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Tommy Wright III Concert Review

Tommy Wright III
October 28, 2018
recordBar - Kansas City, MO

Tommy Wright III. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.
Last year's inaugural Big Gig was over two decades in the making. Tommy Wright III -- an unsung Memphis gangster rap innovator with a devoted following of punks, skaters, and internet hip-hop heads -- played his first ever Kansas City show. Wright's catalog has hardly been added to since the late nineties due to financial and legal struggles, but the songs making up his headlining set were as timeless as they come. Alongside his peers in Three 6 Mafia, Wright and his self-produced mixtapes were cutting edge in the realm of abrasive, confrontational hip-hop; these blueprints are still being utilized -- wittingly or not -- by upstart rappers all these years later.

Wright's pristine, skeletal drum machine beats (cowbells and all) blasted from the recordBar PA as he rapped with the urgency of an emcee half his age to a crowd of roughly 150 fans -- many of whom were hardly out of diapers when he was releasing his seminal material. Gritty, first-person street narratives like "Meet Yo Maker" and "Drive-By" thrilled and the party-starting "Don't Start Shit" and "Runnin-N-Gunnin" resulted in floor-shaking bounce- and shout-alongs. A haunting rendition of "Chrome Thang" -- built off a "Thriller" intro sample -- was perfect for the week's Halloween festivities.

Despite his booming drawl, percussive flows, and rhymes of murder, drug dealing, and pimping, Wright's performance was one of the most wholesome Kansas City saw all year. Countless handshakes and high-fives were handed down from the stage and one lucky fan was plucked to be his hypeman for a song. As Wright spent a minute thanking his devotees at the end of his set, he made sure to sign his farewell for anyone who couldn't hear. In no more than half an hour, Wright proved himself as a master rapper-producer, an expert and generous performer, and a stand-up guy. It's a good thing legends don't die.

"Psychodelic" Omaha hardcore crew Bib made the trip down for the show, performing the sonic equivalent of being smacked in the face with the world's most weighty bouquet.

Kansas City proved it still loved to freak out a little bit. Though they're essentially too fun to get burnt-out on, this night's Warm Bodies set felt particularly special due its increasing rareness -- vocalist Olivia Gibb had recently relocated to St. Louis.

The show was opened with sets from Tione (Wright later quoted his "Fuck 12" sentiment), Elijah (offering highly danceable tunes to the still-trickling-in), and Btrfly (now known as Sister Zo, issuing intimate raps over sleek, homemade beats).

Full photo gallery here.

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