All photos were taken by street photographer Kenechi.
Between 2012 and 2013, I was a huge Robb Bank$ fan. Fresh off the heels of Calendars and Tha City releases, the artist inspired a cult following of niche hip-hop fans. Kids, like me, whose interests were perceived seemingly contradictory by those on the outside – the hood geeks that gang banged and watched Naruto.
Somewhere along the way (presumably in between the consistent push-back of new projects), I lost my connection to the Broward County legend. Unbeknownst to me, Robb Bank$’s popularity continued to grow – not only within the niche marketplace that I described earlier, but this time past the boundary of hip-hop pockets and into mainstream. Fast forward more than four years and two particularly gifted projects (Year of the Savage and C2: Death of My Teenage) and I’m standing in the press box of Robb’s Road 2 Falconia show at Portage Theater.
The Chicago tour stop featured a slew of openers, including Black Ink Crew’s Phor, LUCKI, Da Baby (Baby Jesus), Flyboy Tarantino, and KiD Trunks. Don’t let the laundry list of billed performances fool you – the crowd made it perfectly clear that this was solely a LUCKI and Robb Bank$ show.
Saturday night was less of a concert and more of a house party with your favorite underground artists. Both performers connected directly with the fans – providing an intimacy that mainstream stadium shows could never accomplish.
Leading up to the show, LUCKI crowned the night as his Homecoming. His tweets encouraged all of his real Chicago fans to show up that night – preluding that this was a celebration for those that were with him from the very beginning.
LUCKI’s on-stage entourage was almost as large as the audience, but they served mostly as an environmental placeholder while LUCKI directly connected with his day-one supporters – and their Snapchats. You could tell this was an important performance and that he wanted it to be as special as possible. This would explain his animosity towards Portage Theater for “taking his supporters’ blunts away.”
For the night, Portage was his house and his guests should be allowed to do whatever they wanted. Despite the venue’s attempt to keep the party down, LUCKI crowd-sourced the show with Robb Bank$ following suit shortly after.
Robb Bank$’s headlining hour would most properly be called a meet-and-greet. Robb performed every single song from within the crowd. He was no longer Robb Bank$ The Artist who was supposed to stand on stage peering down at the people who paid to witness his songs live. He was Robb Bank$ The Friend as he established a physical bond with each of his supporters, moshing to his own songs as if he paid to be there himself.
His performance reminded me of college house party concerts where your friend who’s a rapper “performs” in the basement. The crowd is made up of fans, who are really friends, singing along to every song as if the artist’s success depends on it. Robb’s DJ was more of a glorified holder of the AUX cord as concertgoers demanded which tracks to play next. The show was literally as intimate as you could possibly get.
At the end of the show, Robb walked to the lobby of the venue and personally sold his merch, while security screamed, “If you don’t buy, you don’t get a picture!” Of course, he took pictures regardless of a purchase.
I can now say, for the record, that I am a redeeming Robb Bank$ fan. His performance and merch table presence proved that he wasn’t too big to connect with his supporters. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. On the contrary, Robb was down-to-earth and relaxed, and most importantly, there to enjoy the show.