Live Review: Joey Bada$$ + Run The Jewels + David Dallas - The Hi-Fi, Sydney (07.01.14)

With Falls Festival done and dusted for another year it was time for major hip hop drawcards Run The Jewels and Joey Bada$$ to take off on a brief double-headline tour around Australia, beginning with Sydney at The Hi-Fi. Along for the ride was accomplished Auckland emcee David Dallas, bringing with him the same strong body of work that has him as one of the best emcees to ever make it big out of New Zealand.

Dallas was on first of course, arriving to a largely unaware crowd with a simple smile. It seems like winning people over comes natural to 32 year old rapper, and being relatively unknown to a young, hipster-heavy Sydney crowd was absolutely no problem to him, he knew he was going to walk away with hundreds of new fans that night. First it's a show of technical know how, as he flips a class AZ line on "My Mentality" and proudly delivers the lyrically impressive track with finesse. Then it's a showcase of his sense for melody with "Caught In A Daze" and "Til Tomorrow" both catching on fast, their choruses quickly chanted right back at the stage.

The NZ emcee never once stumbled or slowed down, edging in sharp, witty lyrics and clever hooks, spun over some very crisp, authentic hip hop beats. By the time Dallas got to his career-changing verse on Scribe's classic "Not Many (Remix)", the audience had gone from dead silent to eager fans, ready to eat up whatever he threw at us. Closing with two of his finest tracks - the celebratory "Take a Picture" and the brilliant "Runnin" - David Dallas saluted the crowd and walked off stage with a huge smile on his face, knowing very well that everyone would go home that night planning to google the hell out of his extensive back catalogue.

Set List

My Mentality
Caught in a Daze
Til Tomorrow
Indulge Me
Big Time
Transmitting Live
Get Out the Way
Not Many (Remix) (Verse)
Take a Picture

One of the many great things about Run The Jewels is that the increasingly popular project is exactly what you'd get when you add Killer Mike and El-P together, a precise mash-up of their respective and respected approaches to hip hop: powerful, aggressive, intelligent, and innovative. It was an unlikely duo to begin with; one would have expected Mike to pair up with a Bun-B, a Big Boi or a T.I, not an underground rapper-producer from Brooklyn who has been in the game for much longer than he has. Both emcees are highly respected and acclaimed as solo artists, and they have been for a fairly long time, the fact that it took a chance collaboration as RTJ to really propel them into the universal spotlight, with both rappers now 39 years old, is fascinating. What's more is that they haven't really changed anything about themselves or compromised anything about their individual styles; both have always been ahead of their time, and I guess that time is now.

As such, there's a feverish excitement as soon as they step out on stage, launching straight into "Run The Jewels" and barely managing to cut through all the extremely loud fanfare, despite their best efforts. The first track in sets as anticipated as this one is always a bit of a write-off, purely because everyone is too excited and loud to stop and actually listen, so the real display of Run The Jewels began with the ferocious "Oh My Darling Don't Cry" which bled into the slow-creeping synths of "Blockbuster Night Pt 1", two of the stand-out tracks from their highly regarded free album RTJ2.

Reaching back to last year and pulling material from their self-titled debut, the ridiculously energetic duo ran through "Banana Clippers", "36' Chain", "DDFH" and "Sea Legs", a huge string of dope back-and-forth verses backed by El-P's distinct, hard-knocking production. Whether it's the mesmerising braggadocio of the futuristic "36' Chain" or the bouncy narrative detail of "DDFH", RTJ certainly know how to show their diversity while consistently showing us a style that is uniquely theirs.

The only way to follow a strong run like that is turn the mayhem up a little bit, really moving the crowd all over the floor with a thunderous banger in the form of "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)", which was met with so much energy that Killer Mike and El-P were left with no choice but to return that intensity ten fold, particularly Mike as he screamed his verse until his voice started to strain.

A string of RTJ2's best tracks like "Pew Pew Pew", "All Due Respect", and the powerful "Early" all made an appearance towards the end, preceding the playful "Get It" which saw some very loose dance moves from Killer Kill, and emotionally potent set-closer "A Christmas Fucking Miracle".

The chemistry between the two is unrivaled right now as far as hip hop duos go, and their casual, playful crowd interaction - including spotting a guy in a wheelchair in the crowd, and bringing him on stage to watch the show - makes the set that much more entertaining.

Things are only looking up for this unstoppable team, and they put on a dynamic performance completely indicative of that, feeding off of each other and the crowd to set take the energy David Dallas brought to the stage and kick it into overdrive.

Set List

Run the Jewels
Oh My Darling Don't Cry
Blockbuster Night Pt 1
Banana Clippers
36' Chain
Sea Legs
Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
Pew Pew Pew
Lie, Cheat, Steal
All Due Respect
Love Again (Akinyele Back)
Get It
A Christmas Fucking Miracle

The crowd was one big pool of sweat by the time Joey Bada$$ strutted across the stage, rapping "Intro" and "95 'Till Infinity" with precision and his charming delivery. What he does could be seen as a 90's revival of sorts, but there's something undeniably contemporary about this very young emcee. While fellow New York new-gen rappers like A$AP Rocky have pulled on other styles in hip hop - like Texas screw music - Joey has remained very much grounded in New York, working meticulously to carry on the very rich legacy of golden era hip hop while standing as one of the most progressive young emcees to make a huge impact on the rap game in a long, long time.

Two weeks out from his debt album, B4.Da.$$, Badass gave the Hi-Fi a tremendous and compelling set, giving us an expansive look into his career so far and just why he has been cosigned by some of the best to ever bless the mic.

One huge reason for his sound, the equally talented and important producer-DJ Statik Selektah was behind the wheels of steel, chopping up the set like he could do this in his sleep.

It's not all just thoughtful lyrics, witty wordplay, and technical mastery for Badass though, he draws upon the best parts of peers like Nas and Onyx to make sure the crowd is as hype and turnt as possible. Playful anthemic tracks like "World Domination" and a verse from now-classic posse cut "1 Train", a track which instantly joined the ranks of the best multi-emcee tracks in hip hop history.

He built up a track list which guided us throughout his career so far, building up to the excellent "Waves" and continuing on with a line of tracks to prep us for B4.Da.$$, a strength-to-strength burst of "Big Dusty", "Christ Consciousness", and the supremely hype "No. 99", all of which the crowd knew word for word, his hardcore fans obviously out in full force.

You can't have a Joey Bada$$ show without a platform for the wider Pro Era movement though, so we got a solid three-song hit from partner-in-rhyme CJ Fly who knocked out "Sup Preme" and "Do It For The Love" before helping Joey through the anthemic "Hardknock", his own "Hard Knock Life".

The lyrically mind-blowing "Curry Chicken" and the profound "On & On" preceded a touching tribute to fallen soldier Capital STEEZ rounding out the set, bringing in the soulful "Like Water" and the frantic "Survival Tactics" for an effective showing of just how equally talented the members of Pro Era are and have been.

Less meaningful but included for it's crazy energy, the rolling drumline of "My Young Ni**az" served as the encore, bringing Joey back out to test the crowd's stamina one last time before he made his exit.

Set List

95 'Til Infinity
World Domination
1 Train (Verse)
Sweet Dreams
Funky Ho
Big Dusty
Christ Consciousness
No. 99
Sup Preme (CJ Fly Featuring Joey Bada$$)
Do It for the Love (CJ Fly solo)
Hardknock (Featuring CJ Fly)
Curry Chicken
On & On
Like Water
Survival Tactics

My Young Ni**az

Remaining Tour Dates:

January 8th - The Forum, Melbourne |

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