Manhattan’s Webster Hall swelled with anticipation last Wednesday as Hudson Mohawke stealthily approached the DJ booth, soaked in fog and purple lighting, accompanied by thin layer of watery synths. With this night being one of the last of Red Bull Music Academy’s month-long string of events in New York City, expectations were high, and the question of who the “friends” the headliner was supposed to bring out had rumors buzzing.
After an energetic performance from NY-based rapper and producer Le1f, HudMo’s calm was a counter-intuitively exhilarating change of pace. Rather than going for a sucker-punch high-energy opener, HudMo caught the crowd’s curiosity with his slow-building, majestic remix of Bjork‘s “Virus.” Many shouted anxiously for a “drop.” Others, trusting in HudMo’s subtlety, let themselves take the bait, listening intently for his next move. All were pleased to hear the Glaswegian producer’s more melodic sensitivities be followed by his dark side, transitioning into the menacing “100HM,” originally conceived as a Rick Ross instrumental. Hudson Mohawke’s versatility doesn’t only make for a unique live performance: in the past few years, it has established him as a key player in both the electronic music scene and, most recently, in the world of hip-hop.
Hudson Mohawke is currently in an artistic Goldilocks zone that most producers could only dream of. His first taste of recognition came with his collaborative project with Montreal producer, Lunice (TNGHT). Their self-titled EP, released in 2012, was two steps ahead of the game, being one of the first instances–and certainly one of the best–in which the Southern trap sound was fused with electronic music. It was this project in particular that caught Kanye West‘s attention, who signed HudMo to G.O.O.D. Music’s production wing early last year. HudMo has consistently brought his precise and hard-hitting style to G.O.O.D. Music’s table, receiving production credits on the Cruel Summer compilation and on West’s last album, Yeezus. Though HudMo refrains from labeling his music, his use of 808s, fat synths, and distorted vocal samples made for a deadly combination that greatly popularized the trap sound within the EDM community. It’s safe to say, however, that few producers who adopted the sound have managed to do it as creatively as Hudson Mohawke. Of course, the Webster Hall crowd was well-aware of this as they bounced to TNGHT-bangers like “Goooo” and “Higher Ground.”
As HudMo rocked out with his signature slightly-off-beat head bob to one of his own 808-heavy tracks “Chimes,” a familiar voice suddenly began crooning over the blasting horns. Houston rapper and fellow G.O.O.D. Music signee Travi$ Scott rushed the stage, stomping wildly, dapping up fans and singing a hypnotic tune: “She in love with the party…” After allowing a moment of silence for the audience to soak it all in, Scott baptized the crowd with a water bottle and growled furiously into the mic as the opening to his titanic single “Upper Echelon” blasted. Remaining on stage for a few extra minutes to continue hyping up the crowd, stage-diving and giving his t-shirt away to one lucky female, Travi$ Scott’s electric performance proved to be tough act to follow for HudMo’s second guest, Bodega Bamz. The Harlem MC performed unreleased material with great enthusiasm and charisma, but was somewhat lost in Travi$ Scott’s dust cloud.
After expertly leveling the slight dip in energy, teasing the crowd with a snippet of his latest collab with Yeezy, “God Level,” HudMo was joined on stage by Antony Hegarty, front man of chamber pop band Antony and the Johnsons, in the form of a ghostly silhouette haunting the back of the stage. Hegarty swayed gently as she sang an eery melodic number, later revealed to be an unreleased song produced by HudMo. While being by far the oddest choice of guest performer, those who’d learned from the intro knew that this was only a quiet before the storm. Making sure to finish on a high note, HudMo threw down three classics in a row, “Cbat,” “Thunder Bay,” and “Fuse,” which he then topped off with his cheerful, clubby remix of Duck Sauce‘s “NRG.”
Tongue firmly in cheek, HudMo walked a few feet away from the booth, pointing at his watch apologetically, knowing full well that he had us in the palm of his hand. Murmurs of “Kanye” and “Bjork” could be heard throughout the crowd, but he would not save his encore song for something that wasn’t all the way him, and rightfully so. Few artists are bold enough to finish a set with something that will challenge rather than appease their fans. The unreleased song’s pounding buildup resembled a punk beat played on drums forged by the gods. The “drop” (if you can call it that) was awe-inspiring. With no signature HudMo style rapid-fire snares to be heard, a sublime tidal wave of harmonic synths washed over the crowd, crashing and fading, with HudMo disappearing into it. While some remained milling around, clinging to hope that Kanye would make an appearance, most left contently knowing that the silence was only yet another set up for the many things Hudson Mohawke still has in store for us down the line.
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