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Occasionally there are shows that, for one reason or another, aren’t accurate representations of the band on offer. SOB x RBE’s performance at U Street Music Hall was a prime example. If you went to the show on a whim without doing any background research on SOB x RBE, you would have walked away with two facts firmly rooted in your subconscious: (1) there are only two members of SOB x RBE (Slimmy B and DaBoii), and (2) they aren’t popular. Of course, the reality is much different. Not only are there four members (Slimmy B, DaBoii, Lul G, and Yhung T.O.), but the group is making waves as the “up next” hip hop group, gaining the fandom of luminaries such as Kendrick Lamar and E-40. But then again, reality is in the eye of the beholder, and none of what I witnessed at U Hall made any sense.

In my experience, whenever a show at U Hall is marketed as an “early show” the chances are high that it’s going to be a semi-empty show. And while I had hopes that SOB x RBE would prove me wrong, by the time they were set to come out around 8:40 p.m., the row of fans was barely stretching back six deep from the mainstage. To be honest, that really made things kind of uncomfortable, almost in the same way you become anxious when watching a show where the characters are put through socially-awkward situations. SOB x RBE’s music is almost entirely inspired by Oakland’s high-energy “hyphy” movement, and without a crowd reciprocating that energy the whole shtick (at least in a live setting) falls apart.

But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try. Unfortunately, with only two of the four members present, trying only went so far. And that’s a real damn shame because the first song they performed, the rapid and infectious “Carpoolin’,” is basically an SOB x RBE members 101. The full version of the song features a second half where Lul G and Yhung T.O. shine bar-for-bar, but without either of them there the song just sort of started and ended before having a chance to evolve. In recent interviews, SOB x RBE have reiterated they are not a “‘put-together’ type of group” and instead more akin to brothers with solo aspirations. I can’t really hate on that—some of the individual stuff the members (especially Yhung T.O.) have released is pretty good—but it’s disappointing to think that that mentality may already be manifesting itself in live performances.

For their part, Slimmy B and DaBoii had moments, especially in the beginning, where you almost thought they could carry the entire show. Each of them delivered a manifestation of a very quick Oakland-inspired cadence, and their individual talents were most profound when interlocked seamlessly with each other on songs like “Lane Changing.” SOB x RBE is at its best when each member goes at a song as if they’re in a tag-team wrestling match; when that happens their songs stretch out into maniac punch-for-punch demolitions, with each member waiting in the wings to jump in. Slimmy B and DaBoii definitely had those moments, but it just wasn’t the same and left me with a heavy “was that really what I should expect from them live” type of feeling as I walked out of the venue.

This review initially referred to U Street Music Hall as U Street Dance Hall. We regret the error.

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