Macklemore Finds a Come Up at the BJC
The Bryce Jordan Center trembled with the explosive music of three powerhouse hip-hop acts: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Talib Kweli, and Big K.R.I.T. But this concert was not comprised of your stereotypical, modern rappers who write songs about money, women, and gang violence. These artists have developed a notable, idiosyncratic perspective on this constantly evolving genre.
Big K.R.I.T. kicked the show off with a half hour set comprised of heavy bass, smooth rhymes, and a frenzied yet punctual crowd. Even after he wrapped up his set with “R.E.M.”, fans became even more anxious for the star of the show.
The audience erupted into a sea of screaming and shouting upon the intro bass line to “Seven Nation Army,” to which one (presumably freshman) girl sitting behind me asked her friend, “What is this song?” (Facepalm engaged, still shaking my head).
After the DJ transitioned from the White Stripes into Baauer’s fleeting single “Harlem Shake,” Brooklyn-born Talib Kweli skipped onto the stage rocking a varsity jacket and flat-brimmed cap, hiding his eyes beneath his silver shades. His songs, seemingly nameless, carried a cadence of the streets that rappers refer to as “flow.” Talib Kweli busted into “Rocket Ships” and removed his jacket, revealing a Penn State #13 jersey with his name on the back.
Among the waves of hands nodding in aesthetic approval and the earthquake of bass vibrating from the walls into my bones, the rapper reminded the audience, “This is a Hip-Hop tour. Don’t get it twisted!”
Talib Kweli brought out Philly-native female rapper/vocalist Res, who sang a beautiful cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” Talib Kweli didn’t settle for just one of those classic “old white people songs,” so he covered the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” At the end of his 30 minute set, he played his biggest song “Get By” that pumped the crowd up for the main event.
Macklemore, the stage name of 30 year old Seattle rapper Ben Haggarty, rose to the stage on an elevated platform to the explosion of powerful fireworks, playing the first track off his album The Heist, entitled “Ten Thousand Hours.” His DJ, Ryan Lewis, took to the boards, while other musicians indulged in their respective instruments, including percussion, strings, and brass. The audience expressed overwhelming bursts of energy, from the Penn State students bumping and grinding on the floor to the parents of the middle school children in the stands.
Macklemore owned the microphone with the influence of a storyteller, engaging with the audience and making approving remarks about the state of Pennsylvania.
“You know the thing I love the most about Pennsylvania?” Macklemore asked. “The people of Pennsylvania know how to fucking party!”
In a lengthy anecdote between songs, Macklemore explained how he arrived to Penn State at 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning, so he walked around campus, past the Creamery and out to the arboretum. The rapper claimed that he hiked so far into the woods behind the arboretum that he found a lake. He proceeded to take off his clothes and go skinny dipping into this alleged lake and had his clothes stolen from him. He concluded his story by saying that an old lady gave him a piggyback ride all the way from the arboretum to the “THRIFT SHOP!”
Macklemore continued to engage the crowd in between songs, and played some of his biggest hits, such as “Same Love,” “Can’t Hold Us,” and “Wing$.” His show, complete with confetti, streamers, and pyrotechnics, was as impressive a show as you’ll ever see in Happy Valley. The show ended with Macklemore introducing the crowd to his entire crew and an encore performance of “Can’t Hold Us,” which ended one of the Bryce Jordan Center’s most high-octane shows in recent memory.
From the stands, I constantly overheard the repetitive hindsight occurring all around me that fans “should’ve gotten floor seats.” It didn’t matter for the majority of the show because of the cathartic release that so many people felt within that arena. The inspiring lyrics of the artist covered topics like getting sober, marriage equality, and advocating the need to break free of the “normal” and create new experiences. Macklemore has become an icon for a generation of independent musicians who desire to get their voices heard, and after more than a decade of recording and releasing his own music, the man known by few as Ben and by many as Macklemore can finally shimmer in the limelight of his own creation.
Maybe when he’s done touring, Pat Chambers can find a spot for him on the basketball team.