Grimiest Hip-Hop Set: Westside Gunn and Conway
Westside Gunn and Conway, a pair of MCs (and real-life brothers) from Buffalo, New York, opened Friday's slate of This Tent performances with an impressively single-minded set. The beats were slow and spooky, full of shivering string samples, haunted-house keyboards, degraded vocal samples from old soul records and insistent drums; the rapping, as Conway put it, focused on "real-life street tales of drug-dealing and gun-toting." But if the songs were filled with grim lessons and dire warnings, the performers were buoyant, cheerfully insulting former Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan, complimenting each other – "Goddamn, you killed that shit," Westside Gunn told Conway – and asking hopefully for some free weed: "If y'all got some extra bud, I put my phone number up there," Westside Gunn said, gesturing towards the screen. "I smoke all motherfucking day." One out of every three sentences from these two rappers is a statement about their commitment to "real hip-hop;" Conway enjoys referring to himself as the "grimiest [rapper] of all time." This rhetoric could become tiresome, but Westside Gunn and Conway have enough onstage charm to make it endearing. E.L.