It had been 15 years since a concert was held at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor — long enough that when Phish performed here back in 2002, George W. Bush was president and jiggy was still a popular slang term in hip-hop. But on Friday, April 14th, the historic silence was finally shattered by three rambunctious rappers: Desiigner, Lil Yachty and 2 Chainz.
Music Matters’s annual Springfest concert has a reputation for bringing big names to campus. In 2012, the event’s first edition featured J. Cole at Hill Auditorium and in its more recent years, Migos and Common have performed as headliners. Yet, never before has the concert’s bill been hype enough to warrant a switching of its location. This year, due in large part to a new partnership with Universal Music Group, things changed. Capacity and star-power multiplied simultaneously.
Around 7:30 PM, local act TBA (who earned the gig by winning a “battle of the bands” competition) took the stage at Crisler to kick off the evening of music. Led by Kulture, a rapper with a deep inflection and impressive, traditional rhyme scheme, the band played with three back-up singers, four instrumentalists and even a hype man. Despite the arena’s early emptiness and a crude introduction from student emcee Austin Dixon (“I don’t know shit about this band”), TBA didn’t miss a beat, delivering twenty soulful, jazzy minutes of music that set their act apart from the others.
Desiigner, a Brooklyn-raised emcee who is perhaps more accredited for his ad-libs than his actual lyricism, was first of the three main acts to perform. He opened with “Tap Out,” an unreleased song with Blac Youngsta that’s been featured in many of his live sets recently, and the track’s rapid, explosive beat, coupled with his notoriously high energy, immediately ignited the crowd.
For the next thirty minutes, Desiigner jumped, skipped, danced, jiggled and maybe even flew his body in impossibly constant motion as he half-heartedly mouthed along the lyrics of his most hyper songs. Though his pronunciation was limited, the DJ used a drum machine to fill in some vacancies with his signature vocal bits (think “Brrrrrrr—aaaaahhhh”). Few attendees recognized Desiigner’s new single “Holy Ghost,” but even those who didn’t were enthused when he took off his shirt and climbed up a lighting pole. The set ended with “Timmy Turner,” followed by his triple-platinum, breakout single “Panda,” the latter of which earned a predictably emphatic reaction from the crowd.
Next up was Lil Yachty. He came out wearing a customized Michigan football jersey (which was grinningly labeled with the number 69) and opened with quick renditions of “Ice Water” and “Bentley Coupe.” The beginning of his set was defined by staple deep cuts like “Wanna Be Us” and “Water On My Face,” some of which seemed to appeal almost exclusively to his loyal fans. However, “iSpy,” Yachty’s collaboration with KYLE (which has recently emerged as a potential summertime anthem) properly restored the crowd’s engagement.
“Everybody put they middle finger up,” urged Lil Yachty about halfway through his set. “If you got a teacher at school hating, if you got a person on the internet talking shit…(on the) count of three we gon’ say ‘Fuck ‘em!’” From here, Yachty dove into a string of his rowdiest songs, including “Up Next 3,” “Dipset,” “All In” and “Shoot Out The Roof.” After fully hooking the crowd with “Broccoli,” his four-time platinum sing-a-long with D.R.A.M., he removed his jewelry and jumped into the crowd, leaving no corner of the arena unnoticed as he closed his set with “Minnesota” and “One Night.”
The final act of the night was 2 Chainz, an Atlanta-raised legend who had formerly been known as Tity Boi, but was probably most recognizable to attendees as their favorite artists’ go-to guest feature. He opened with his verse from “All Me,” a massive Drake song from 2013, then performed K. Camp’s “Cut Her Off,” another hit track on which he makes an appearance. “MFN Right (ft. Lil Wayne)” came next, followed by “I Luv Dem Strippers,” the first solo track of his set. However, he didn’t start the latter until first formally introducing himself: “I go by 2 Chainz. I’m a Virgo. I enjoy long walks on the bank, and I’m also from Atlanta, GA.”
It’s easy to forget how thorough of a discography 2 Chainz boasts. His set toured listeners through almost a decade of mainstream rap and served as a firm reminder that Tity Boi was right there, rhyming through all of it. “Duffle Bag Boy,” a classic early-2000s rap hit that features Lil Wayne, offered what might’ve been the night’s only nostalgic moment, and from there, 2 Chainz can jump all the way up to “Birthday Song” and “Good Drank,” both of which are which are about a decade newer and almost equally famous — attesting to his astounding longevity.