ILOVEMAKONNEN’s Joy Onstage Makes Up for His Shortcomings at Hype Hotel SXSW Show [EXCLUSIVE]
The music of Atlanta rapper ILOVEMAKONNEN comes from a place of boundless enthusiasm. It was obvious throughout his giddy Friday afternoon set (March 20) at the Hype Hotel in Austin, Texas that he's as much of a fan -- specifically of rap and R&B -- as a performer, and his deep affection for the music is what compels him to create it, regardless of his own technical limitations.
That sense of joy went a long way to compensate for Makonnen's shortcomings during his SXSW set. He's neither a technically proficient rapper nor a gifted singer, but he seemed giddily lost in what he was doing, making it hard not to begrudge him. More than anyone else, he recalled Biz Markie circa Goin' Off; both share a fascination with recounting the details of their everyday life, and both share those simple stories as enthusiastically as possible.
Makonnen's songs split firmly into two camps while onstage. There was hoarse R&B, on which Makonnen gleefully pushed against the considerable limits of his vocal range to charming effect. On "Sex, Love, Ecstasy," he warbled the title phrase deliriously off-key, weaving over the song's filmy, thumping production. "Too Much" was similar; as chest-collapsing bass and a twinkling, music-box melody twirled dizzily behind him. Makonnen bellowed the song's three-note hook again and again until it started seeming like a weird religious mantra.
He was better on the straightforward rap songs, where he alternated between tough, punching, mid-range syllables and an eerie, deep-seated baritone. Like most of his songs, the majority of these consisted of about eight or 10 words repeated over and over, but it's a testament to their strange infectiousness that they never felt tired.
On a snippet of Father's "Look At Wrist" -- the lyrics to which are simply "wrist, wrist, wrist, wrist" -- he bounced merrily across the stage, hitting each word as if he was singing it for the first time. By the time he arrived at "Tuesday" -- Drake was nowhere in sight -- the unfiltered delight in the room had hit a fever pitch, and the crowd sang the song's hook right back at him. All eight words of it.
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