Def Jam records celebrated its 30th anniversary at SXSW with a star-studded showcase, which included performances by 2 Chainz, Pusha T, YG, and a host of top picks from the Def Jam Roster.
The event, which took place at Stubbs BBQ, was sponsored by web hosting companyMedia Temple and offered free drinks to a crowd gathered to celebrate the end of SXSW interactive, which closed that day. Kanye West, Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun, Russell Simmons, Island Def Jam execs including chairman and CEO Barry Weiss, president/COO Steve Bartels, SVP of media and artist relations Gabe Tesoriero, head of A&R Karen Kwak, and SVP of marketing Chris Atlas, Def Jam Recordings EVP Shawn "Pecas" Costner, were a few of the music industry notables in attendance.
Aloe Blacc (of Interscope) opened the set accompanied by a full band The Grand Scheme, which included trumpet and saxophone. Clad in a silver gray jacket and bowler cap, he began with “The Man,” his recent Hot 100-climbing single from his third album “Lift Your Spirit” (which hit stores that very same day). Blacc was energetic on stage and personable with the crowd as he shuffled through past hits “Hey There Brother” up through his current catalog.
"Hip hop is where I got my start. It's what inspired the lyrics to this song," he said as he launched into his monster hit with Avicii “Wake Me Up,” which hit No. 4 on the Hot 100 the week of October 5. He closed with “I Need A Dollar,” the theme song to HBO’s “How To Make It In America” that first put him on the map.
The crowd was as unresponsive during and coming Long Beach rapper Vince Staples’s set as they were when MMG’s Gunplay hit the stage. The latter, introduced to the crowd by Rap Radar’s Elliott Wilson, brought his entire entourage on stage with him and delivered a killer set in spite of the audience’s lack of reception.
DJ sets took the crowd through hip-hop history, featuring the works of renown Def Jam greats like LL Cool J to hip-hop legends Biggie Smalls, leading to Pusha T’s arrival on stage. King Push immediately launched into bangers “Blocka,” and “Millions,” working towards “Hold On,” a standout single from his most debut solo record “My Name Is My Name.”
“Support that G.O.O.D. Music,” he proclaimed before launching into a cascade of hits from “Cruel Summer” classics including “Mercy,” “Don’t Like,” and “New God Flow,” before a rather abrupt and strange departure from stage. Building to a climatic ending with epic throwback to his Pharrell-produced hit from the Clipse days, “Grindin’,” Push’ had a visibly distraught look on his face as the crowd didn’t seem to recognize the song. As soon as his verse was over he left without a word.
“Who’s smokin?” inquired a mic’d voice from backstage. The crowd gave a warm welcome to Redman and Method Man as they took the stage, proclaiming, “The energy you give us, we’re gonna feed back to you.” Wu-Tang Clan hits were in abundance, and “Method Man” was a crowd favorite. The duo took crowds back in time with “How High,” and of course gave a shout out to the movie.
YG was next in the lineup, bringing his entire entourage on stage to perform a brief set laden with DJ Mustard-produced tracks, including Ty Dolla $ign’s “Paranoid” and his hit, “My Hitta.”
2am rapidly approached as the entire on-stage crowd cleared to one side as 2 Chainz stormed the stage with a barrage of hits, including “Fork,” his verse from Drake’s “All Me,” “Crack,” “Riot,” and of course, “Spend It.”
Because it was so late in the set, he had to skip a lot of the set. “If you don’t believe me, take a look at this sheet,” he said to a front row patron right before bringing Schoolboy Q with his patented bucket hat on stage to perform “What They Want” from the Billboard 200-topping “Oxymoron” album.
As he began his next track the mic cut off as he hit his allotted time limit. 2 Chainz tossed the mic up in the air and left stage to a booing audience, but luckily for everyone there they let him do an encore, performing “Birthday” and “Different” before the sound was cut off once again. He left with another mic toss.
Instagram credit: Meredith Truax