“Bowl cuts was the craze / I was crazy,” spat Asher Roth in Douglass Dining Hall on Friday, Sep. 27. The lyric adequately sums up the MC’s current stage in his career: Roth, best known for his 2009 suburban-bubblegum-rap single “I Love College,” wants you to know he’s playing the rap game for real this time. If his UR performance (on the heels of a sophomore album titled “RetroHash”) is any indication, Roth’s “real” combines a floppy, slack-jawed past with a more tactful present. This being the case, Asher Roth 2.0 proving himself to a college crowd was, for the most part, a piece of cake. While Roth’s weed-culture-revering schtick fell a little flat among a crowd of students more likely to solve for t than smoke trees, he established a rapport with UR through his earnest energy.   Roth’s rap style and flow throughout the performance evoked Jay-Z bravado and Beastie Boys nasal twang – while not super diverse or game-changing, the tact was fun and engaging. In addition, Roth’s stage dive and “I Love College” closer, in which he invited students on stage, made for a memorable performance.

Still, the most anticipated part of the night was the show’s main act, Vic Mensa. Mensa, an MC who’s collaborated with Chance the Rapper and toured with Danny Brown, provided a set whose energy was on par with major music festival performances. Mensa’s DJ came out of the gate with a string of 20-second rap samples that got the crowd sufficiently pumped: Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle,” Kanye West’s “Power,” and OutKast’s “B.O.B.” among others. Mensa’s presence matched his DJ’s boisterous energy as he delivered numerous crowd-pleasers, from the Chance the Rapper collaboration track “Cocoa Butter Kisses” to his recent single, “Down on My Luck.” In addition, Mensa’s synth-heavy and icy production style, evocative of Kanye West’s “808’s and Heartbreak,”  made the performance future-forward and exhilarating.

While UR’s billing of two rappers for its fall concert might have alienated students hoping to see “real musicians,” Roth and Mensa proved that the DJ/MC duo is no less legitimate than a rock band.  Both rappers offered distinct and captivating performances that felt gargantuan despite their meager attendance. Sure, it’s a shame there weren’t more people in the audience to chant the chorus of Kendrick Lamar’s “M.a.a.D. City” along with Mensa’s DJ, but at least those who did attend got to share in the profane beauty of the moment. Here’s to waving your middle finger in the air.

Howard is a member of 

the class of 2017.



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