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December 12, 2022, we helped throw Rx Papi’s first show out of prison. It was an icy night in Brooklyn, and a sold-out Baby’s All Right was filled to the brim with Pap fans, family, collaborators, prospective collaborators and industry folk. The stage was crammed with bodies, and fans gathered as close as possible to catch a glimpse of the rare icon in the flesh. We had planned a loose setlist, but instead of sticking formally to it, Pap and company drifted through each other’s performances. Pap would dart into songs by his protege Rx Lil Cuz and hyped up special guest Tony Shhnow, who flew in all the way from LA for the show.
But the highlight of these links was Neph and Pap. You could just sense how happy Neph was to see his brother breeze through his greatest hits like no time had passed. At one point, Neph lifted one of the venue speakers to make sure everyone was listening to what Pap was saying in his music.
Backstage, I interviewed Neph and Brainstorm and a couple others; you can see it all in the video. Matt Ox was in the cut too, it was his 18th birthday that night and he gave a convincing argument for why humans should function more like migratory birds.
As for Pap’s set? He steamrolled through it, letting the music play in full and finishing each bar as a creative stand-in for punching in. Sometimes when other rappers rap over their songs, it can feel lazy, like karaoke, even, but with Pap, it was pure confidence. Hit after hit after hit. “Trailer Park Blues” was a revelation live, as was “Super Silky Smooth.” Maybe the biggest curveball was that Pap didn’t play any songs off Foreign Exchange, including “12 Stout Street,” but in hindsight, it makes sense. This was a night of celebration, and those songs are great but depressing as hell.
As the night came to a close, I started to think about why we do what we do. So many people stopped me to say they love the work we do. Some were vague apparitions from the TL, others complete strangers. Writing often feels like an act of solitude, a lonely art. But that night showed me that it really affects people, fleshes out worlds, provides perspective and gives artists a platform. This shit is so real. More shows, more writing, more everything 2023.