Rappers Yel (left) and Topp (center) stand on stage above screaming fans, joined by the AFFILI8D guitarist, Collin Jay (right), at Ray’s Golden Lion.
It has been nearly a month since the iconic Tri-Cities music venue, Ray’s Golden Lion, reopened to the public. I wrote a review on opening night in the Tri-City Herald, and have attended a multitude of events at the restaurant and venue since then.
I won’t lie — I’m a fan.
In the near-month since reopening, Ray’s has hosted numerous bands of different styles and locales, drawing different crowds among regulars. I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve attended in the meantime — and all the food I’ve consumed, too.
But, while I’m an avid rock fan, all this time I have been looking forward to the first hip-hop show.
My personal music listening repertoire includes at least a little bit of every genre. There are subgenres I haven’t quite delved into yet, but I pride myself in my knowledge of music across all genres. I grew up listening to a wide variety of music, and as I got older, I only added onto that. My parents had pretty different tastes in music, but they both taught me to appreciate it all — the music you love right away, and the music you have to grow to love. I have them to thank for my expansive musical tastes now.
Even though it wasn’t what either of my parents played much while I was growing up, these days, I gravitate towards rap and hip-hop. My top 100 songs for the year thus far features intense hip-hop and a lot of ‘90s and early ‘00s rock.
So, when I learned that Jang the Goon and Topp were the main support and headliner at the first hip-hop show at Ray’s, I had to attend.
I’ve met Jang the Goon before, but I didn’t get to see him live. Since then, I’ve listened to his music, and enjoyed it, but seeing him live was surreal.
He’s from Spokane, a place I have spent a lot of time over the years. The trap hip-hop scene there is one I thoroughly enjoy, and Jang brought it right to Tri-Cities.
Ray’s first hip-hop show
Ray’s first hip hop show was also the first 18-and-up show the venue has had since reopening. Out of all the events I’ve been to so far, this had the biggest change in audience demographics.
Upon arrival, there were less heads than a normal early evening at Ray’s. Even the weekday shows have been packed pretty solidly before 8pm, but not for this show.
There are multiple potential reasons for this shift: It was an 18-and-up show, it was the first hip-hop event, it was a holiday weekend, etc.
But while attendance may have been down, the energy was not. Just like all the rock shows held thus far, the audience was energetic, tuned into the artists, and full of hype. Before long, the rappers had filled the pit with engaged listeners, jumping and thrashing to the beat.
The concert at Ray’s was the final stop on the “Lifes Crazy Tour,” headlined by Topp with Jang the Goon. Several other AFFILI8D artists performed as well. AFFILI8D is a music collective out of Spokane, co-founded by some of the artists. The night’s lineup was kicked off by Ducce2x, a trap artist and designer of the Misplaced clothing line. He was followed by Zaeshaun Haze, TheBoyBeerus, and Bapeface before the headliners came out.
Anyone who has worked a sound system before can tell you just how different the setup is for rock music and hip-hop. Despite going from metal and punk shows to trap and hardcore hip-hop, the sound system at Ray’s had it handled. There was some minor feedback during Ducce2x’s first few songs, but that was quickly fixed. Over the course of the night, the music was cranked louder, but the system held strong.
Ducce2x and Zaeshaun Haze had pretty different sounds. The former was more like Gunna, the latter more like Oliver Tree. But the night’s emcees maintained energy between both and kept the crowd in anticipation for what was coming next.
By the time TheBoyBeerus took the stage, the crowd was filling in nicely in the pit. I couldn’t help but notice how many patrons were confused to find that drinks couldn’t go past a certain area, until they realized it was an 18-and-up night. There was still plenty of room for those with drinks to enjoy the performances, but the pit skewed younger in age because of this boundary.
Most of the night’s performers brought guests to the stage. TheBoyBeerus closed out his set on a song with Bapeface, who seamlessly took the stage after.
‘Lifes Crazy Tour’ headliner, main support
Jang the Goon has performed in Tri-Cities before, which was evident in the number of his fans present for the show. The high-energy rapper has been gaining traction for some time, establishing a brand and fanbase of ‘Goons’. He’s sold out shows in his hometown, Spokane, in venues of various sizes.
Jang the Goon’s energy was consistently high in his Ray’s performance. The artist even took the opportunity to stage dive a few times, something I had yet to see at the Golden Lion.
Headliner Topp is one of the AFFILI8D founders, with extensive connections to Tri-Cities. He brought several guests up to perform with him, including his real-life siblings, Yel and Nobi. While their individual sounds had different undertones and influences, when the rappers came together, the result was an effortless harmony and flow.
The performers thanked the crowd at the end of the night, lauding the success of the hip-hop show at a rock-dominated venue. Topp told the crowd that events such as this one “need to continue to happen, especially for hip-hop.”
As Ray’s Golden Lion reopens, one of its biggest challenges will be expanding its customer base to younger generations, new demographics of attendees who never attended during the venue’s heyday. While the numbers weren’t quite what they have been for rock shows (an employee estimated about 100 ticketed people in the building by the end of the night, accounting for anyone coming and going), the “Lifes Crazy Tour” stop showed that Ray’s is capable of breaking into new scenes in order to thrive. As it builds on this momentum, I predict it won’t be long before hip-hop will be featured regularly at Ray’s.
Karlee Van De Venter is a full-time reporter at the Tri-City Herald who contributes Arts and Entertainment coverage for Tumbleweird. Through a co-publication agreement, this content may also appear in the Herald.