All photos: Emily Cohen
The last time I saw Chiddy Bang, it was at my tiny liberal arts college several years ago. Needless to say, seeing them again at the 9:30 club was a big change in setting. It may not be the biggest of venues, but it’s certainly a far cry from a grungy basement outside of Philadelphia with barely enough room for a tightly-packed few hundred people and no real stage of which to speak. They may have come a long way in terms of mainstream success since then, but they still know how to deliver on a raucous, sweat-drenched dance party – it was just a much bigger one this time.
I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently that show I went to in college was the first official gig ever for Chidera Anamege, aka “Chiddy,” and his producer Noah Beresin, who goes by “Xaphoon Jones.” It seems that over time, they’ve developed a bit of an entourage – at this show, the pair were accompanied by a guitarist (Beresin was on drums) and a backup vocalist/rapper who I have not been able to identify for the life of me. He wore his backpack the entire time though, had a drink in hand for most of it, and seemed to be getting fairly hammered – so props to you for style, backpack dude. Their opening act, Gordon Voidwell, also came onstage at one point for the track “Back 2 Space,” on which he is featured on the album as well.
They opened up the show with the title track of their debut and only full album, “Breakfast” – a fitting title, if you will indulge the analogy of the album as their first full meal, whereas the mixtapes that brought them into the spotlight were more like snacks. I’m a bigger fan of the earlier mixtapes myself (I’m also a big fan of actual snacks), but “Breakfast” did make for some enjoyable live performances – Chiddy did particularly well on “Ray Charles,” the album’s single. The duo was energetic throughout the night, pausing between songs to banter with the crowd, and Chiddy even freestyled briefly.
During “Does She Love Me?”, Chiddy’s ode to unrequited love, I realized that so much of Chiddy Bang’s appeal in concert comes from the frontman’s undeniable charisma. When he says, “I think she fucking hates me,” you just want to run onstage and give him a big hug. He probably wouldn’t want to hear this, but I find him utterly adorable in that song. He manages to combine the stereotypical swagger of a rapper with a self-deprecating humanity, a refreshing change of pace for an ego-dominated genre.
Although most of the show was “Breakfast”-centric, they did break out a few of the more popular early songs as crowd-pleasers, most notably performing “Opposite of Adults,” as an encore. The song is based around a sample of MGMT’s “Kids,” and while enjoyable, it felt a bit gimmicky. It’s a fun party song, but doesn’t showcase Chiddy’s rapping skills overly well, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether the crowd was more excited about Chiddy Bang or the MGMT they were sampling. Most of the time, I found that their sampling of other songs translated well to a live performance (there’s no disappointment when it’s pre-recorded, the way there can be with absent guest artists), but “Opposite of Adults” was the exception for me. In their early days, Chiddy used to perform at frat parties in the Philadelphia area, and I see this song as their way of reaching out to the alt-bro crowd they performed for then.
Although the 9:30 club show was not sold out when the doors opened, you never would have known from the packed venue. There was still a huge line for tickets when I arrived, and the floor felt every bit as crowded as a sold out show. When the lights came up after the show, the people on the main floor were sweat-soaked and grinning – always a good sign. Was the performance groundbreaking or life changing? No. But did it make for a really good dance party? Absolutely.