On Friday night, Action Bronson and Riff Raff made Orpheum their veritable dojo for off-the-wall antics and dumb-fun rap in celebration of the SPOT’s annual skate contest, the Tampa Pro. Loaded with moments ranging from cringe-y depravity to utter hilarity, Friday night’s show proved there isn’t a more lawless yet incredible time for hip hop than today.
Walking into what easily could’ve doubled as a convention for Culturally-Conscious White Males Between the Ages of 18-30, the ubiquitous smell of ganj permeated the air as the mostly-dude crowd mulled about to a choice track selection from Tampa’s own DJ Sandman. Before long, the openers, Bronx New York’s B.I.C. (Bitches is crazy) made their entrance.
The mutli-man posse stormed the stage like a football team galloping out of one of those giant inflatable helmets before the game. They were intense; grimacing at the crowd, owning all sides of the sides, and barking out intelligible lines they were, like, really feeling it. There was a white guy who looks like Trash Talk’s Lee Spielman, if his every item in his wardrobe grew three sizes; I think he was the lead dude, but couldn't really tell. Some of the beats knock, but they’re drowned out by three dudes barking at any given time, which would’ve worked if they were headlining, and the place was popping off, but the crowd as a whole (myself included) seemed more wrapped up in getting a few drinks down than getting as wild as these dudes probably wanted us to be.
Entering the stage on Friday, Riff Raff played his Spring Breakers association up (many argue Franco’s character was based off Riff Raff) with a posse of three woozy and barely-clothed groupie/hype-women hybrids that make me never want to have daughters, ever. Throughout the entire set, they sauntered across the stage, bounced their asses on a sea of grope-y dude hands reaching up from the crowd, and swigged a shared bottle of Grey Goose like it was the liquefied version of the love they never got in their childhood. Riff Raff rapped (with two mics, one in each hand) over full versions of his tracks, with vocals included, so the whole thing was Riff Raff karaoke featuring his ass-clapping she-army. I slowly realized Riff Raff is best absorbed at a distance, through a screen, because up close, the whole thing is a little depressing and not as fun as you might imagine.
Before long, Action Bronson walked on, launching right into the opening track “Silverado” from his latest mixtape, Blue Chips 2. It’s magnificent; Bronson motioned and gestured across the stage, dapping the crowd, smoking from whatever anyone handed him, as the sampled stomp from Elton John’s “Island Girl” hit in the background. His (or producer Party Supplies') knack for vintage sampling was on full display as he ran through tracks like “Contemporary Man” built around a loop of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and “Pepe Lopez,” which samples The Champs' “Tequila.”
Right when it all started winding down, Action Bronson leapt from the stage, running through the crowd, and eventually out on to 7th Avenue as a swarm followed him through the night. He rounded the block, still with his mic in hand, eventually returning in time to catch a few shots before he headed back in. He wrapped up with the Tracy Chapman-sampled “Amadu Diablo” from the second story of the Orpheum, then did a new song (I think?) with Riff Raff before it all promptly ended at the stroke of midnight.
Literally and figuratively huge, Action Bronson's presence was a welcome force inside the Orpheum on Friday night. As he ambled around, rhyming on everything from gourmet foods to his sexual exploits (and sometimes blurring the lines between the two), he proved that rap doesn't have to be as hard as people think it has to be to elicit respect. It can be absurd and comical and all the more magnetic when the stars align for a guy like Bronson.