There are, very broadly, two ways to be offensive: Cause a disturbance that targets vulnerable people, or cause one aimed at the powerful.
The latter can be constructive, even (eventually) applauded. Think suffragettes or John Brown. The other way? That would be Donald Trump and his "anti-PC" warriors who fetishize offensiveness and claim to speak unpleasant truth but are just rationalizing their hateful words about immigrants, Muslims, black people, women, U.S. allies, etc. It’s unfortunate that the MAGA crowd has co-opted such an effective cultural device and have used it to reinforce the disparity of power. Luckily, sometimes an artist can remind you of what it means to be offensive in the best way possible.
$UICIDEBOY$ is one of those artists, and their Tuesday show at Toyota Music Factory felt exceptionally revolting. Not exactly revolting against the political milieu or any specific institution, but against a general sense of social order.
The New Orleans hip-hop duo was offensive in the same way that Marilyn Manson was offensive, and if parents haven’t yet heard of them, they likely soon will. The crowd looked to be about 5,000 strong, and if the short lines at the bars were any indication, this audience was exceptionally young. What other type of fan would wait in line at a venue before 5 p.m. on a weeknight and stay for four to six hours? Who else but a teenager/young adult below drinking age would have the belly fire necessary to tirelessly mosh over the course of seven different sets?
With such a young and enthusiastic crowd, it was clear from the get-go that $UICIDEBOY$ were indeed popular, but at the same time, everyone’s little secret. This may be the first time that you have heard of them, and if that's the case, their crossover appeal and aesthetic may be a bit tough to explain, but everything about that can be surmised by their opening artists.
One of these was Miami rapper Denzel Curry, who was at the cutting edge of trap’s emergence, along with other Floridian contemporaries such as Ski Mask the Slump God, Kodak Black and the late XXXTentacion, whom Curry paid tribute to toward the end of his set (XXX and Curry used to be roommates).
Also on this package were two significant torchbearers in '10s hardcore punk: Trash Talk and Turnstile. The former helped usher both hardcore and hip-hop into a new frontier in their famous camaraderie with Odd Future, and the latter has taken so many left turns from Integrity and Earth Crisis orthodoxy that they have drawn comparisons to 311 and even have a song produced by Diplo.
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Given how well all these acts meshed, a unifying thread clearly bound all of them together: Their sets were dangerous, literally and figuratively. Whenever New York hardcore hip-hop duo City Morgue opened the umpteenth circle pit of the evening, co-founder ZillaKami asked the audience who the toughest person was in the pit. When an adorably naive attendee raised his hand, the rest of the crowd was asked to follow him, and they, uh, obliged.
All the evening’s mosh pit-related insanity culminated during Trash Talk’s set, and vocalist Lee Spielman almost certainly raised the hackles of the venue's security team. When the band performed the stoner metal-inspired track “Hash Wednesday,” Spielman told members of the audience to smoke weed in the open all at once. At one point, he said, “First one to hop onstage gets $100,” and by some miracle, security was able to keep tenacious fans from getting past the barricade. By the end of the set, Spielman asked those in the pit to go to the lawn and to “bring the pit” to those who couldn’t afford standing room passes. A mass exodus from the floor to the grass followed, and about 1,000 or so people moshed in the lawn as Trash Talk closed their set.
They made plenty of fans and blew some young, impressionable minds that night, but $UICIDEBOY$ were still the main attraction and received the most praise from the audience when they took the stage at 10 p.m. on the dot. The Three 6 Mafia influence is rather on the nose, and the stylistic abrasiveness and the lyrical despondence isn’t exactly original in hip-hop; some of the harsh electronic instrumentals sounded a bit like HEALTH, and at times, the band’s infusion of industrial metal sort of recalled Psalm 69-era Ministry.
And sure, one could argue that $UICIDEBOY$ are musically and lyrically edgy for the fashion of it, but it speaks volumes about them that a fortuitous assemblage of opening acts can blend together so cohesively under their umbrella. $UICIDEBOY$ embodies an entangled nexus, but somehow everything about the show made sense. The stylistic intricacies of certain acts may have been worlds apart from that of others, but the spirit of raising hell and causing unbridled disturbance was consistent across the board.