Babyxsosa’s houseparty

At a rare show, the enigmatic artist tinkered on her laptop while fans threw ass.

Art by Tyler Farmer. Photos by Elías Román.

Somewhere in between shouting out her fans for having great boobs and holding a moment of silence to celebrate Future’s birthday, Babyxsosa paused to host an impromptu dance coaching session. Women dressed like bootleg Charli XCXs with dark shades and paper fans were shaking around the stage. “I like that shoo shoo,” she said to one, back turned to the crowd. There was something theatrical about this micro-moment, an intimate bit of friendly criticism being staged against the flashing backlights at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. It felt like we were all just hanging out after school: the stakes low, the possibilities for the evening many.

Years ago, Sosa was on the precipice of blowing up. Her voice set her apart from the start: a flood of quivering neon, like bright jets of lapis blue soaking the sky. After she began working with Surf Gang and gained traction with the bass joyride “Everywhereigo,” you could easily imagine her racking up TikTok hits. But then she vanished from Surf Gang without an explanation and swapped out the aggro-rap for quieter, dreamier digital pop like “girlfriend” and full-on ambient beats. She didn’t do interviews, and even this concert (her first in ages) was established under murky circumstances—it was announced at the last moment with a single Instagram post. I felt like the show could go in two directions. It was either going to be a dry gallery opening, one of those shows where the artist insists on only playing her newest, most mature material. Or it would be a lovely throwdown, a best-hits barrage with all the diehards in breathless worship.

The November night was frigid and miserable. We were shuffled into the doors and made to wait in the venue’s liminal bar zone. I befriended a man who looked suspiciously like Thomas-John from Girls and was elated to discover I was wearing a Drain Gang shirt. The crowd was typical: a mix of men in Supreme, women in cute hats, writers, and fried heads. The oddest thing I saw was a man lugging what appeared to be a chunky duvet from the dancefloor.

Babyxsosa and fans. Photo by Elías Román.

The actual vibe was like a houseparty. Sosa was the birthday girl with the aux, playing all her biggest songs and a treasure trove of unreleased. She played some of her songs twice, crowdsourced requests from the audience but then played whatever she wanted anyway (my militant shouts of “Facetime!” and “Southside to South Pasadena!” faded in the din), and threw out random gems like DJ Ess’ deliciously serrated remix of “SkeeYee.” She spent more time flicking on her laptop than Pi’erre Bourne does live. Sometimes her face bore a look of such grave concentration that it seemed like she was playing MineSweeper on hard mode. At one point, a SoundCloud advertisement started playing before she quickly cut it. She giggled. 

Sosa hopped, beamed, scowled, cackled. She fiddled with her dress, which was made of glittering red and silver baubles that made her look like a luxurious abacus. She gave off a kind of nonchalant, understated charisma, never fully committing to aggression. The audience barely advanced beyond the stage of “intense jumping,” though I must say I got pretty rabid for “DRAMA BABY” and “Everywhereigo.”

Babyxsosa @ Baby’s. Photo by Elías Román.

More than at other shows, I sensed something stifling about the Baby’s All Right venue. Lurid backlights make it look like a high school prom, and the ledges and ramps turn the dancefloor into a congested spectator stadium. Sosa asked them to turn off all the lights, but they didn’t. Her frenetic music deserves the dark dungeon mystique of an actual house basement. I kept wondering if she was going to play “I’m Over This Level Of Life, My Love,” an 8-minute ballad of trembling trills from her new EP. I’m glad she didn’t, it needs a cavernous cathedral where the vocals can echo endlessly. 

What made the show memorable wasn’t the performance so much as the lowkey hi-jinks and heart-to-hearts that filled up every inch of empty space. At one point she showed off a bouquet of flowers a friend gave her. At another she launched into an improvisatory bra try-on session after a fan tossed one up. She shared an anecdote about feeling lonely in the first two weeks of moving to New York, and how that inspired a song. Despite the windy cold of that early winter night, the communal atmosphere was cozy. A gentle ember in my chest kept me warm all the way home.