"TDE's underdog, Ab-Soul, shows that he has bark and bite"

Ab-Soul's first solo tour arrived at the Waiting Room on Oct. 2

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Ab-Soul doesn’t so much as entertain a crowd as he does entrance it.

The artist, who never showed up to his Fall Fest slated show at UB on Sept. 6, performed at the Waiting Room in Buffalo Thursday, Oct. 2. The rapper is on his first-ever solo tour, promoting his latest EP These Days.

The 27-year-old, born Herbert Stevens IV, gave a cool, calm performance with a lyrical style expressed in soft, stuttering staccato.

Ab-Soul is considered one of the most talented lyricists on his label, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), which includes label mates Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar. He draws from a broad variety of topics in his music – ranging from underground terrorist plots to sacred biblical references.

His gritty concert was anything but divine, as Ab-Soul began his show with his song “Track Two,” rapping: “Yeah I’m high off life, but I’m rolling blunts.”

The energy of the crammed Waiting Room crowd was tangible – and the opening acts, Bas and Earthgang, primed the audience perfectly. By the time Ab-Soul took the stage, the audience looked less like a crowd and more like a frothing mob.

Rob Miller, a junior at Buffalo State, felt as if the crowd really “turned up” for Ab-Soul, saying that the concert was one of the best he had been to in a while.

Miller, a fervent Ab-Soul fan, was crushed when the artist didn’t show up to UB’s Fall Fest.

“It was ridiculous that he didn’t show up to Fall Fest, but I am pumped I got to see him anyways,” Miller said. “Seeing him later kind of added to the excitement.”

Miller said his favorite moment was when Ab-Soul performed his song, “Terrorist Threats.”

Ab-Soul, over the course of an hour, rapped a multitude of his top hits, including “Track Two,” “Terrorist Threats,” “Illuminate” and “Saulo Ho3.”

The crowd echoed Miller’s sentiments. As Ab-Soul performed, the audience continued to feed off of the thudding bass and his smooth lyrics.

Nate Smith, a student at ECC, epitomized the high-energy atmosphere of the night.

"I was going crazy during that concert,” Smith said. “I was jumping all over the place and screaming along to every song, all night.”

But Ab-Soul never let the audience get out of hand, as some performers do.

During a pause in the music, Ab-Soul put his hand out to the crowd to give high-fives to hands thrust toward him. Fans at the front of the crowd began to push and shove in an attempt to touch the rapper.

Security immediately surrounded the sides of the crowd and tried to move to the front to break up the ensuing chaos before it turned violent.

Before pushing degraded to punching and before the security could intervene, Ab-Soul addressed the crowd himself.

“Relax everyone,” the rapper said. “Just relax.”

The crowd, instantly, was noticeably tamer.

“That’s better,” Ab-Soul laughed.

Rick Harcrow, an undergraduate student at Canisius, said the concert was the perfect amount of craziness.

“I loved getting wild for the concert, but anymore and it might have been too much,” Harcrow said.

It was this balance between rowdiness and mob mentality that gave Ab-Soul’s concert special feel.

Throughout the night, Ab-Soul demonstrated a live performance that was convincing not because of his rowdiness but because of the control he expressed onstage.

He built an interesting dynamic. The crowd fed off of his music, but he never altered his act to match the audience’s increasing fervor – he simply stood in the middle of the stage and said what he needed to say.

Ab-Soul never wanted things to get out of hand, but he never sacrificed the atmosphere of the concert for passivity, encapsulated most in his final song, “W.R.O.H.”

“I just kept it real with y’all, keeping it real with me.”

email: arts@ubspectrum.com