Mainstream hip-hop’s continued adoption of the aesthetics of punk has elevated rappers like New Yorker $NOT and his regular collaborator Eem Triplin with their short, punchy songs, slogan-ready lyrics, and love of the euphoric physical release of a mosh pit.
The many fans of the genre and these artists have responded in kind. The hundreds of young Portlanders who crammed into the Crystal Ballroom last week to catch a live performance by $NOT, Triplin, and their friend Night Lovell spent the entire night testing the tensile strength of the venue’s famously springy dance floor, leaping and bouncing gleefully. T-shirts and plumes of weed smoke were sent into the air with abandon. To everyone’s credit, the chaotic mass of bodies suffered seemingly few ill effects beyond security tossing out the occasional overzealous teen and one poor soul collapsing during $NOT’s headlining set. (The latter prompted a snide response from one of the tour’s lighting engineers: “Stop doing fentanyl!”)
From the relative calm of the 21-plus section at the Crystal, it was easier to assess the stark differences between the three artists that hit the stage last Wednesday. Triplin and Lovell opt for a blunter approach. Their trap beats tend to stay in one temporal zone and their lyrics stick to the themes of fucking and getting fucked up. Both men’s performances were also the ones that worked to rile up the audience, pulling from the thrash metal playbook as they urged the crowd to separate into two halves before directing them to slam together.