to the betterment of the show that he had his own songs the audience could sing, or rap along to.

Tech N9ne took the stage around 11:30.tech4 One of the highlights was when he and Krizz performed “Fragile” (Krizz’s role was vital). You could tell the song meant a lot to Tech. It was a treat to see an act perform a current hit in that type of setting. He didn’t exit the stage until almost 1:15. That’s a long show to put on, for what is at times a one man show. It’s a concert in and of itself. Everything else up until that point was a bonus, Tech N9ne alone made the entire thing a bargain. He was a feature length film.

I can’t think of a much better way to get back into going to shows. If I had to rate the show I’d put it at a 4.5. It was one of the better hip hop shows I’ve been to. I’d say two 5 star performances (it’s hard to judge, but when someone comes out and does as much as you could possibly hope for, that’s a 5 star performance to me), and a couple 4 star performances, but that’s highly subjective. My wife liked Psych Ward Druggies more than she liked Jarren Benton and I the inverse, for example. The biggest issue seemed to be Alien Warr getting into a fight with his cymbal stand, and despite being early in the tour, there were no obvious faux pas. Strange had plenty of staff on hand, and the transitions between sets were done in a timely fashion, which avoided the frustration I have often seen at shows while the crowd waits for an act to take the stage.

Those that didn’t make it to the show missed out, and those that were there showed their level of appreciation for hip hop, and made up for their lack in stature with enthusiasm. The crowd didn’t sound small, and at no point during the over four hour show did they lose interest, or express dissatisfaction. That’s a testament both to the show itself and the fans in attendance.

Location:

  • Soul Kitchen
  • Alabama
  • United States

Guests:

  • Psych Ward Druggies, Jarren Benton, and Krizz Kaliko

Tour:

  • Independent Grind 2014

Record Label:

  • Strange Music

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