John Givez is one of the hottest artists in our scene today. In the two years following the release of IV Seasons his popularity has grown quickly due to quality features and a collaborative project with the Dream Junkies (Ruslan & Beleaf). The release of Soul Rebel all but ensures John will be around for a while, with many artists and media outlets naming it the #1 album of the year.
To bring the music directly to the fans, John Givez hit the road with label mates Ruslan and Beleaf for the Soul Rebel tour. Before we dive into the event itself, I want to commend Kings Dream for putting together such a long and wide-reaching tour. Planning and executing a 20 city tour is not an easy task for a small label, but it is encouraging to see that John Givez and the Dream Junkies have (a lot of) fans all around the country.
It was a little difficult to find the venue entrance, but it was a perfect venue for the show. Hosted in the basement of an old church, it was large enough for a good sized crowd, but small enough to provide an intimate feeling. The crowd wasn’t large, probably 40-50 people at the peak, but because of the small size, people got to meet the artists during and after the show. It won’t be too long before John Givez is selling out much larger venues, so shows like this are a great opportunity for real fans to chop it up with their favorite emcees.
The show was opened by Jamaica West, Preston Perry, Jackie Hill-Perry and Ray Alexis. Each poet did one piece and Ray Alexis performed two songs of his latest project. It was a solid opening lineup, especially considering that the entire Dream Junkies crew was set to perform at the same show. For me, the real stand-out of the opening acts was Jamaica West. She performed her poem “My Cleavage Is A Snare,” a piece that hits harder ever time you hear it.
My only criticism of the time before the show and during opening acts was that transitions weren’t done in a way that kept the audience engaged. At most shows the DJ takes this responsibility, playing music before the show and in between acts to kill any dead space. Especially considering the small size of the crowd, it would have been good for the DJ to take extra steps to increase energy in the room.
After the opening acts the Dream Junkies performed individual songs and songs together. Ruslan and Beleaf both performed songs off their latest albums, but unfortunately the crowd lacked some energy during this stretch. Most of this was due to the fact that people did not seem to be familiar with Do For One and Red Pills + Black Sugar. Ruslan adjusted to this dynamic by performing a freestyle about random objects that people found in their pockets.
The crowd loved when all three Dream Junkies performed songs off NREM Edition together. The chemistry they share as a group spilled into the crowd, with most of the fans singing every word to “Higher.”
The Soul Rebel
After Beleaf and Ruslan performed solo sets, John Givez took the stage to perform pieces off Soul Rebel. He’s a natural performer. From my vantage point, it felt like he made adjustments because of the small (and relatively stiff) crowd. John started the set with the opening run of the album, performing “Elementary Trill,” “2004,” and jumping to “Da Art of Storytelling Pt.5.” Going into the show I wondered if he would include “Da Art of Storytelling Pt.5” in his live set, due to the criticism he has received over it’s content. But I was happy that he did. He followed it up by explaining his reasoning for the song and who he hopes is impacted by the story.
Over the course of the night John Givez performed the entire first half of Soul Rebel, minus “AM/PM” feat. Beleaf. Throughout the entire set he told stories that helped fans understand the creation and meaning behind each track. The most interesting stories he told surrounded the song “Johnny Law (Green Light).” He started by telling a story about being profiled by the police in his own city, and then explained the creation of the song’s ending when a man is singing, “If i could do it all again, I would choose better friends, better friends…”
In my opinion, Soul Rebel is one of the best albums I own, so I loved the opportunity to hear John perform the songs and provide background stories throughout his set. The small crowd limited the room’s energy at times, but it was good to see the artists perform the best they could for the fans who made it out.
For more information check out SoulRebelTour.com