Things were going well for Ashnikko when she took the stage at Canton Hall on Friday night. The North Carolina-based rapper, who is on tour in support of Detroit rapper Danny Brown, seemed to be in her element during her lively set. The audience of roughly 600 people was receptive, and for a moment, the performer-audience synergy was strong.
But as the old saying goes, “One bad apple spoils the bunch.”
One attendee became the inadvertent focal point of the show when he heckled Ashnikko, saying “her music sucks” and asking her to “eat [his] ass,” with an apparent sexual undertone.
“Shut the fuck up,” she retorted to nearly unanimous applause. “Shut the fuck up while I’m onstage.”
Hecklers often become the center of attention for just a few minutes, only for the show to resume at its usual pace. This was not one of those shows, and the public shaming didn’t end after Ashnikko’s set.
As Brown took the stage at around 9:40 p.m., he made eye contact with the heckler and issued a scathing rebuke.
“Hey, my n***a,” said Brown. “Heard that hoe-ass shit you said to my niece, my n***a.” Amid scattered boos, Brown continued, “How do you think I’m supposed to handle that?”
That question was, of course, rhetorical, as Brown already had an answer: Carry the public shaming all the way to the end of the show so the heckler can be made into an example.
After performing “Savage Nomad,” he went into 10 minutes of stage banter, recalling previous Dallas shows in which one unruly audience member was all it took to dampen the experience. Brown was making intermittent eye contact with the heckler as he recounted a 2012 show with Childish Gambino at what is now South Side Ballroom, where a group of disinterested attendees continuously chanted, “Gambino! Gambino! Gambino!”
After this brief anecdote, Brown pointed the crowd’s attention back to the harasser in saying, “At the end of the day, man, if you see me with a motherfucker that open [sic] for me, man, that’s some motherfucker that I’m a fan of.” He continued to speak fondly of Ashnikko, going so far as to say that he will soon be opening for her.
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Brown made it clear to the audience that he and openers Ashnikko and Zeelooperz were a package deal, and any self-proclaimed fan of his who disrespects them isn’t, as the rapper put it, “a true fan of Danny Brown.”
After ending what was essentially a stand-up performance mixed with a bitter diatribe, Brown closed his hourlong set with “Best Life” and ended his set with the request to “respect women.”
The following afternoon, Ashnikko tweeted about the incident, saying the following:
"last night some lame ass dude was heckling me n shouting that my 'music sucks' while I was onstage. put his own headphones on & nearly had me in fuckin tears midset. Then @xdannyxbrownx comes onstage & stops his show to say this! a legend! I will never stop singin his praises."
It's a shame that this episode defined the entire evening, but at the same time, adamantly standing up for an opening act and decrying disrespectful and sexist remarks are made even more effective and admirable when not confined to a five-minute window. Still, this review was originally intended to dive into Brown’s performance and the artistic maturity he is showcasing surrounding his new full-length album uknowwhatimsayin?
Music is a young person’s game, but Brown managed to gain traction at age 30 when he released his sophomore album XXX (pronounced “thirty” or “triple-x” — both pronunciations are used interchangeably in the title track). He became a huge draw in the alternative hip-hop scene of the early ‘10s for his distinctive, nasal voice and his ability to write decadent songs about partying and sex++- with a subtle dark undertone.
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Brown is now 38, and his latest studio effort shows him as a rapper who has paid dues and has had his fill of partying. He even joked about his age toward the end of his set, but his focus immediately shifted elsewhere as some disrespectful idiots kept shouting song requests like he was an Alexa or Siri type of AI service.
And that brings us back to the point of ill-mannered audience members. There’s some subliminal “the customer is always right” mentality that some concertgoers possess, and it makes them think that heckling an opener is in good form. It makes them think that shouting song requests to the performer as they are conversing with the audience is acceptable behavior.
None of this would have happened if these people didn’t feel entitled to an artist fulfilling their expectations. Nobody heckles an opener without feeling like they should get off the stage at their command. Nobody shouts song requests at the most inopportune moments without thinking their desires are more important than what the artist has to say.
They essentially saw themselves as the center of attention. For the worst possible reasons, they were correct.