Live: Bobby Shmurda Hit the Shmoney Dance While Yo Gotti Hit His Stride
Two very different on-the-rise rappers came together for an intimate show at the Alife store last night.
The lot behind Alife’s shoe store doesn’t fit that many people; real estate agents would call it “cozy” because it’s cramped and “a backyard” because even though it's basically a concrete sandbox, it's charming. Last night, a hundred people—mostly guys, a few brave girls—crammed themselves in, hoping to catch a glimpse of the zeitgeist. Publicists sent out alerts: it’d be at capacity, get there early, your gods and RSVPs meant nothing to them. So around 7 PM, the place was packed with self-described tastemakers, IRS-defined bloggers. Budweisers were passed out and drunk, blunts were lit; A$AP Lou Banga rolled through several, his Chanel ski goggles tilted to the side of his forehead. Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua was there, along with writers from every music publication. People filmed one another, setting up recap videos to post the following day: “We at Alife, Bobby Shmurda, Yo Gotti’s coming through. Sun’s not even down and it’s already getting lit.” The cameras were inescapable, and all they were capturing were people standing around, waiting.
It was a little past 9 PM when the DJ started playing the first 22 seconds of “Hot N—a,” the Lloyd Banks song that Bobby Shmurda made his: sirens ring out in warning before a GS9 member trills his tongue in a bird call and the drop comes with a child screaming, “Jahlil Beats, holla at me.” The writers, the designers, the cameramen, the A$AP Lou Banga—everyone—lined up on either side of the door, as if ready for the hometown football team or the happy couple to run through. But no one came. And so the song would start over: sirens, bird call, “Jahlil Beats, holla at me.” Sirens, bird call, “Jahlil Beats, holla at me.” After fifteen minutes, the DJ switched to Young Thug.
Everything’s moved so fast in Bobby Shmurda’s world; people could afford to wait a little longer.
Bobby Shmurda, a 20-year-old from Brooklyn, has become so famous so quickly that you can track his ascent on Instagram: there’s the post from five months ago, where he brags that his video for “Shmoney Dance” has gotten a thousand views in a day. Three months later, he took a screenshot of his Twitter. It had 212 followers. Two weeks after that, “Hot N—a” picked up steam and—after six-second clips circulated where he’d throw his hat and it wouldn’t land; after being flown to Miami by Meek Mill; after Drake walked out to “Hot N—a” at the ESPYs—he signed a deal with LA Reid and Epic Records for a reported $2.8M which would allow him and his GS9 crew to have ownership of two label imprints. He celebrated by climbing on the table of the conference room and throwing his hat in the air.
Some have compared this deal to that of Trinidad Jame$ or Kreayshawn, where record labels back up Brinks trucks because they don’t understand the hype cycle; some have said this was LA Reid flexing his budget for future signees. My personal feeling is that no one knows what will happen in anything. Countless couples take their time doing everything right only to end up divorced; my parents held their wedding a year, a month, a week and a day after they’d met. They were happily married for 35 years. Sometimes it just feels right and it is.
Last night, they never walked through the tunnel we had all created. The GS9 guys somehow just suddenly appeared up front, small heads barely poking above the cameras. Bobby had a grey Yankees hat on, which he threw at the appropriate moment of “Hot N—a.” (It landed about twenty feet away from him. I repeat: it landed.) Rowdy Rebbel wore BBC suspenders over a BBC tee shirt tucked into sweatpants that may have been BBC-branded. They screamed, they danced, they churned in a circle, a whirlpool of arms and legs fighting the air. “Computers,” arguably their best song, had them saying lines like, “I think that I’m Tom Cruise!” and “Gingerbread, bitch!” Against the fence behind them, two women sucked on orange popsicles, unimpressed. No one danced while watching the Brooklyn rappers, which is weird, since it has a ready-made dance. Everyone had been too busy trying to capture the moment to take it in. Between songs, Rowdy scrunched his face more than usual: “Y’all ain’t gonna turn up? Y’all ain’t gonna sweat with me?” The cameras stayed up, people stood still. As they left, someone wondered why “you’d start off with your best song.”
Yo Gotti’s career has been slower, uphill, full of unexpected twists and road blocks, and yet—15 years in the game—he’s very much still here, still on the rise. (Even more accelerated now that he's joined the Lil Wayne vs. Drake tour for a few dates.) He doesn’t dance. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke. He is a blue-collar, nose-to-grindstone 9-to-5er, a unicorn in the industry. DatPiff is littered with the MP3s of flashes in the pan and one-track wonders. For Yo Gotti, nothing has come easily to him, so it’s just as hard to take it away.
Last night, Gotti must have known that few came to Alife to see him. If he didn’t, he probably made note of all those who got up and left after Shmurda’s set. But there he was, winning people over one by one. His hat, firmly placed on the very top of his head, sat still, adjusted every once in a while by a very gold wrist. His voice strong and clear—though raspy as all hell—he worked through a handful of his most recent club rumblers—his own “I Know" and “Act Right,” Snootie Wild's "Yayo." Gotti had a better performance than Bobby Shmurda, though few will talk about it on the blogs today. But workhorses always last longer than racehorses. Maybe it really does pay off to be slow and steady.
Jeff Rosenthal will toss his hat and it may never land. He's on Twitter — @ItsTheReal