My Nü Religion is THEY.
Through strobe lights and a haze of smoke, “THEY.” rose up above the crowd, in the San Francisco Social Hall, to exceed the standards the audience had for a new group. Dante Jones and Drew Love created their own R&B and rap duo, formed in Los Angeles. This is THEY.’s first tour as an official group, for the release of their newest and first official album, “Nü Religion: Hyena,” yet still their first three concerts were packed to maximum capacity. The fact that an up and coming band could alure such a door-busting and diverse crowd through its solid tempo, understandable and relatable lyrics, and the fun attitude the two brought to the stage, combined with the intensity and loyalty the crowd gave to them; rapping along with every song and fully feeling and understanding the music pounding along with their hearts. However, Dante and Drew could fully and appropriately control the “wolf pac” (as the performers affectionately named the crowd) whilst shedding light on their newest hits.
A few hours before the show started, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday March 10, a line of buzzing concert-goers began to wind its way around the block from the doors of San Francisco’s Social Hall. As my friends and I walked through the security check and into the vicinity we were engulfed by a cloud of fog machine smoke and purple-blue lighting (which was the only way we could be guided to the stage, itself.) Luckily, we were close to the front so we were able to snag a spot in the later to come “mosh pit,” almost right up against the stage.
Chit chat and over-played hip-hop music filled the hall until 9:00 PM. when the sequence of openers began to warm up the crowd. I, as well as many others, payed little attention to the first openers: LUVKUSH, two R&B and soul entrepreneurs. Even though they were decent, their music had too much of a soul influence to have a place in the rap-induced environment the audience was expecting. People didn’t know any of their songs, and the beat of the music wasn’t energetic enough for people expecting rap. The second opener had a very different sound consisting of very intense, forced beat and harsh lyrics. IshDARR, a lesser-known hip-hop artist, walked onto the stage supporting a shirt with a disgusting phrase, which as I have found, tends to give guys a little boost for their “macho” vibes, and a row of joints sticking out from the sweat band wrapped around his head. Guys in their 20’s went crazy for this artist because of his degrading messages to women and his “too tough” demeanor, but the majority of the women seemed less than pleased. I, personally, wasn’t a fan of this rapper because his lyrics barely had any meaning to them, his songs all blended together and sounded exactly the same, and there was no true beat that captured the audience. The final opener was the best, by far. SAMARIA, a young R&B artist from Oakland, was able to get the majority of the audience pumped for her songs, whilst also giving small speeches about her inspirations, which contrived her very relatable. She had an air of confidence and comfort surrounding her. SAMARIA’S songs were catchy, easily understandable, and had true meaning to them. However, the audience began to itch for THEY. to come out after waiting out 2 hours of openers.
Draped in hooded, black, cloaks, Dante (singer) and Drew (producer) pushed their way through the center of the crowd up to the stage, while their introduction song, “Nü Religion: Hyena (Intro)” played in the background. The intro song has no lyrics in it, so it seemed like the majority of the crowd didn’t know who was performing. At first, the audience didn’t know what was happening, but as we saw the two artists revealed themselves there was a sudden change in the atmosphere. People were screaming and trying to push to the front of the pack to finally get their first glimpse at them. Fog machines and red strobe lights flashed as the duo stood still on the stage and slowly raised their hooded heads to reveal their faces in a jedi-like matter. During their first song “Africa” after the intro THEY.’s iconic beat, (as heard in the intro) was continued to this song. The pre-recorded clapping sounds in this song began to engage the crowd more and more until everyone was pumped. Strobe lights were flashing so quickly everything looked as if it were a stop and play motion picture.
“Motley Crew,” their 4rd song, was the first song where almost everyone was singing alone to the steady beat. Because of the clear and rhythmic lyrics everyone knew every word and sang along, especially with the hook lyrics, “Unforgiven, riding down Sunset Boulevard with my niggas screaming, ‘Oh, my lord.”
In THEY.’s 6th song, “What You Want,” both Dante and Drew became immensely more interactive with the crowd, singing while sitting on the edge of the stage, bending down to give high-fives, and even handing the mic over to a few groups in the front, including me and my friends, while we sang the lines, “That’s okay, that’s alright. That’s okay that’s alright. You think you’re slick but I like it.” from the first rap sequence in their album in verse 2 of this song. “What You Want” is also one of the few song where both Dante and Drew sing/rap, versus just Dante singing while Drew was manning the D.J. booth.
THEY. performed their 14-track album almost in order, which, coincidentally allowed their best songs to be played first. The sellout raved throughout all of their songs, but after THEY. played “Bad Habits,” the crowd went wild. Dante sang while drew rapped throughout that track giving more depth to the song than the others on their track. The beat is really what I believe makes this song a crowd favorite. It trips people out because the tempo is very simple and soothing because of the gentle strumming of a modern acoustic guitar, which is rarely found in hip-hop beats.”Bad Habits” incorporates the type of lyrics found in rap, all the while having the classic hi-hat, cymbal sound that is found in music relating to the Trap genre of hip-hop.
After their more upbeat songs, with louder vocals, a faster tempo, hi-hat and more aggressive beats, such as “Say When” and “U-RITE,”and the other song with a predominantly hip-hop rhythm were performed the duo finished off the concert with some of their more personal songs with a slower tempo, including, “All” and “Back it up.” Dante charmed the audience while they held their lighters and phone flash lights in the air, swaying to the steady beat. After “ the last song was complete the lull of the concert nicely polished off the night and prevented violent actions from occurring after the clock hit 1am.
THEY. are two of our generation’s greatest R&B/Hip-Hop singers and songwriters. The songs are catchy, the lyrics are meaningful, and the overall essence of the duo is one that almost anyone can enjoy. The multi-genre performers offer a type of song for everyone, whether they prefer the more soulful corners of R&B, or the Trap side of hip-hop such as “Multi Millionaire Laflare.” I’ve shared many of their songs with my friends and every single one of them, including those who are not this genre’s biggest fans, loved their music and style. The number of true fans at the concert truly proves the duo’s success, which I think comes from the variety of artists that inspired THEY. and the drops of grunge, soul, and rock in songs such as “Dante’s Creek” and “Motley Crew” differentiate these artists from the quintessential vibes Hip-Hop and R&B give. This duo has a lot of potential, and I would highly recommend giving their newest album a listen. The Nü Religion tour in America ends on April 4th in Los Angeles, and their European tour continues through May 28th. For only $20, this high quality concert was definitely worth occupying my Friday night.