Red Bull has increasingly shown interest in the music scene as a new avenue for it to market its beverages directly to the culture. With the addition of new flavors to their lineup, they’re increasingly moving beyond the extreme sports crowd and getting into the game of cocktail and nightlife culture. It’s not all Jäger bombs anymore, so it was exciting to see the brand take over Aisle 5 recently for a showcase of artists selected by Afropunk matched with some specialty drinks for the evening. As I walked up to the venue, I saw the line stretched for two blocks down the street, so there was no fear of this being a dead night.
DJ Ohso, who is part of Bae Worldwide (read our profile on them here), got the room warmed up with a medley of R&B, hip-hop, and other well-known jams that had people singing along and getting settled into drink number two before all the action really got going. Baby Baby came on next and really surprised me. They were a straight up punk band, and even though I don’t really like punk, it was refreshing to see a change of pace from what I’m used to. They certainly performed with that raw energy we all expect from a punk rock band, and the crowd really responded to it. Maybe we’ll see more of that energy make a comeback in 2017. Afropunk is a growing and powerful brand, so it’ll be interesting to see what they are able to push into the culture with this momentum and the support of brands like Red Bull.
Kamau delivered my favorite performance of the night, and was unafraid to spread a bigger message than just his music. Early in his set, he won my heart by performing a slowed-down, soulful cover of “Hey Ya” by Outkast that got the whole crowd singing along with him. He capitalized on that energy by asking for some crowd participation. He had everyone in the audience brace their bodies with their arms wide and roar at him, before saying, “That’s the energy that’s required for revolution. Internal and external revolution!” He also had everyone put their hands up in the air and bring them down on the shoulders of the people standing next to them. We all repeated in unison after him, “I love you. I love you more than what you look like, what you believe in, and what clothes you have on. I love you. I love myself. And that’s the same thing.” It was a really wonderful moment that he kept going by speaking about the true message behind the Black Lives Matter movement, and the whole crowd, of every color joined him with fists raised as a symbol of support for black people across America today. It made me so happy to live in a city and be part of a culture where views like that can be expressed and are received openly by the entire audience.
Goldlink came on to raucous applause, and delivered a very energetic performance. At one point, he used an open bottle of water to simulate a phallus before flinging it over the crowd. It felt like a bit more of a rock star act than was warranted at an Aisle 5 show with people dressed up in winter gear, but then again, I'm not a rock star. What would I know? Aside from his one big single, I didn't know any of his other songs, and couldn't tell you if I enjoyed any of the new tracks I heard as he was impossible to understand on the microphone. I see lots of rappers, singers, and even hype men regularly eat the mic and muffle it in their hands, killing all the dynamic range and sensitivity of the device. So, I was disappointed, but it looked like several of his fans had a great time at the show, so no shade on them. Overall, Goldlink was confident and relaxed, and seemed completely comfortable on stage, so I expect him to continue his career with no slowing down anytime soon.
Werc Crew boss Xavier BLK closed down the night with a mix of twerk, trap, and moombahton beats mixed in between hip-hop hits. His mixing almost approached EDM styles at a few points, with some big builds, but they never gave way to the massive drops that I’ve come to expect on the other side. His set of mostly pop anthems, old Atlanta favorites, and assorted club bangers didn’t impress me much, but maybe it wasn’t meant to. It was crowd pleasing music and it seemed to get the job done. Overall the night was a success for all parties involved, but Kamau outshone every other performer in my opinion. His performance is one that I won’t forget for some time, and I’ll look for him again in the future; and I suggest you do too.