Published Nov 17, 2019The vibes were perfect at the sold-out Venue Nightclub on Saturday, from openers Benji. and Guapdad 4000 to headliners EarthGang.
Pittsburgh rapper Benji. laid down what he called "emotional wavy shit" with "Rain," but he tipped the scale toward fun with a handful of light and playful songs reminiscent of Aminé, combined with a fluid flow that was all his own. The show marked Benji.'s first time in Canada, his first time out of the U.S. and his first tour. He immersed himself in the moment by calling for the receptive audience to open a circle, performing his last song from the middle of it.
The night of effortless crowd control continued with Filipino-American Oakland rapper Guapdad 4000. He marched out with flair; "Costa Rica" blared behind him like a wrestler's theme song playing him to the ring. Like firecrackers, most of his songs were lit but short-fused: he has amassed an impressive repertoire of collaborations, with Chance the Rapper, Tory Lanez, Young Baby Tate, Buddy and fellow East Bay rapper G-Eazy, to name a few, but he cut out all his guests' parts.
After warming up with "Don't Hit Me Right Now," "First Things First," and more, he ordered the audience to split the floor in half. Then, on his command, they caved it in at the first drop of the gasoline-soaked "Izayah." Even without the song's guests, Maxo Kream and Denzel Curry, "Izayah" was, as Guapdad said, "nothing to fuck with." Following a pair of wobbly, chiller tracks in "Gucci Pajamas" and "Stuck with It," Guapdad circled back and made his victorious exit with another snippet of "Costa Rica."
Completing the triple-bill's victory lap were interplanetary oddballs EarthGang. Backing the Atlanta duo of Johnny Venus and WowGr8 was DJ Dark Knight. Not only did Dark Knight lay down real vinyl scratches on songs including "Swivel," the sound of lasers fired off throughout their animated set. EarthGang rained good vibes with glider "Top Down." All night, fans threw up hands and fists, often by EarthGang's prompting, but Venus and WowGr8 never had to beg; they never came off needy, as so many live performers do when trying to hype the crowd.
And how could EarthGang's fans have been anything but hyped, as WowGr8 rapped with such intensity that his eyes often rolled back in his head? Or when EarthGang shouted out the couples in the audience, as well as single people, in equal measure? At least until "Trippin," which contained lines like "I don't need no part-time love. Got no room for one-night stands." "Trippin" was a middle finger to singlehood, but it paled to every middle finger in the room going up in a roaring, collective "fuck you" to racism, sexism, fucbois, and fucgirls, which led to the opening lines and chorus of EarthGang's cover of YG & Nipsey Hussle's "FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)."
EarthGang kept fans engaged by inviting five of them onstage and giving each of them their own moment in the spotlight to show that Vancouver had moves. After spraying water into a huge mosh pit, Guapdad resurfaced to join them on "Wells Fargo." All three rappers threw down rhymes so furiously, piling on top of one another, WowGr8 could barely be heard banging on a cowbell.
After EarthGang's single encore of "Up," Benji. and Guapdad came back out, teasing, intentionally or not, a final group performance. But they just hung out, made their appreciation of the fans and one another known, and signed merch. "I am EarthGang. You are EarthGang. We are all EarthGang," WowGr8 said in his farewell, a final reminder that we are all in it together.