Kweku Collins may not be a chart-topping hip-hop star yet, but during last night’s performance at the Mill, he defiantly acted the part.
By all appearances, Collins’ show — one of the very last appearing on the schedule of Witching Hour — shouldn’t have felt as big as it did. Armed with only one backing musician, one synthesizer, and the forty or so patrons watching in the Mill, the show seemed destined to be a modest affair.
Nonetheless, Collins’ energy was quick to infect everyone in attendance. At 11:12, he literally leaped onto stage and remained in frenetic motion until the show was over.
The hundreds of blurry pictures that I had to take of Collins before capturing one clear enough to share is as good a testament as any to his hummingbird-like restlessness. From line to line, Collins buzzed from end of the stage to the next, all the while leaning into the crowd as if he was trying to share a secret with us.
It was this – his outsized personality, his extrovert’s eagerness to communicate with the crowd – that made the show feel like a much bigger event than I had expected it to be.
Collins performed as if he were before an audience of hundreds. The dark and narrow confines of the Mill faded away before the radiant self-confidence that Collins evinced on stage.
Neither did the sparse backing arrangement turn out to be a problem. The sounds that came out of that lone synthesizer – big and dirty synths, heavy organ samples, 80s honky-tonk keyboards – had a monolithic simplicity that only added momentum to the performance.
Any gaps that were in the arrangement were filled by the flexibility of Collins’ style. A fluid, nimble rapper with a flow often described as melodic, Collins switched up the performance by sneaking his offhand, oddball observations about the audience and the room in between the rhymes.
During one breathless moment between tracks, Collins took a pause to boast. “This is my job.” Beaming, he then dove into a new unnamed track with the same cool, accomplished assurance that had carried him through the rest of the show. “Can you believe I’m at work right now?” If he ever felt like he was, he never it let it show.
Later, he offered the audience a question. “So what have we learned tonight? Do you, take care of other people…” He began to answer, until a drunken audience member interjected. “And fuck Donald Trump!”
“And fuck Donald Trump,” Collins echoed with a laugh. “Do you, and fuck everyone else.” The politics might be up for debate, but by the time the show came to an end, Kweku Collins’ message of total self-assurance felt unassailable.