“This performance will begin promptly at 7 p.m. with a duration of approximately 90 minutes,” was the New Museum’s opening line about the performance of kid duo Main Attrakionz on its website. It was written in bold, which denoted that the art institution meant this to be true, and perhaps even more important than all the other unbolded stuff underneath it. In this reviewer’s personal history of hip-hop shows, about 0 percent have actually run on time (Unspoken Rule Of Hip-Hop Shows #3: running two hours behind schedule is acceptable, if not expected). A 7.05 p.m. arrival (it was in bold, after all) into the basement theater’s all white everything, with chairs in neatish rows side by side taking up the entire floor space, silently said, “this is a hip-hop show to be viewed through an art gallery interface.” It was a weird vibe—potentially making for a weird show—but so far, at least it had the makings to be a prompt one.
A brief introduction by a New Museum staff member and awkward round of applause later led to the shuffling of DJ Walkmaster Flex to the back unlit corner of the stage. We sat in our chairs, arms folded, empathizing with his discomfort of having all eyes on him as he played cuts off a computer that was sitting on a much too short (for his tall frame) table on wheels. He was doing what most DJs at any hip-hop show do; warming the atmosphere to make it loose enough for the main attraction/Attrakionz, but the nature of the room and the behavior it dictated made it unsettlingly like we were about to undertake an activity in cultural observation.
Thankfully MondreM.A.N. and Squadda B knew what they were up against and either didn’t give a fuck, or thought that it was funny and decided to go ham anyway to prove a point. “New Museum!” MondreM.A.N. exclaimed intermittently to the seated crowd, as if he was going through the traditional ceremony of a rap show, and at the same time was particularly bemused at where it was taking place. The sincerity of the two Oakland, CA 20-year-olds (it was their first time in New York, they said) was too real for it not to be endearing, and thanks to one superfan—there’s usually at least one in every crowd—people pushed themselves out of their chairs and collectively stood up. Squadda smiled through gold teeth and Mondre pimp-walked around the stage, somehow managing to keep his pants up despite falling below his tush. They performed in a more animated and together manner than what we would expect of blog-rap, falling in and back out of unison when needed, their tone careening from high to low from line to line.
By this stage the show wasn’t about cultural observation; Main Attrakionz had fans there that mouthed lines to their internet-released tracks and appreciated their weird yet wise choice of beats (that has, in part, contributed to them being labeled as ‘experimental rap’ with help of producers like Clams Casino). People began crowding up front, taking out their iPhones and Blackberrys to save a portion of now for later. “I always want more, so I never meet perfection,” Squadda rapped on “Perfect Skies,” as the largely cool bro crowd with a smattering of girls nodded along, appreciating his waxing philosophical.
It was real while Main Attrakionz was on stage, but as soon as Walkmaster Flex cut out on Mondre and Squadda’s last track (a little after the allotted 90 minutes, FYI) and they scampered backstage, the lights came on and everything was white again. We shuffled past chairs in uneven rows to the sound of silence.
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