By Milend Kolbet
J.I performed a concert via the Happin app on March 27, 2021. ‘The Prince of New York’ started making a name for himself in 2016 at the age of 14, when he appeared on the rap battle reality show The Rap Game. His popularity rose in 2019 with the release of Need Me, which to date has over 100 million plays on Spotify. The song so electrified his native New York City, that he became the first artist to sell out Greenwich Village’s SOBs club on three consecutive nights in December 2019.
The Crown Heights, Brooklyn native advertised his Happin concert heavily on Instagram, allowing the concert to reach a wider audience. The venue itself was quite accessible: once you purchased a ticket you would receive a unique code to allow you to watch the concert on any device. Despite the short 30-minute runtime the low price of $13 for an artist of his caliber and the concert’s accessibility was worth it.
The concert began somewhat shakily with Company — the echo on his voice at the start made it clear that he was singing over the song, and at a pace of half a second behind the music. By the third song, Blame On Me, any opening nerves were dispelled. A young female DJ did an excellent job of mixing the beat with the singer, so that the words of the song were clear, despite the strange sounds of breaking glass throughout the concert. This level of mixing is not often found at rap concerts and perhaps was a benefit of the online format. It allowed him to engage with the audience as he looked into the camera to deliver cutting lyrics like, “I know I’m young but I grew up fast. I aint no kid like that.”
On Used To he was able to demonstrate his impressive vocal range. Sitting by the DJ in a reflective mood, he sang “I been through it all so there ain’t nothing I aint used to” allowing for the emotion to come through in the calm environment of a concert without a live audience. The pre-recorded format offered quick transition scenes between different songs and sets.
Rappers handle features on their songs differently so it was exciting to hear J.I singing Lil Dirk’s part on Painless, but disappointing when he only sang the chorus of R&B Shit, cutting out A Boogie’s verse. He closed out the concert, as is customary, with his biggest hit, Need Me. On the previous two tracks, Painless and R&B Shit mentioned above, J.I was accompanied by electric piano playing the melody of the songs. On Need Me, the piano player was seemingly freestyling different melodies over the song, completely changing it — an interesting choice to close out the concert. While the change was enjoyable, at times it wasn’t as harmonious as the famous iteration of the song.
Panning between closeup shots of J.I at different angles, the DJ and the pianist towards the end, the camera captured the intimacy of the concert. His fusion of R&B melodies with sung rather than rapped choruses, translated to clear recordings of his voice and gave a personal touch to his lyricism. J.I the Prince of New York’s concert via Happin was like watching a Youtube concert for a fee, but the energy he brought to his music made this concert memorable. This certainly built the hype for his live performances in the future.