Pigeons and Planes’ No Ceilings show went down last Wednesday night in a crowded little haunt in Brooklyn. The crowd of eager hip-hop fans packed into the cozy standing room to see theMIND, Topaz Jones, Kemba, and Noname.
First to the stage, theMIND brings a passionate summer vibe to the chilly October night as the lights dim and he sways with the ocean blue waves of his music. His smile is infectious as he lays into the hook of “In Peace,” urging the crowd to sing along. The room overflows with a sweet sense of group love as everyone tunes in, singing “they can trap your body but can’t keep your mind locked up.”
“Put a hand up for love!” theMIND announces before launching into another track and bringing out Pro Era’s Kirk Knight to spit the hook on his track “One Night” off his 2015 album Late Night Special. With audience permission, theMIND transitions into some brand new and unreleased tracks, joking around with his pianist. As he sings “you’re my favorite girl” and makes eyes at the pianist, it’s all about friendship and love in the venue. You can’t help but close your eyes and escape into his voice. Before finishing his set, theMIND has everyone throw up a hand and scream “I believe!” as loud as they can. With his set, theMIND pins down the atmosphere for the rest of the night: love and acceptable.
There are few words to describe the electric buoyancy of Topaz Jones when he his the stage. He dances end to end, mic in hand, with an unprecedented energy and works the room to a new high. It was hard to find a second to take notes or catch your breath with how jazzed Jones was able to get the whole crowd. The man is a true character, a funk superstar in the purest form. His DJ came with the same soaring energy, jamming out between cuts and chanting along with the crowd into his mic.
Jones shows his immense range as an artist towards the end of his set, when he slows things down and takes a serious and poetic turn to talk about the pain of police brutality. Symbolically letting his hair down, Jones practically gets down on his knees to share his pain over the ongoing struggles and oppression faced by people of color. Then, with his stunning stage presence, it takes Jones just a few bars to close out his set on the same high it began.
Kemba starts his set with a different goal in mind: family. He urges the crowd to do a little back and forth to get us all comfortable with each other. “Oh, you guys got rhythm,” he says before launching into a song and stunning everyone with his technical skill. With an extremely personable stage presence, his skill is hypnotic. Kemba commands the room and spits some a capella bars while his DJ lays in some tight scratches on “Greed.”
After dipping into a few more a capella bars, flexing his poetic nerve, Kemba gets the whole crowd venting. He turns the mic to the crowd and has us chant “do you know who you fucking with?” with all the anger he can summon out of us. Kemba ends his set on this empowering and feel good note, capturing rage and turning it into something beautiful.
Finally, Noname comes onto the stage with an instant summertime cheer radiating from the sunflowers on her shirt and the smile on her face. Her soul spills into the crowd as she opens with “All I Need,” complete a surprise visit from Xavier Omar on the feature. From the first song, the venue is flooded with the Noname brand of subdued pastel happiness. Of course, she brought theMIND back on stage so they could perform their bubbly “Sunny Duet.” Outside of Telefone, Noname breathed new life into her feature on Mick Jenkin’s “Comfortable.” The energy and love she put into her feature on Chance’s “Lost,” was so potent her mic broke.
Noname took a step back before performing “Casket Pretty,” and made sure people knew this was the most important song of the night and of the album. If there was ever a moment to peer into Noname’s soul, it would have been during her heartbreaking performance of the track. The emotion beaming from her eyes was tangible to the whole crowd. The hurt wells up in her eyes, but is quickly replaced by an honest and genuine joy when she announces that she loves us: the crowd, the city, the music.The joy carries over into a reprise off the hook of “Yesterday.” Noname cuts the music and it’s just us and her singing “I picture your smile, like it was yesterday.” She plays along, asking “whose smile?” When most of the crowd points to her she giggles out “my smile?”
The night finishes where it began: in a haze of happiness, summertime, love, healing, and acceptance. Make sure you check out each of the featured artists, and if you get a chance to see any of them live absolutely take it. Between theMIND, Topaz Jones, Kemba, and Noname, there’s an incredible amount of talent that is not to be slept on.