ILoveMakonnen Throws a House Party at Bowery Ballroom

ILoveMakonnen could be described as “eccentrically turnt”, especially when compared against the landscape of R&B rap-singers out today. The mainstream success of “Tuesday” thanks to a Drake remix hasn’t dampened his individuality and unique persona. His warbly yet incredibly authentic voice speaks to his fans (myself included).

When I heard his show in NYC was sold out, I was sadder than a teenage girl three days after a molly binge. How could I miss Makonnen’s triumphant return to NYC after his gentle spirt was snuffed by a Troy Ave thug on stage at SOBS? I wanted to be there to support and protect Makonnen. So I turned to StubHub, ready to pay a hefty fee for the privilege of witnessing Super Chef Makonnen cook.

But when I looked at tickets, they were $10. Face value was $20. There, on StubHub, there were hundreds of tickets, all under $20. What happened? Did a scalper miscalculate? Uncear. What was clear is that I was going to see Makonnen, on a Tuesday.

I got to the show just as a special guest Post Malone was taking the stage with Key!. The venue was less than 1/3 full at this point, which gave everyone a nice amount of person space to cook. Malone’s soon-to-be-hit “White Iverson” set the crowd off with a vibey turnup. I was certainly swaggin on all of them. There was lots of wrist dancing in effect as Key!, Sonny Digital, Rich Po Slim and a bevy of streetwear draped dudes bopped around the stage. Awful Records was in the building as the song transitioned to “Bitch U Guessed it”.

“Let’s act like OG Maco is here!” Key shouted, and everyone started singing along and doing trap-arms accordingly.

After a short and somewhat annoying little break, it was time for the head chef himself to cook. The crowd was still thin – only about half full. This had to be due to the scalping/ faux-sellout situation. However, the people who were there were down for it. As Makonnen took the stage to “Super Clean”, a few notable things happened. One was that noted Drake fan and blogger Ernest Baker started going insane in front of me on some next level turnt up shit, jumping and singing every word. As this unfolded, a giant, bald, muscled white guy and his tiny 5ft2 skinny friend came over to stand next to my group – and the giant guy was Molly’ed out of his mind. His eyes were rolling back into his head as he leaned against the wall. His friend explained to us “He’s off that molly! You know, right? You guys have any?”
“Do you really want me to quote the song?” I asked, alluding to Makonnen’s “I Don’t Sell Molly No More.” The skinny guy did not get the joke, or maybe he was too lit to care.

These two people pretty much epitomized the crowd on the floor (The VIP balcony above was lame and head nodding as usual). Every song Makonnen played, including “Swerve” and “Dodgin 12” sent the crowd into more of frenzy, jumping and singing along. Makonnen sang valiantly over just a bit of a backing track, and on some songs carried the whole thing himself. During “Whip It” I pretty much lost it, and began rapping the Migos verses at full volume. The fact the place was less-than-packed made it feel like a little turnt up house party led by some weird art kid – which is what it was.

At one point during the DJ Carnage produced “I Like Tuh”, the skinny protector of the Molly-ed out giant tried to crowd surf. Sadly, there were only about 12 people prepared to catch him, and 6 of those were drunk. He fell onto the cement floor, but that didn’t stop the party.

As the set wore on, the bigger hits started to come out. Key! Came out during “Wrist” to rap along to Father’s part, which confused some fans, myself included. Where was Father? Unclear. But Key! did a decent job, and the vibe was intact.

Makonnen closed with an extended version of “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” where the crowd sang along in a call-and-response.

The final song, played in an encore, was, of course, “Tuesday”. Producer/DJ Sonny Digital came out, rocking a dope jersey with “S. Digital” on the back. His skinny arms moved with the spirit of the trap while Makonnen crooned. The audience knew every word, and the slow tempo of the anthem didn’t stop people from jumping around excitedly. Makonnen hopped offstage, presumably to go back to whatever magical place from which he came. His DJ continued the party by jumping straight into Drake “Know Yourself”. The crowd surged back toward the stage, singing along as if Drake himself was there. After a few more songs, it was time to go. It didn’t take much time for the small crowd to pour out onto the sidewalk and into the Lower East Side, many of them still partying.

The show felt intimate, even if it was the scalpers fault. The crowd was dedicated fans, who knew not just hits but almost every song that Makonnen played. Blunts were passed, most pits were formed, and there were more than a few twerk-able moments for the ladies in the audiences. The energy felt like a family and left me convinced the Makonnen’s brand of inclusive, party R&B is here to stay.