Gig Reviews

Desiigner – 170 Russell, Melbourne 10/01/17

One of the biggest hip-hop success stories of 2016 was the rise of New York rapper Desiigner. Scrolling the internet for beats, he stumbled upon up-and-coming producer Menace and crafted his debut single ‘Panda’. Dedicated to his love of the BMW X6, ‘Panda’ dropped at the tail end of 2015 to little fanfare. That all changed when Kanye West sampled the song on his seventh album The Life Of Pablo. ‘Panda’ suddenly became hot; inspiring a number of remixes from hip-hop heavyweights that helped push the single to the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 by April.

The reaction to Desiigner since has been mixed. Follow-up single, ‘Timmy Turner’ became a club hit. Still, unfavourable comparisons to Future have dogged him since breaking through. Currently in Australia for the first time, the question still lingers as to whether Desiigner can translate the chart success of ‘Panda’ into the live arena. Tonight gives the 19-year-old the perfect chance to establish himself as a true hip-hop artist with a bright future.

Unfortunately for those in attendance tonight, Desiigner doesn’t. The show is the definition of style over substance. During the course of his 25-minute set Desiigner spends the majority of the time running around. Bare chested with jeans hung low, one can’t fault the man’s dedication to getting people hyped. If he’s not on stage, he’s in the crowd making his customary squawks while high-fiving anyone in his vicinity.

But as this is a hip-hop show there is expected to be some rapping, and this is where Desiigner falls down. He relies heavily on his backing track; so much so that it would be more enjoyable if his DJ had just popped ‘Panda’ on repeat for 25- minutes and let Desiigner roam the stage. Spending more time yelling inaudible sounds into his microphone and pulling outrageous faces than actually rapping, Desiigner appears unpractised. Although his FOMO festival spots have elicited similar responses, there’s hope his solo sideshows would reveal more, but it’s not to be.

‘Panda’ is teased during his first 10 minutes on stage before finally being unleashed and sending the crowd into a frenzy, despite Deiisgner hardly rapping a line. At one point during the track he invites people on stage and is soon surrounded by a mass of young fans phones out, all who do a better job of reciting his lyrics than he does. Likewise, ‘Timmy Turner’ finds the Good Music signee continuing to make unusual sounds as the beat brings the front section to life. This is a car crash of a performance that’s hard to look away from.

If there’s one positive to take away it’s support act Ivan Ooze. For one, the Melbournian actually raps – and despite a controversial Instagram post taking the shine off his massive 2016 – makes him ten times more enjoyable to watch than the headliner. On stage longer than Desiigner ever is, Ooze has an air of confidence about his ability. His beat selection, ranging from full-blown party starters to late nightclub burners and everything in between, suits his gruff flow. There’s a touch of an American influence to what he’s creating but without betraying his local identity. The shot to the face ‘District 9’, bass-heavy ‘Fire’ and booming ‘War’ – sampling Edwin Star’s hit song of the same name – focus on Ooze’s ability to perform actual lyrics.

Desiigner might have the hits but if he can’t bring it live he’ll soon fade into obscurity. As for Ooze, he demonstrates a maturity and showmanship that holds him in good stead going forward, with his recent collaboration with Ghostface Killah proof of his lyrical prowess.

It’s not often a headline act is upstaged by the support, but Ooze blew Desiigner away tonight and deserves some of the plaudits his American counterpart has been receiving.

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