In his introduction to Tory Lanez’ 3 p.m. set at the Spotify House, comedian Hannibal Burress did a bit about rappers who use backing tracks. He let one of his comedy tracks run in the background, shouting out a word here and there for emphasis. The capacity crowd packed into the open parking lot stage laughed and cheered.
In a moment of beautiful irony, the rapidly rising singer/rapper from Toronto took the stage a few minutes to give a live demonstration of exactly the phenomenon Burress was lampooning. He largely functioned as his own hype man for a set that was less about hard spitting or smooth crooning and more focused on making sure the crowd was “turnt up.” He did spit some verses and sing some hooks, most notably on his mega hit “Say It.” But it seemed that a good 70 percent of the words out of his mouth were some variation of “Hands up!”
Which is not to say that Lanez can’t sing or rap. He flexed his skills with an a capella medley of ’90s classic R&B that drove the crowd wild. He also climbed the scaffolding and did multiple stage dives. The turn up was in full effect, but I miss the days when rappers spent more time rapping.
Psyched to catch @weareKING in their first #SXSW set. "Watch and See" them blow up this week. pic.twitter.com/WYisvsCgaU
— D. Sengupta Stith (@deborific) March 14, 2016
Right after Lanez’ set, R&B trio King came with a completely different vibe. Focused entirely on their songs, the trio sent tightly woven harmonies cascading over chilled out grooves in a sublime set on the Spotify House’s hideaway, smaller porch stage. The group has been highly buzzed about coming into the fest with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Prince and Erykah Badu signing on as fans. The Spotify set was the first performance in a busy week. We predict their star will rise significantly over the next few days.