Unforgettable: Mura Masa mesmerizes sold-out Vogue

Mura Masa with Joey Purp at the Vogue Theatre, 9/20/17

Photo courtesy of Vice
Photo courtesy of Vice

Some fans in line for the sold-out Mura Masa show at the Vogue Theatre last Wednesday tried to figure out who the opener was. “Who?” “Pump?” “Joey Pump?” they asked each other. Well, Joey PURP didn’t jump off of the Vogue’s balcony and cause the show to be shut down after 20 minutes, but he still made the all-ages crowd remember his name.

Like many of the rising who’s who in hip hop today, Joey Purp came up in Chicago. Over several one-offs and two of his own mixtapes, 2012’s The Purple Tape and 2016’s iiiDrops, he has both guested on tracks by Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Towkio, and Donnie Trumpet (now Nico Segal) and featured many of them on his own tracks.

Young Purple, Young Jimmy, Young Rasta, Big Willy – whichever one of Joey Purp’s nicknames you want to call him by – kicked off the night with a version of “Money & Bitches” that was more foreboding than its reclining recorded version. He mainly pulled from iiiDrops including his two best-known songs, the wonky, unresolved “Photobooth” and the big city, bright lights “Morning Sex”. Unfortunately, no one filled in for Lil Chano from the 79th on “Girls @”, so Purp abridged it. From elsewhere in Joey’s discography, he busted out his collaborations with another Chicago act, hip hop group Leather Corduroys: “Mexican Coke”, “We Don’t Know How to Stop”, and set closer “Irie Trill Vibes”. Purp was at his most fiery on these songs and got more and more aggressive in his delivery. His 2015 single “Morgan Freeman” was another aggressive one, but he also chilled things out with iiiDrops highlight “Cornerstore”.

The venue filled up, and the crowd dialed all the way to 10 for Mura Masa. The Guernsey-born musician is known for his electronic pop, trap, house, and straight hip hop beats, but he made them all with a full band set-up all by himself. Keyboards and drums – both standard percussive instruments and electronic pads – surrounded him on three sides. Behind him stood an electric guitar.

It only took the first two notes of set opener “Messy Love” to get the crowd roaring. And they stayed hot for his entire set. Never mind Mura Masa Mura’s multi-instrumental multitasking – the lights alone were so dazzling, spinning and scanning the room in concentrated beams and thin fans, it was sometimes difficult to tell if people were applauding the visual spectacle.

Rapper Fliss joined Mura Masa for most of his set, filling in for the likes of Charli XCX on “1 Night” and Jamie Lidell on the funky, guitar-driven “NOTHING ELSE”. (The funky, choppy guitar continued on “Helpline”, one of the most hype songs of the night that got the audience clapping, singing along, and jumping, jumping, jumping while flooded by lights.) Fliss only partially filled in for Desiigner who was backtracked on the straightforward trap hit “All Around the World”. “Low” though, which normally features Jay Prince, was easily her most heated performance and featured the biggest drops of the night.

Even when Mura Masa slowed things down, sentimental songs like the submerged ballad “Blu” and the back-to-back “Second 2 None” and “Who Is It Gonna B” were anthemic; the sky opened up during these songs. Mura Masa entered this lower tempo closer to the end of the night, but he and Fliss didn’t let the audience off the hook without another sparkler, “Firefly”.

The words “beatmaker” and “producer” automatically turn off many listeners, but even such listeners should be able to appreciate a multi-skilled musical chameleon like Mura Masa. “Hope they don’t forget ya,” Joey Purp raps on “Morning Sex”. With the crowd chanting “Joey!” after he left the stage, and with the amazing sold-out performance Mura Masa put on, neither will artist will have to worry about be forgotten any time soon.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu