The best moment of The Underachievers’ show at the Paradise Rock Club on October 21st came before the last song, when rapper AK, sporting his trademark bandana, hushed the crowd to deliver some words of consoling humanity:
“I gotta just take a moment to talk about why we make this music, yo. Few years ago, I was really struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts and its the music that gets me through it — I know a lot of y’all struggle with the same shit, so this one’s for the sad boys out there.”
It was one of the few human moments of a night filled with trap-style bravado and pure, unthinking energy. The Flatbush-based rap duo, made of AK and Issa Gold, set aside much of their more experimental repertoire in favor of their more mosh-friendly hits, including many early songs like “Flexing” and “T.A.D.E.D.”
The tour is in support of their new album released this month titled Evermore: The Art of Duality, but, despite the record being their most unique and emotionally aware project yet, the concert production favored overpowering bass and generic looping rhythms; songs that were distinctly produced on the album blended right into each other in a procession of trap indulgence. Their jazz influence was all but nonexistent on stage, and even their refreshing psychedelia, though present—Issa asked the crowd to “Hold up them lights. Them green lights. Anyone who got one, we’ll see you after the show”—was toned down in favor of a crowd-pleasing bass drone.
They maintained depth of message in their raps—AK spat about dealing with his depression and violent tendencies, and Issa served lyrical anecdotes of his childhood in poverty—but the words were all but lost to the crowd, drowned out by explosive beats.
The crowd was primarily white hipsters, where Supreme abounded and overt privilege clashed with the rappers’ backgrounds of poverty. For a rap group whose songs almost always condemn violence, their fans didn’t seem to get the message. On more than one occasion, people were thrown out for tossing punches, and the openers, The Buffet Boys, even encouraged it, saying “fighting is legal here, guys—give them some space.”
Overall, it was a blend of intense energy, social commentary, and trap bravado stooping. It was not clear if the latter was the fault of the artists, or a result of the incompatibility of their jazzy melodies and subtle production quirks with a pit venue like the Paradise Rock Club. In my opinion, despite their Pro-Era punk rap roots, The Underachievers achieve more through a pair of headphones on a rainy night than they do on stage. They are an aberration from the mainstream jackhammering of modern culture, and they should embrace that.
It’s a good thing.