As life started to return to a state of relative normality last spring, so did the state of live music. Tours were announced and re-announced, fans were ravenous for tickets, and together it seems like live music experienced its own isolated roaring 20’s – albeit briefly. Though there’s no telling what is bound to happen in the future, the covid case spikes seem to be fewer and far between these days – so below you’ll find a brief list of some of our favorite shows from 2021, as well as a few tours worth keeping your eyes on as spring turns to summer. Whether you love festival crowds or despise their hectic energy – we can all agree that there’s nothing better than listening to music with those we love. With luck, this list will guide you (and your friends) to a memory waiting to be made.
Our Favorite Shows of 2021 —
IDK: Fresh from the release of his sophomore LP USEE4YOURSELF – IDK’s shows were the perfect portrayal of his recent hot streak. At his Los Angeles show, the venue was packed with diehard fans waiting on his every word. If he played a cut from an older mixtape – they knew every line. If he jumped into the crowd singing a newer track – they knew that one too. With an undeniably magnetic stage presence and a clear affinity for live performing, few artists are as fun to see live as IDK. Though it may be a minute until we’re treated to new music, I’m hoping that fans will receive another opportunity to see our hero live sooner rather than later.
Baby Keem: Though Keem is currently knee-deep finishing his Melodic Blue tour, Keem’s shows at LA’s Masonic Lodge are still burned into my memories almost a year later. If you haven’t already seen Baby Keem perform yet, it might be worth it to grab some last-minute tickets and take a road trip with your friends to make sure you don’t miss out. From his first LA show at The Roxy in 2019 to now, Baby Keem has consistently shown himself to be one of hip-hop’s most energetic performers. With the perfect discography to produce a high-octane set, Baby Keem’s pre-Melodic Blue show was certainly one for the books, and now that his latest album is out, there’s no excuse not to see him this year too. After all, you haven’t lived until you’ve belted out the words “I AM 50 CENT” surrounded by diehard Keem fans.
Don Toliver: I’ll preface this one by saying I had no idea what to expect for Don Toliver’s Life of a Don tour. I had always interpreted his music as downtempo-late night bops, but with BIA opening up for him, all bets were off. Despite my high expectations, Don Toliver managed to put on one of the best live shows I had seen in my life, completely recontextualizing my perception of his music in the process. It all started clicking – and through the hazy psychedelia of his set, I had the time of my life moshing with people both 5 years younger an older than me to tracks like “OUTERSPACE” and “CAN’T SAY”. There’s no doubt in my mind that Don Toliver will be heading back on tour soon, but until then, I’ll be actively looking for other shows to fill the void.
Isaiah Rashad: To say that I missed Isaiah Rashad would be a massive understatement, and luckily his shows for The House Is Burning tour were the perfect homecoming from one of hip-hop’s most mythical southern rappers. Supported by sets from Ray Vaughn, Childish Major, and, depending on which LA show you went to – Smino and SZA, Isaiah Rashad’s return to live music was just as perfect as you’d imagine. Joined by Zacari, Doechii, YG TUT, and more, Isaiah Rashad’s performance was a love letter to the community that he’s fostered while in and out of music’s spotlight.
Playboi Carti: If I’m keeping it totally honest – I didn’t actually go to Playboi Carti’s Narcissist Tour. While this entry could probably go to another great performer I did see like Kaytranada, Nana, or Dreamer Isioma – it should be no surprise why Playboi Carti makes this list. We’ve all seen the videos; the screaming, the smoke, the crowds of kids doing backflips and breaking barricades. Some videos seem more alluring than others, Playboi Carti’s devilishly piercing shriek gets paired alongside cultish behavior, and while some kids are filmed T-posing or doing fortnight dances, others are filming otherworldly performances of “Molly” or “Stop Breathing”. Would it be an exaggeration to say that each of these performances seems like our generation’s equivalent to a mini-Woodstock? Perhaps, but few artists outside of Kanye West can turn tours into talked-about cultural events. Whether or not you come for the fights or the music, it’s hard to ignore Playboi Carti once he hits the stage. For what it’s worth, I’m still recovering from seeing him in 2018.
Honorable Mention: Kenny Beats. Hosted by one of the All Gas No Breaks guys, the Kenny Beats-curated shows that happened last year in LA and NY were pretty much exactly what you’d expect – but in the best way possible. If you bought tickets expecting to see Kenny Beats DJ alongside performances by Sahbabii, Teezo Touchdown and Zack Fox, you were probably surprised to be treated to so much more in the process. At Kenny Beat’s LA show, guest appearances were made by artists from Mac Demarco to Vince Staples, Paris Texas to Ski Mask, and even Dominic Fike and John Carroll Kirby for a performance of “New York, New York”. Fans got to watch Zack Fox turn the venue upside down for “Bane” one moment, and then experience KB’s iconic “Beef” transition the next. It was the perfect show to teach audiences a simple life lesson; to expect the unexpected, and to never overthink shit.
Shows We’re Looking Forward To In 2022
Denzel Curry: The Melt My Eyez USA tour just started last week, and given Denzel’s extensive discography and the incredible new record setting the show’s tone, this tour is not one to miss. Depending on where you pull up, you may be treated to openers like redveil, Kenny Mason, Mike Dimes, or PlayThatBoiZay – so no matter what you’ll be getting a great set of performances for your money. Fans of hip-hop need to pull up to this tour before it ends this summer.
Yeat: In what may be the most anticipated tour of the season, Yeat and Septembers Rich’s 2Alivë tour is scheduled to commence later this week – and I have no idea to expect. There’s a fair chance Yeat brings out some famous guests along the way, but be sure to expect a heavy dose of geeky energy. They’re only touring for a month though, so buy tickets quickly and wisely. With luck, Uzi might make a surprise appearance at a show near you.
Saba: Though it only began last month, Saba’s Back Home tour is already shaping up to be one of the best tours offered in hip-hop this year. Featuring support from Lute, Amindi, Gaidaa, and Enny, Saba’s latest tour is the perfect place to see downtempo and jazzy performances from some of the genre’s best and brightest upcoming talents. It’s been a minute since we’ve been treated to new music and shows from the Chicago artist, and there’s no telling when Saba will resume touring once the tour closes, so do your future self a favor and secure a ticket before it’s too late.
Little Simz: Having just released one of the best albums of 2021, Little Simz is embarking on her own North American tour next month. She’s spent the better part of the last few months honing her skills on an EU tour, but finally, our queen is finally giving us some much-needed tour dates on the fated Sometimes I Might Be Introvert US Tour. If you missed her last record worry not – the tour starts in May, so you have more than enough time to get familiar before you grab your tickets.
Freddie Gibbs: Starting later this month and ending in the middle of the summer, Freddie Gibbs’ Space Rabbit tour is definitely one tour that I’m looking forward to attending later this year. Between the consistently-high quality releases and now a tour featuring support from Mike, Zack Fox, and redveil, Freddie Gibbs is on a winning streak that shows no signs of slowing down soon. If you plan on attending, try to avoid mentioning DJ Akademiks, or else you may find yourself thrown out of the venue.
Honorable Mention: Aminé: Though the tour has officially ended in North America, readers in Europe + the UK can look forward to seeing Amine’s Best Tour Ever later this Fall. If his US shows are anything to go by, then UK/EU fans need to see this tour before the year ends. Joined By 454 and Cochise (or AJ Tracey, depending on the date), Amine’s Los Angeles show truly was one of the Best Tours Ever. Paired with two of hip-hop’s most talented upcoming acts, 454 and Cochise both gave insanely high-energy and futuristic performances dope enough to instantly put Florida’s upcoming scene on the map. Amine’s devotion to his classic and mixtape deep cuts made for a diverse show with a near-perfected setlist primed for dancing, singing, and everything in-between. Though his support for the next phase of his tour has yet to be announced, Amine is definitely an artist you need to see live this year.