As Saturday night rounded into Sunday morning, Beanie Sigel sauntered out onto the Grog Shop stage to his opening verse on Jay-Z’s "Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)." It was the first time the crowd felt in sync all night — the Broad Street Bully was finally here.
A savvy vet, the 43-year-old former Jay-Z protege put on a controlled, concentrated performance that doesn’t miss. Compact and deft, he maneuvered through his full-mouthed multi-syllabic rhymes with rock-solid technical ability and gut-punching delivery that feels professional, not rehearsed. He cooly owned the stage without gimmicks. This ain’t his first rodeo.
Sigel’s set was varied and precise, peppered with hits and freestyles from his almost 20 years as a performer. He romped through the Just Blaze-produced anthem "Beanie (Mack)" with ferocity. The crashing pianos of "Money, Cash, Hoes" – the Jay-Z classic that features Sigel on the remix – sent the Cleveland crowd into a frenzy as it erupted to rap along, singing “P-H-I-L-L-Y/North, West, Southwest, South side.” A woop-inducing acapella of “It’s On” cut into the battle rap-ready verse “I'm a live wire, hula hoop barb wire/Run through hell with gasoline drawers on,” paired with a rawkus call-and-response performance of “What Ya Life Like?”
Sigel's rendition of “Feel It In the Air” proved impassioned and emotive, evidence to convince even the most jaded of fans that live rap performances can bond and connect. The crowd obliged his invitation to “roll one, light one, smoke one”; the blunt clouds were thick and pungent and fed into an introspective thread that carried throughout his set. His almost spoken word-style acapella rendition of his verse on Raekwon’s "Have Mercy" elicited affirming murmurs with “Try to teach my son right, give him some jewels/But it's hard to raise my boy from this visiting room.”
Sigel concluded with a medley of tracks with the rapper Freeway, whom he said was hoping to make it out for a surprise appearance (he didn’t.) It was highlighted by “Rock The Mic,” a two-step club banger with a sneering bounce emblematic of the early 2000s that had the room shaking. Sigel closed the set by inviting everyone on stage, shooing away security, a sea of phone lights and rubbing shoulders crowded around the rapper. There was something communal, jubilant.
Massillon-bred Stalley opened for the Sigel-centric crowd, which was less exuberant but politely rocked along. Perhaps a bit put off by the DJ’s opening locavore salvo (“If you’re not supporting Ohio artists, kill yourself”), the crowd warmed with Stalley’s stand-out performances of “Samson,” “808z” and “Swangin.'” The MMG-signed artist has kept a low profile since his Saving Yusuf
EP release early last year, but if the unreleased track with Quavo of the Migos he previewed is any indication, Stalley has something special coming out the oven soon.
Local acts Zell and Woulf warmed up the Grog. Zell’s bars over boom-bap and smooth, Southern-influenced production from his mixtape 1997
resonated with the crowd, while Woulf’s set was highlighted by fierce acapellas and a high energy duo with the very promising Tae Miles on "Welcome to the Jungle."