Power 106’s Cali Christmas Gets L.A. And Hip Hop Into The Holiday Spirit REVIEW: POWER 106 CALI CHRISTMAS 2017 @ THE FORUM 12/16/17
LOS ANGELES, CA- On a cold Saturday night, thousands of Angelinos made their way to one of the most iconic venues in Los Angeles, the Forum. The reason for their pilgrimage to the Forum was to attend Power106’s annual Winter concert: Cali Christmas. This was my first Power106 concert experience. With over 20 years of DJ’ing experience myself (having performed with or for BoB, Jeremih, the Cab, 3OH!3) , I had met and interacted with Power106, but never actually attended a concert produced by them, so I was looking forward to the experience.
I arrived at the Forum around 6:45 pm. While walking towards Will Call one of the first things I immediately noticed was the simple joy and happiness that were on the collective faces of the concert attendees. The people that showed up earlier were ready to have a good time. The early vibe was great. It’s going to be a good night. I love my City.
The Forum’s parking lot was quickly filling and the people in attendance were all looking their best. The fellas with the latest sneakers and fresh new gear (and pants that would be considered leggings in some parts of the world). The ladies in attendance were beautiful all around. The crowd was as diverse as you would expect for a concert in Southern California. Power106 is the top Hip Hop station in Los Angeles and their demographics are wide ranging. Whether diversity in racial background, or diversity in age, Southern California’s diversity was represented beautifully at Cali Christmas. The diversity in age though, did cause this reviewer to take issue with how Power106 booked, organized, and held this event. But I’ll get to that in a few.
As I’m led into the press/photo pit, the performer on stage was rapper Gashi. I had not heard of Gashi prior to that moment. I did not have any issue with the music of performance. He had decent mic control. The song selection was over the slower variety that we’ve seen grow over the years in Hip Hop. He appears to have a decent growing fan base and following, yet I also did not hear anything lyrically from Gashi that impressed.
After Black Thought’s viral freestyle just days earlier, MC’s do not get anymore free passes. Gashi’s most popular song is called “No No No,” and there is not a single line in that song that goes harder than Black Thought’s FREESTYLE. Meaning, Gashi could not write a better line that Black Thought comes up with off the top of his head. Also, these tracks had to be along the lines of 60 BPM or slower, which is the equivalent of a lot of slow jams. There’s definitely a niche market for it, but it’s way to slow to get a crowd excited and resulted in a lack of connection with the audience that was there.
Next up was Majid Jordan: a tandem out of Canada signed to Drake’s OVO. Being members of the OVO stable brings with it a lot to live up to, and I’d say Majid Jordan did just that. Majid, the singer, reminded me of a young Al B. Sure both in look and vocally. He sounded great live. Jordan, his producer on the keyboards and drum machines, was equally on point with his production. After seeing them live, I would definitely be interested in hearing more from them. During Majid Jordan’s set, they brought out label mates Dvsn and Roy Woods. All three vocalists sounded great, but Dvsn easily stole the performance from his fellow label mates. He has a presence to go along with his vocals.
The only issue with Majid Jordan’s performance was once again involving the audience. Like Gashi, there was no real connection with the concert goers. People were sitting and staring at their phones. There were definitely more involvement with the ladies in the audience, but at the cost of the men in the audience. Majid Jordan makes perfectly fine R&B music, but for a more chill relaxed environment. Majid Jordan relaxed me. Is that how I should be feeling at the top Hip Hop station’s yearly Winter concert? I’m ready to take a fucking nap at this point.
At around 8:15 p.m., one of Power106s’ longest tenured and esteemed DJs, Felli Fell, is up for his set. Felli Fell did his thing. The only issue I had with Felly Fell was his special guest selection. Felli Fell’s special guest was a young and upcoming rapper named Rich the Kid. There is nothing wrong with Rich the Kid. I have no beef with Rich the Kid. Rich the Kid performed and did his thing … BUT … Felli Fell has enough pull and connections to make the special guest actually be, you know, SPECIAL. My expectations? Someone from Los Angeles, with a name. In fact, in 2017, in Los Angeles where LA’s home grown Hip Hop record label TDE is located, shouldn’t a member of TDE’s contingent made at least some kind of appearance at Cali Christmas? And if no one from TDE was available, how about an old school artist from LA?
That being said, Rich the Kid put on a respectable performance knocking out a few songs, but when the DJ spinning the same Cardi B track (“Bodak Yellow”) that was played just minutes earlier blows the roof off higher than the artists the audience actually paid to see, I wondered “Did this audience even care who performed in the opening segments?” Remember this point, because I am going to come back to it.
After Felli Fell was Brooklyn native, and Mr. Robot co-star, Joey Bada$$. I will confess that I love Joey Bada$$’ music and I am also a fanatic of the TV show Mr. Robot. I’m biased. I’m a fan. Joey Bada$$ could do no wrong … and Joey Bada$$ did not disappoint. Honestly, I could have cared less as to whether or not the audience was vibing with him BECAUSE I respect Joey Bada$$’ music that much. Fuck everyone else.
IMHO, Joey Bada$$ is the definition of modern Hip Hop. He’s an artist who takes his craft seriously, focusing on lyricism. Joey, along with MCs such as Kendrick, J. Cole, Logic, etc., is part of the next generation that I see carrying the mantle for the culture of Hip Hop. Did Cali Christmas attendees feel the same way? Are they Hip Hop heads like me that actually recognize the real? As I previously had mentioned, the demographics were pretty wide ranging, so I’m gonna guess, “No.” Is that Joey Bada$$’ fault or Power106s’? Was he actually a right choice to perform for an event like Cali Christmas? If you are sensing a trend, you are now the brightest bulb in the Forum.
Next up were Power106 DJs the LA Leakers. Like Felli Fell, I had high expectations for the special guests of the LA Leakers’. And once again, I was left disappointed. After DJing a few songs the Leakers fall prey for the easy way out and drop fucking Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” (If you were keeping track, that was at least 3 times the same song was played within 45 minutes. Sorry, y’all … but “Bodak Yellow” is played the fuck out). The “Bodak Yellow” moment was interrupted by the LA Leakers “Special” Guest: Kid Ink … wait … what? Kid Ink?
Nothing against Kid Ink (again, please do not think that I dislike these artists), but I just do not see how Kid Ink raises to the level of being a “special guest”. Power106 spent weeks hyping the attendance of “special guests”, especially when Chance The Rapper had to bow out just days before. They hyped it so much so that even an old guy like me actually expected the guests to be … well … “special”. Apparently, “special” according to Power106 is “whomever is available tonight.”
With that being said, Kid Ink finally got the crowd involved. Kid Ink is definitely tailored more towards the ladies, and if there’s one thing that I learned during my years as a DJ it’s that if you want to get the party started, just get the ladies to dance, and that’s exactly what he did. Cali Christmas was actually starting to feel like a party. At this point in Kid Ink’s career he has enough hits to get a party going, and I only anticipate him doing the same in the future (as I do believe he has new music coming out soon). Facts.
After Kid Ink performed, the Leakers introduced G-Eazy to the stage. G-Eazy has the look of a rock star, and it’s clear that ALL the ladies love him. But as popular as he is, that’s pretty much where it ends with me. If I were to categorize his music it would be under the genre of Pop Rap. Personally, I don’t think he or his music represents Hip Hop. You might be asking where I get off making such a declarative statement, and I point you straight to his lyrics.
In the hook of “Pray for Me” (which he did not perform), which was released the week prior to Cali Christmas: “Talk to the man upstairs / Hoping he answer my prayers/ Hollywood feel like the jungle/ Lions and tigers and bears.” …. What the fuck does that even mean? Did he just ruin an old fairytale? He also once rapped: “And fuck it, I’m the coldest white rapper in the game since the one with the bleached hair.” BRUH. STOP IT. G-Eazy has more in common with Vanilla Ice than Eminem.
Look … G-Eazy definitely has a presence and look to him. A good looking 6’+ guy with a charismatic smile, but if you were to ask me to add anything more to that though, I couldn’t. In fact, I might be completely wrong here, but it almost sounded as if G-Eazy performed the same song twice *insert Kanye shrug*. Or maybe his songs just sound the same? *insert another Kanye shrug*. In any case G-Eazy was only on stage maybe for 10 minutes max. He was promoted heavily for what amounted to a “Walk Through” fee.
Next up, Big Sean. Big Sean was a late addition to the line-up due to an illness that knocked out Cali Christmas headliner, Chance the Rapper. What else can I say other than he ripped it. By now, Big Sean is considered to be a veteran MC and his skills were on full display. He has a mastery of the microphone, and a mastery of confidence on stage. It also doesn’t hurt that Big Sean has multiple hits wherein he can pull off a 30 minute set with his eyes closed.
His presence was also desperately needed for this event. The unevenness of the performance flow from earlier in the evening left the audience dying for a reason to dance and party. Kid Ink got them interested and Big Sean took care of the rest. In the first few rows of the Forum were numerous girls/women who were singing and dancing throughout Big Sean’s entire set. Big props to Big Sean, he got the audience to Dance Dance Dance Dance.
Lastly, we have Travi$ Scott.
Electric. That young man is electric. There is no denying his energy, his vibe, his movement, and his command of the audience. If you have no experience with a Travi$ Scott performance, I would encourage you to look him up. And you might actually be safer watching his concerts on a screen instead of live and in person.
Travi$ Scott has this uncanny ability to energize a crowd, particularly young males, into what Travi$ calls “raging.” It is essentially mosh pit like behavior. In fact, during one part of his performance Travi$ chastised Security by telling them: “It’s called raging! It might look like fighting but it’s raging…me & the people at Power 106 promote positivity!”
Don’t get me wrong though on Travi$’ audience being only male, a female in attendance literally threw her bra right over my head onto the stage. He oozes charisma, and that is a rarity in Hip Hop these days in a landscape riddled with mumble rappers and lyrics that look like they were written on one of those new “Rap Battle” TV shows.
It also did not hurt that Big Sean and Travi$ Scott performed a song together on stage, which was likely the highlight for most concert goers. The second half of the Travi$’ set was performed by Travi$ while on top of an elevated, suspended in the air flying wooden eagle. Electric.
I now want to get into Power106s’ decisions for the organization of this concert. First off, the concert was advertised at $25 per ticket and the Forum’s parking was $25. That means a good portion of those attending the concert paid at least $50 to attend this event. I do not have any statistics to back up this statement, but, I’m going to guess that the majority of people took interest in this concert because of one person: Chance the Rapper.
Chance the Rapper is the real deal. I cannot stress this aspect enough: his following is huge and crosses all levels of race, age and socioeconomics. Chance the Rapper is a Movement. Period. A role model and a superstar wrapped into one.
When I woke up Saturday morning prior to the concert, I happened to see Chance the Rapper tweet that he had fallen sick and could not attend Cali Christmas. I was disappointed for sure. To be honest, I only agreed to attend Cali Christmas for the opportunity to see Chance the Rapper perform a full set. That was an experience I could not pass up, so to see him cancel made me think to myself: FUCK YOU’RE A JINX, SIM!
In all seriousness though, some of the replies to Chance’s cancelation tweet were flat out depressing. Dozens of tweets from fans saying how they had planned for weeks to see him. People booking hotels. People driving from out of town. Tweets from mothers telling stories of buying Cali Christmas tickets as a Christmas surprise for their daughters. It was tough stuff to read.
I do not blame Chance, or Power106, for the cancelation. In entertainment, shit happens. I do question Power106s’ choices after the cancelation. In place of Chance the Rapper, Power106 was able to secure Big Sean and promoted him as a Los Angeles native headlining Cali Christmas. Even though technically Big Sean was born around Santa Monica, everyone knows he represents Detroit way more than he does Los Angeles. I would have rather Power106 secure an artist that actually represents Los Angeles. Maybe they tried and could not find anyone, which is totally plausible. In the end though, Big Sean did come through, and he did give the audience a great performance. I just personally didn’t not see how Big Sean is a replacement for Chance the Rapper. At least not in 2017. 2017 was been Chance’s year. The audiences overlap to a degree, but, the mother that bought their daughter Cali Christmas thought that their daughter was going to sing along with Chance, and not rap “I don’t give a fuck about youuuuuu” while waiving their little tiny middle fingers in the air.
And that underlies the biggest problem of Cali Christmas. I am going to assume, as previously mentioned, that many of the concert goers were attracted to Cali Christmas as a result of Chance the Rapper alone. Every other performer was just an added bonus. Chance was the prize. A true headliner.
The people that love Chance the Rapper, probably don’t love Travi$ Scott. I am sure there is some overlap, but I would presume there is greater overlap between the fan bases of Big Sean and Chance the Rapper. Travi$ Scott is more niche. To Travi$ Scott is to rage. To Chance the Rapper is to do the happy love dance. Two different audiences.
To illustrate “raging,” during Travi$ Scott’s performance there were two young males who hopped the security gate into the photographers’ pit and proceeded to get tackled by security right next to me. Travi$ Scott sees this occur and chastises security for tackling the young males (what?) and then proceeded to allow one of the young men on stage. Once on stage this male individual then proceeds to leap off and do a stage dive into the front rows which consisted of very young attendees, most of whom were female. Clearly, Travi$ Scott definitely lit a match under the majority of young men in the audience and those boys made their way to the front of the floor, ticketed seats be damned, but I can’t image that NOT being some kind of safety/security risk.
I know that the intent was for Chance the Rapper to close out the concert. What I do not understand though is having Travi$ Scott close as opposed to Big Sean. Big Sean was the replacement for Chance the Rapper and he should have closed the show as headliner. I’m mean, when the audience paid for a “Chance Christmas” performance, and they get “Christmas Rage”, that’s not a deal I can wrap my head around.
BELOW ARE LINKS TO PHOTO GALLERIES OF THE MUSICAL ACTS THAT BLURRED CULTURE WAS ABLE TO CATCH AT CALI CHRISTMAS. STAY TUNED AS INDIVIDUAL PAGES ARE POSTED HERE!!!