The current nationwide tour featuring nerdcore rapper mc chris, with opening act Shubzilla and Bill Beats, is currently on its second leg, wrapping up in Los Angeles, CA, on Dec. 15th. This go-around has been anything but smooth for mc chris, especially after taking on the booking, finances, and promotion himself. However, with an army of strong opening acts (Lex the Lexicon Artist and Schaffer the Darklord opened on the first half of the tour) and loyal fans ready to sing along, this is still a show worth seeing. Nodball was in attendance for the show at Scout Bar in Houston, TX, on Dec. 2nd. This show ended up being a far cry from the first nerdcore concert I went to over three years ago.
I walked into Scout Bar a little after 6 PM when doors opened. As I go through the entrance, I quickly realize I’m the very first person to show up. I attended the last mc chris tour that came through Houston a few years ago, the “10 years of touring tour” at White Oak Music Hall. That show was a very different experience. There was a line dozens long, and a buzz of excitement in the air as people waited to enter the venue.
This time though, there isn’t any line, no vibes, just me walking into an empty room. The sound guy stands on the stage, setting up mics. Two bartenders are stocking up in the back, where the bar area hides in an elevated space behind the sound engineer’s booth. Close to the entrance, I find the opening act setting up their merch table.
“A Shubzilla/Bill Beats set is very cathartic”
I must have spent the first 45 minutes at the venue speaking with supporting act Shubzilla and Bill Beats. Hailing from the Seattle area, this is their first national tour. It seems they have one thing on their minds when visiting new places above all else. “I would say our goal is probably to find food,” Bill says. “At least for me, it is.” “No no no, that’s mine too!” Shubz interjects. She is also enjoying the warmer weather. “I love the heat. It is ass cold where we’re at, so anything to be above 75 degrees, I’m okay with.”
This tour draws a different type of crowd than the duo is accustomed to playing for in their 9 years of working together. “They’ve been super receptive,” Shubzilla says of the crowds. “We’re kind of like, nerdcore adjacent. We’re barely nerdcore, and that’s because I’ll drop a reference, or Bill Beats will sample something, right? So, for primarily nerdcore heavy crowds to really be receptive to us, it’s fun, and it’s really awesome.”
The duo decided to come closer to crossing over into the nerdcore genre by releasing their latest album, The Kong Quest in September. The album is an ode to the classic SNES game Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest and features samples taken from the game’s soundtrack. “All the music is from the game. So we took it, chopped it up, and made our own music out of it,” Bill explains. “It’s the first record that we’ve done where we really were like, ‘this is the theme’, to be that specific with a property,” he adds. “We’ll probably do it a couple more times, just to feel it out and do some different things. So far, people really seem to like it.”
There are a few simple things that you can expect when you see Shubzilla and Bill Beats take the stage, according to Shubz herself. “They should expect a lot of bass, dope ass turntablism, and me to yell at them. A Shubzilla/Bill Beats set is very cathartic,” she declares as Bill nods and laughs in agreement.
The opening acts
About an hour after arriving, a small crowd started to trickle in as the opening act got ready to take the stage. We mentioned in a previous article that fellow nerdcore rapper Nur-D was supposed to be the first opener on this leg of the tour. Local performers are being slotted in at each venue. For Houston, the coincidentally named local rapper Knurd is on the bill. He only performs a few tracks, but I enjoy each one. The beats have a good groove to them, and his flow is solid. For a local opener that they likely had to pull in at the last minute, they were able to make a quality choice.
After Knurd finished up his set, Shubzilla and Bill Beats take the stage. By the time they’re up, a slightly larger crowd is present. Shubz immediately calls everyone up to the front of the stage. About ten people or so make their way up at first. Like I said before, the attendance is nothing like it was three years ago. I’m sure this is something the duo is used to, having half the people there willing to watch them perform up close. In spite of that, it appears to give them the energy they need to put on the best set of the night.
The air in the venue is instantly electric as soon as the first track starts playing. Shubzilla is a natural on stage. Bill is a pro on the turntables. They have a way of getting a crowd that has likely never heard their music fully involved. As the set continues, a few more people start to make their way up to the front. The music is fun and infectious. The lyrics lend themselves to engaging the audience. Even if the crowd doesn’t know their music, they want to hear more now. Their set is easily the highlight of the evening. By the end of the set, Shubz and Bill have the crowd convinced that they are an act to pay attention to.
He was obviously not himself
All that’s left now is for mc chris to take the stage. Unfortunately, there is a small bit of controversy brewing outside as the previous act wrapped up. As chris arrived, he got into an argument with the guy watching the door. Chris explains in a Facebook live video made after the show what happened before his set.
“Tonight was a tough one. I got called an asshole before I even loaded in my stuff by the venue staff, and so that was really difficult for me.” He goes on to say that the manager for Scout Bar came out to talk to him, and he was overcome by emotion from the altercation. “I just looked at him and I’m like, ‘you know, it’s not cool to be called an asshole by staff, and then have to perform two minutes later.’ And I looked to him and just all these tears start coming down, and I was just like ‘ugh, this is so embarrassing.'”
Bryan Kissel, admin of the Nerdcore Hip-Hop FB group was at the show and made a post in the group about the incident. He says he spoke to Brent about it and offered his knowledge of the incident. “Chris’ new video about how he’s a total victim and the venue burned him is not true, at all. He backed his rental into a support pylon and blamed the door kid,” He says. “He then made a HUGE fit about the door kid ruining his good mood (I guess because he saw Chris back into a pole?) And asked ‘don’t you want these people to have a good show? You want to ruin that.'”
Though I didn’t see what happened firsthand, I went outside a few times between sets during the show and spoke with the door guy in question. His name is Brent, a father of two originally from New Orleans, LA, and an aspiring comedian. He seems nice enough in the small talk we share through the evening. Also, at the close of the show, I briefly overhear him talking to the girl running the box office and the manager about what happened. Brent was telling the other two that he thought he should go apologize for the incident. Seemed the other two thought it might be a bad idea or unnecessary, so I’m not sure if he did.
It was starting to appear as if his performance was in jeopardy. After a while, he did ultimately take the stage and perform his set. Even before knowing what had occurred outside, I can tell something is off as the first song plays. I can tell he doesn’t want to be on that stage.
Throughout the entire set, he barely opens his eyes at all. I get the vibe that he is just powering through the set to get it over with. He doesn’t speak to the audience much or joke with them like he usually does. He performs each song, one after the other. The set feels like songs coming off an assembly line. He was obviously not himself.
He explains the performance in the FB live video he posted after the show. “So I did the set, and I kinda flew through it. I didn’t really want to look at the venue, I didn’t wanna talk about what happened to me. I didn’t want to open my eyes, honestly.” He apologized for how things went down, saying, “I felt like it was a disservice to the fans, and for that, I’m sorry.”
He did perform all the classics, like Hoodie Ninja, Fett’s Vette, and I Want Candy. The crowd is there for him, gathering close to the stage. In spite of only being 30-50 strong, they cheer for him and sing along. He performs the songs well, despite what might be going through his mind at that point. He does have some minimal interaction with the audience, but most of the set, he stands statuesque in the middle of the stage. Chris closes his set by thanking everyone and offers to meet them at the merch table.
Doing what he always does
After the show, mc chris walks quietly to his merch table, the entire crowd lining up to meet him. I’m glad to see chris doing what he always does. Meeting with everyone wanting an autograph, a selfie, or to buy something from his table.
In spite of the difficulties occurring before his set, the fans are still happy with the show. Alfredo and Elizabeth Sanchez, who are here for their first-ever mc chris show, give an enthusiastic approval of the show. “Awesome, rad,” Alfredo puts it simply. “He played the classics, so it was good,” Elizabeth adds.
Ari Davenport, who has attended multiple mc chris shows, also gives the show a thumbs up. “He did great, I love watching him perform,” she says. “I like that every time he comes to Houston he plays robotussin.”
One thing you can’t take away from mc chris is that he always takes the time to meet with his fans after every show. No matter how long the line is, regardless of whether they buy something or not. He’s always happy to talk a little, sign things, or take pictures. It’s not to say that other artists don’t do the same, but the act of staying as long as it takes to make every fan happy is commendable.
Is an mc chris show still worth seeing?
This show is not the same show I got to see three years ago. Things have changed for mc chris this time around. He is booking and promoting the tour himself. There are small turnouts at some shows, but others are packed and full of energy. Controversy seems to follow him wherever he goes (the Oklahoma City show in particular).
Regardless of the issues surrounding the tour, he still brings out amazing opening acts that are worth seeing. His classic songs are as fun to sing along to as ever. The crowds are still chill, happy people, for the most part. Even if things aren’t the same, an mc chris show is still worth seeing. Even if you don’t like him anymore, go to the show and support the opening acts. mc chris tours are still a big break for a lot of artists, and they deserve to be heard by as many people as possible. If you get a chance, you should go. Even if it’s not quite the same.