On a warm Wednesday night (Sept. 5) at Irving Plaza, Lil Baby, City Girls (Yung Miami), YK Osiris, and a surprise visit from 6ix9ine illustrated a new conundrum that’s playing out in real time for countless artists on the Harder Than Ever Tour. How do you transition millions of views, streams and followers into something tangible? In a world where a rap writer can throw a rock in a crowded room and hit someone with a viral smash, the mark of a soon-to-be icon lies in how they transform the internet’s abstractness into something real.
Lil Baby is a conductor. He wasn’t the night’s most excited performer (hey, Miami) or the most chaotic (6ix9ine), but his innate sense of propulsion got the audience where it needed to go. Shy, brooding and nonetheless charismatic, Lil Baby strolls across the stage with a calm presence. The screaming women crowding the front of the stage were happy to let him bask in his understated energy.