Pigeons & Planes "No Ceiling Tour" presents Boogie, Kaiydo, Michael Christmas, Kemba and Special Guest Ta'East

There’s something magical about driving down Sunset in West Los Angeles on a cool spring night. The history of celebrity in the west coast’s hub of the entertainment industry hangs in the air and tints the city rose-colored. Everything feels good. But anyone who has spent time in LA will tell you all that glitters is not gold. While that may be true, and while Los Angeles may be one of the toughest proving grounds for ordinary people, as well as artists, the chorus to Biggie’s “Sky’s the Limit” sits just out of arm’s reach - a carrot that keeps everyone pressing on:

Sky is the limit and you know that you keep on
Just keep on pressin' on
Sky is the limit and you know that you can have
What you want, be what you want
Sky is the limit and you know that you keep on
Just keep on pressin' on
Sky is the limit and you know that you can have
What you want, be what you want, have what you want, be what you want

Whether pigeon or plane, there seems to be no ceiling looming over Los Angeles, be it in Beverly Hills, which was our gateway from the 405 to the Roxy Theatre, or Compton, which is the city that raised Boogie - a star on the rise with no apparent regard for anything that resembles a limitation or obstacle. One of the many beautiful aspects of an artist’s climb is that he leaves a path, in his wake, for others to follow, granting them the opportunity to “have what [they] want, be what [they] want”.

On Tuesday, May 2nd, The Roxy in West LA was the final stop on the Pigeons & Planes No Ceilings Tour, featuring Boogie, Kaiydo, Michael Christmas w/DJ Fresco, Kemba w/DJ Charlie Hustle, and special guest, Ta’East. I, and I suspect others, walked in a fan of Boogie, and walked out a fan of the well-chosen lineup.

The historic venue breathes, in and out, the air of celebrity and rich musical history of Los Angeles, and with every inhale, the venue pulled a few more eager fans in through its doors and onto the floor before the stage. As is usually the case, the first opener, Ta’East, played to about half of who would eventually be in attendance by the time the headliner hit the stage, which is a shame because his “Star Quality”, as Brother Ali calls it, shone through, showing the promise of his career in the not too distant future as long as he plays his cards right. While Ta’East neglected self promotion, only stating his name almost indiscernibly at the end of his set, his below-the-radar marketing, black on black dress, and lack of braggadocio between songs, all allowed for his sheer talent and forged skill with words to sit front and center. An especially endearing quality about Ta’ was his vulnerability (which would be echoed by Kemba) as he shared about the difficult year he was emerging from - you could see and feel it in his demeanor as he spoke. I looked over at some friends, after Ta’East’s set, and said, “If this is how the lineup’s starting…”

...And Kemba did not disappoint. The Red Bull recording artist’s presence demanded the attention of all in attendance. A true emcee with all of the confidence in the world, yet without any of the frills that scream, “look at me,” clothing the “your favorite rapper’s, favorite rapper”-type artist in a humble confidence usually reserved for those already at the top, with nothing left to prove (other than to themselves). Kemba has an acute social awareness and his keen commentary on society is cutting. When you couple that with his his stage presence and place it all atop beats that transcend the generational discussions taking place in hip hop, you have a recipe for an artist budding, just waiting to break through the surface. I suppose “waiting” is the wrong word, because after the concert, Kemba said he was going to be holed up in Red Bull’s recording studio in Santa Monica for the rest of the week before heading back home to hip hop’s birthplace, the Bronx - today (as I write) Kembo posted a picture of him in the studio with the Detroit-bred producer/rapper, Black Milk. You are going to want to listen to whatever comes from those sessions for sure.

The more somber, serious tone set by the first two acts was disrupted by the fun loving, Jonah Hill of rap, Michael Christmas, accompanied by DJ Fresco. The half black, half Puerto Rican, good-times-vibed rapper from Boston didn’t detract from the foundation laid by Ta’East and Kemba, but built on top of it, reminding the audience that hip hop is also feel good party music. Christmas gifted all in attendance with an experience they won’t soon forget, forging the night in their minds by having everyone squat down before jumping up and getting lit to the chorus of one of his tracks. Michael Christmas is an artist you definitely want to experience in a live setting if you can.

 

The decision Pigeons and Planes made to place Kaiydo, a younger, contemporary rapper, in the coveted slot just before the headliner, was an interesting one. Don’t misunderstand me, the kid shows a lot of promise and had quite a few fans in attendance, but he is clearly newer at performing and controlling a crowd than those who came before him, which makes it a curious move. If they chose to do so as a means to give him an opportunity to pay dues and to be mentored by those around him, then this should happen more often; hip hop needs to create opportunities for mentorship for its up-and-comers! That aside, Kaiydo’s music is guaranteed to appeal to those who vibe with artists like Lil Yachty and are looking to have a good time “turning up” or “getting lit” - so much so, that I will be sharing his music with my students in the weeks to come. Kaiydo’s high-energy music and genuine enjoyment of sharing his music in a live setting provided a smooth segue into Boogie’s set.

 

Boogie’s showmanship is in a class all its own when placed next to that of his contemporaries, carrying on the legacy of artists like KRS-One who embody what the word emcee represents. You can’t help but be engaged by Boogie’s magnetic personality with every decided syllable and movement. The hours of practice in perfecting his live show, with the ever so energetic and charismatic DJ Dezzi Gee, is obvious when they perform. The set was primarily comprised of the singles from the latest tape, Thirst 48 Part II, with one of the highlights being Dana Williams coming out to sing her hook for “Sunroof”. The highlight for many longtime fans was definitely when the beat for “Let Me Rap”, a single off of the original Thirst 48 tape, dropped and Boog’ proceeded to, well, rap, and rap well. The set was a few songs shorter than I would have liked, skipping over some gems from both Thirst 48 and The Reach, that I would have loved to catch in a live setting (again), but other than that, Boogie continued to show why he belongs on Interscope’s roster among some of the giants in hip hop, including fellow Hub City representative, Kendrick Lamar. I’ve been writing about Boogie for a minute now and heavily suggest you dig around HERE to learn more about an artist I believe will be in the GOAT conversation one day.

Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,

- Nate Whitsell

*All images provided by Dylan Milroy (@still.dyl)


Nate Whitsell, creator of sdloveshiphop.com, curator at ThBlog for ThChrch.com, and promoter of all things hip hop at The Music Box in San Diego, writes as a champion for SD's hip hop culture, seeking to see unity and progression in our city's scene, as well as exposure for our artists locally, nationally, and globally.

Nate is a husband, father, middle school English teacher and an aficionado of quality music. Hip Hop has been instrumental throughout his life, playing a huge role in his choice of English as a major at SDSU, how and what he teaches, and continues to push him as a listener, creator and writer. As a journalist, he hopes to cover Hip Hop the way it ought to be written about, both critically and skillfully, with reverence for its past, acceptance of its present and hope for its future.