What took place inside Irving Plaza Friday night could only be described as a lovefest, a celebration of the admiration the four MCs making up the Into the Wild Tour hold for each other. Despot, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, Killer Mike and El-P all came to New York to perform their individual sets, but wound up spending copious amounts of time on stage even when the song thumping through the speakers did not belong to them. During a break in Despot's opening set, a period he dedicated to doing aerobics (because, as Despot put it, “I'm a skinny guy, and I'd like to stay skinny,”) all four artists came together on stage to throw their arms in the air and run in place, like some kind of hip-hop jazzercise class. Killer Mike spent much of his set praising El-P for not only producing R.A.P. Music, but simultaneously creating a “classic” for himself with Cancer 4 Cure, and El-P did not hesitate to return the praise as he closed out the show.
The concert was also a homecoming of sorts, as Despot, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire and El-P all hail from the boroughs of New York, and it made for an electrifying energy from the capacity crowd for the duration of the show. Despot and eXquire both had family members in the building, and their presence seemed to fuel each artist's performance as they both pranced around the stage and egged the audience on, working them into a frenzy. eXquire, dressed in a winter hat, matching blue short sleeve button down and shorts, large glasses and about a dozen necklaces hanging over his chest, was especially active, swagging all over the stage every chance he got, his legs slicing through the air as if there was something unseen on the stage he was trying to kick.
But Friday was about the big guns, and Killer Mike was up first. A sense of nervousness fell over the crowd when Killer Mike stepped on stage and opened with “Untitled” off of R.A.P. Music. The Atlanta MC appeared motionless, barely moving a muscle in his body, perhaps beaten down by the grind of the tour that would end its run in the coming days. But when the beat for “Big Beast” dropped, any misunderstandings about the quality of Mike's set were squashed by his giant foot, as the massive rapper bounded around stage and the crowd rocked in place right along with him. Mike went through much of R.A.P. Music, bringing out El-P for their collaboration on “Butane (Champions Anthem),” and letting special guest Immortal Technique spit a venomous a capella after the recitation of “Reagan.” But all hell broke loose when DJ Trackstar dropped Bone Crusher's “Never Scared,” a song that, judging by the eager yelps of the crowd, hadn't been heard by the audience in years, and some semblance of a mosh pit formed toward the front of the stage as Killer Mike got into his verse from the tune.
The night belonged to El-P however, the son of Brooklyn. With his Yankees fitted tilted to the side, El Producto went full throttle throughout his entire set, briefly turning Irving Plaza into one pulsating rave. Backed by a live band and a tall trombonist, whose bellowing blasts cut perfectly through the heavy synths that have become a staple of an El-P song, the New York native ran through Cancer 4 Cure, bringing out eXquire for “Oh Hail No,” Heems from Das Racist for “True Story” and Killer Mike and Despot for their collaboration on “Tougher Colder Killer.” By the time the show was over and the clock closed in on 1:30 a.m., it felt as if your head had exploded, but in the best way possible.
It was a colossal show, one made infinitely better by the genuine love each artist has for another, Killer Mike and El-P taking Despot and eXquire under their well established wings. And when El-P breathlessly announced that he was having the best time of his life on this tour, there wasn't a person who stumbled out of Irving Plaza that didn't believe him.
Written by Jordan Zirm (@clevezirm)
Photo via @TheRoyalD