D.C. showed Minneapolis hip hop some love on Friday night; this time around with more Doomtree! For those who aren’t familiar (and you should be), Doomtree is a kind-of mash-up of emcees & producers/DJs who dabble in a little bit of everything – hip hop, hardcore, spoken word, indie rock (and that might just be one song). The theme of the night was definitely “expect the unexpected”. This tour features more of the crew than I had ever seen before: P.O.S, Sims, Hand Over Fist. Doomtree does a great job of covering all their bases and leaving nothing to be desired.
I arrived just in time to catch P.O.S (aka Stefan Alexander) outside & narrowly escape a fight that had spilled out of the lobby and out onto H street (or more accurately: into the car behind us). Considering we all had our back to the doors, I was pretty excited to have my camera in one piece; the two guys throwing punches did take a couple guys with them on the way out the door. Stef didn’t really flinch and once it blew over, he resumed picture taking and hung out for a bit.
After that slight delay, we made our way inside to catch the beginning of Sims‘ set. Now I’ve seen Sims twice before and I was ready to hear some new jams; he’s one of the Doomtree who tours faithfully and is super versatile onstage. His last album, Lights Out Paris, got rave reviews (Urb gave it a 4.5 out of 5) & he’s cultivated quite a serious stage presence backing up P.O.S and putting on shows with Doomtree. Sims didn’t disappoint and debuted a few new tracks (his next full length is due sometime in the next few months). Sims really likes to tell stories and his songs are often filled with social commentary; his new tracks are in that same vein, albeit less angry than his last album. He offered explanations of the new songs here and there; joking that he didn’t want to preach.
Next up was Hand Over Fist, aka Mike Mictlan & Laserbeak. Mike Mictlan’s steez is a a little less serious than Sims’; he wants to make you dance more than he wants to tell you a story. That’s not to say that his verses weren’t serious, but his beats were more a bit more playful. Mike didn’t let the crowd down when cheers for the song “Slow Burn” erupted; Sims promptly jumped onstage to perform the song that was definitely a high point of the night. The whole vibe of the two openers was very intimate; both Sims & Mike joined in on each other’s songs periodically which gave the show a very lighthearted feel. The crowd definitely had more fun because it seemed like Doomtree just has so much fun.
The last time I saw P.O.S in D.C, he was opening on Atmosphere’s last tour and had lost his voice, but carried on with his set anyway. A few guys in the crowd weren’t amused & yelled out for him to get off stage. This was probably one of the highlights of that night; those guys were a couple people over from me & Stef was pretty defiant about carrying on. I’m pretty sure the guys made their way to the bar or the door after that because the rest of his set was stellar. Stef opened his set this time around by recounting this episode; no doubt hoping we’d redeem ourselves tonight. One noteworthy aspect of his live shows are hus his uber-dedicated fans. I ran into people from North Carolina, Baltimore & Philly. Even if he’s going to hit up those places as well, P.O.S fans are notorious for road-tripping to see his shows (and yes, I’ve seen him in 3 cities near D.C.) P.O.S responded to calls for older songs by stressing that this is the Never Better Tour (ie he just released that album, so that’s what he was playing). Both Mike & Sims joined him onstage at some point & added verses here and there. If you’ve heard the new single “Drumroll“, then you have some idea of how intense the new record is. The beats are still abrasive, the rhymes are still raw and the delivery is still killer; but he’s just taken everything up a few notches. The end result was a set that rocked harder than any set I’ve seen him play; as he’s just beginning to get more recognition he’s found his niche balancing super-intense with emotionally charged.