First, let’s just get the irony of the situation out of the way: a chart-topping college dropout headlined a University-sponsored concert on the quad last Saturday.
Moving right along, it’s possible to look at this year’s Spring Fling and see the play list from an eccentric mix CD someone made for you. Numerous musical genres ranging from dreamy jams and piano pop to the always crowd-pleasing hip-hop of Kanye West contributed to the festive atmosphere. Kudos to the Program Board for booking an artist that allowed it to name the event after something that rhymes with “fling.”
To kick off this year’s festivities, PB selected two acts close to the University’s heart – GW bands Exit Clov and the Sunday Mail. Each of the young acts gave an impressive performance.
A mix of indie pop melodies and jam lead guitar, Exit Clov exhibited pop sensibilities to the outdoor audience and used the stage as a platform to promote its May 3 show at the Black Cat. Following that band’s performance were friends and fellow students the Sunday Mail, who combined unique piano melodies and experimented with various rock sounds. But Sunday Mail was ultimately faced with a crowd demanding more when they had nothing else to play for them.
Between sets, a shift in the audience took place, as Sunday Mail’s fan base moved back and the more involved hip-hop fans crowded around the stage. For a change of pace, NBS took the stage, warming up the crowd with Boston-based hip-hop. Despite promoting itself more than playing songs, NBS still managed to get the crowd energized through the performance clich? of audience participation. Pretty soon, “uh-huh” chants were echoing through University Yard.
As the warm afternoon sun faded and shadows fell from surrounding trees and buildings, Kanye West took the stage. West proves how someone can make the best of an incomplete college career and near fatal car accident that made him get his jaw temporarily wired shut; making an album based on these experiences. Similar in style to his counterpart and collaborator, Talib Kweli, the currently hot Roc-A-Fella star went right into material off the new album, The College Dropout.
From his background as a producer, West has a developed a knack for creating original beats. Along with his unique blend of digital sampling, true hip-hop rhymes and piano-tinged R&B choruses, the hour-plus performance featured many tracks off the new album and ones that he produced for his hip-hop peers Jay-Z, and Alicia Keys. Just before performing “Get ’em High,” he bluntly asked, “How many of you all are smoking up today?” which elicited a stirring audience response.
Accompanied only by a pianist, a sampler and a menacing entourage, West displayed his brilliant stage presence before a crowd of more than 5,600. Although this rapper-turned-producer is admittedly self-righteous, he explores his humbler side on the track “Through the Wire,” in which he recounts the tale of his car accident and recovery. Employing an aptitute for wit throughout the dreadful story, he raps, “I drink a Boost for breakfast, and Ensure for dizzert. Somebody order pancakes, I just sip the Sizzurp.”
If his ability as performer is any indication of things to come, more can be expected from Kanye and other true hip-hop artists.
-Sacha Evans contributed to this report.