Kid Cudi, Pusha T, Big Sean & More Takeover NYC's Hulu Theater for BAPE Heads Concert

Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET
 Kid Cudi performs at Staples Center on June 22, 2017 in Los Angeles.

On Thursday evening (Dec. 6), rap fans made their way into Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater for the sold-out BAPE Heads show. Lil Yachty, Pusha T, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and Kid Cudi were all slated to perform at the show celebrating Japanese streetwear line Bathing Ape’s 25th birthday. Up to an hour before the show, excited middle schoolers ambled around the will-call windows, rocking too-big Yeezys and BAPE sweatshirts in anticipation of the all-star event. 

Incidentally, it appeared that half of the concertgoers had recovered their BAPE signature camos for the special event. The brand created a sort of interactive experience throughout the venue. As ticketholders made their way into the theater, there were countless selfie-worthy photo opps -- from the camo-covered walls to the identical mannequins in hoodies and a baby Milo (the brand mascot) toddling around on the entry level.

At 7:04 p.m., the arena was only about half-full, still, Lil Yachty was up first, opening his set with “Who Want the Smoke?” then moving into “Wanna Be Us” from his debut studio LP Lil Boat. By the time he arrived at “Ice Tray,” the crowd's enthusiasm amped up and the rapper truly found his groove with “NBAYoungBoat,” his featured verses on “iSpy” and “Broccoli” and the obligatory “Minnesota” with an animated Yachty riding a polar bear on a giant screen overhead.

It wasn’t long before the lights went out and Pusha appeared in a brilliant orange jacket and blue cap. There was silence, then the opening line of “If You Know, You Know” boomed through the theater with no backing track: “Pulling up in that new toy/ The wrist on that boy/ Rock star like Pink Floyd...," he rapped as fans continued to arrive while those already in their seats stood up across every section and row, almost out of reverence. “Welcome to the DAYTONA experience...,” Pusha bellowed before running through the entire tracklist of the project released earlier this year from “Hard Piano” to “Infrared” and “What Would Meek Do.” The crowd remained on their feet, bobbing to the hard-nosed lyrics, reciting the ones they had memorized. “DAYTONA! Rap album of the year,” he snarled.

Pusha seamlessly began “Mercy” as Big Sean sauntered out in a cream colored BAPE hoodie and overalls. The two dove into the track, taking advantage of the crowd’s growing energy. From there, Pusha stayed to get into his verse on Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like (Remix),” then left the stage to Sean who wasted no time before diving with the ominous rumble of “Paradise.” “I always wanted to stunt so hard/ I always wanted to ride that whip/ I always wanted to fuck that bitch," he rapped.

All of the artists on the bill appeared to have some special connection to the Bathing Ape brand. Kid Cudi handed Kanye West his demo years ago when he was an employee at the brand’s NYC boutique. Later in his set, Sean reminded concertgoers that his first video, 2009’s “Getcha Some,” was filmed at the Bathing Ape store in Japan at Yeezy’s direction. “Kanye took me to Tokyo and I had no more than a couple hundred dollars in my account. I’m so happy to be here man,” he shared. “I’m an original BAPE Head.”

The Detroit MC moved swiftly through “Clique,” “Blessed,” “All Me” and his verses on MADEINTYO’s “Skateboard P” and YG’s “Big Bank,” bouncing around the entire time. The vibe of the venue had changed completely at this point -- just an hour into the show -- but it still felt as if the majority of concertgoers were waiting for something.  

Wiz Khalifa was up next, taking the stage in a blue and white flannel, spliff in hand. He kicked off his set-list with a few cuts from 2010’s Kush & Orange Juice, touching on “The Kid Frankie” and “The Statement” before two-stepping and lip syncing along to the opening Smokey Robinson sample on “Car Service.” He hopped across the stage once every few bars, only stopping to take a drag of his blunt and blow the smoke out over the first couple rows of the pit. Khalifa is cool onstage, nearly detached, but somehow jovial.

Clearly happy to be running through his many hits, Wiz was never too pressed to coerce the crowd into jumping, which they did on their own anyway For example, “We Dem Boys” had the crowd looking upward and smiling politely -- Khalifa did the hook and moved on to a couple of his other bangers, “Black and Yellow” and the frenzied “Taylor Gang” and the fans opened up again, going ballistic to the latter.

Finally, the house was full and the arena buzzed with pure elation, awaiting headliner Kid Cudi. The same middle schoolers spotted before the show danced to Kanye’s “Yikes” in the interim and when the lights went out and the chords for “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” rumbled through the theater, the excitement reached a peak. “I just wanna be liberated / I, I, I...” echoed through the rows of people, the entire crowd screaming the lines. Once he wrapped up that first track, Cudi just stood there on stage with a huge grin plastered across his face as the crowd chanted his name.

The fans would keep their chants up between every track. From “Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)” to “Mr. Rager,” concertgoers grew more and more enchanted as the night went on. Cudi dedicated one track “to all the fucked up kids like me.” He teased the fans in the pit: “Imma come down there and fuck wit’ y’all. May sure you make some room for me...” Cudi was charismatic, gleeful even. He reminded us that this all started with his stint at the BAPE in SoHo -- this entire chapter of his journey. By the time he wrapped up his set with “Surfin’,” the energy was infectious. “Yup! Yup!,” he shouted, high-stepping to the beat, from one end of the stage to the opposite, “It’s a revolution...” Definitely.


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