The center of my attention. The highlight of my week. These are some of the things I had been feeling prior to this show, and afterward. I could not pay much attention to the more trivial aspects of that Thursday. I had been stuck in a cycle of repetition for the last two weeks or so, and I knew I had to make the mundane a bit more extraordinary. More than anything else, I was looking forward to freeing myself from the rinse, wash, repeat nature of the days and weeks that had led up to this night. Throughout the day, my mind had been dwelling on what the night had in store. With no expectations, and no prior notion of what an Earl (@soapmanwun) show was like. I went into SF that night with a mind that was open and receptive to whatever may transpire next. Not much to my surprise, the line into the venue had at least a few hundred people. People of all kinds of different ethnicities, subcultures, ages, and nooks and crannies of the Bay were here together for this show. The anticipation was drastically picking up as my friends and I stepped into the packed ballroom (Shoutout Cole, Adam, JJ, and Ike). After a little while, the lights turned off, and Black Noi$e (@blackxnoise) stepped onto the stage. His DJ set started off in a more ambient and ethereal way.
The energy gradually picked up as we went from unreleased Zelooperz to gospel classics to De La Soul to Future and eventually, The Alchemist (@alanthealchemist). Al stepped foot on stage after about 20 minutes. The energy was picked up in the ballroom quite a bit in the ballroom upon his entrance.
The Alchemist’s set seemed to have ended as suddenly as it’d started. He treated us with some of his best cuts from over the years, everything from Jadakiss to Westside Gunn to Boldy James, MIKE, and eventually Earl. Earl’s entrance was very anti-climactic. He sort of just popped his head out from behind stage, and the whole place erupted. He walked out and the sample for E. Coli started playing. For about a minute or so he was showing everyone love, to the people on stage, and to those in the crowd. He got straight to rapping after that, and it seemed like everyone in unison was rapping together. This had been my favorite moment of the show in retrospect. After this, he’d jumped straight into some of the tracks from his most recent album, Voir Dire. To my surprise, I thought the focal point of the show was going to be the new music he had just released, but the setlist had a great deal of variety from over the years. He went as far back as his debut album, Doris (2013), and even a bit into the future with a few unreleased tracks. It was my first time hearing any of his music performed, and in particular, I really liked the way the tracks from Some Rap Songs (2018) sounded live. The loop-based instrumentals on “Shattered Dreams” and “The Mint” had a hypnotic feel to them. Since then, I’ve been finding myself revisiting Some Rap Songs quite a bit.
Even through some of the more serious songs, Earl kept the atmosphere light-hearted. At the beginning of his set, he challenged himself to not take off his sweater no matter how hot or “close to death” he was. Throughout the show, Black Noi$e would question Earl on his choice, and it got pretty funny at times with the way they were bickering towards each other. Despite Earl probably being on the verge of heat stroke, he still gave us a lot of energy in his performance. Right when I thought the show would be over, Black Noi$e started to play songs from different artists while Earl was still on stage. Everyone would be jamming out including Earl, and Black Noi$e would cut the song after about 30 seconds. This kept on going for what felt like an hour but was more like 15 minutes. Earl was getting mad at Black Noi$e, all while Black Noi$e was chuckling away like a little brother pestering his older sister. Eventually, the Alchemist started playing some tracks, and much to my surprise he started rapping. He threw on “Hold You Down” and all I could do was stop and appreciate that moment.
I left SF that night feeling very satisfied. I, for the first time, got to witness one of the greatest rappers of my generation perform, an artist whose name I’ve known for nearly 10 years. One of the first names in Hip-Hop I ever remembered as a kid. This will certainly not be the last time I see Earl perform. This is an experience I’d recommend to any fan of the genre.
(Huge Shoutout to JJ for these amazing photos) (Give the bro a follow on IG @jsicreations)