Published Jul 16, 2012In its third year of existence now, the Smokers Club Tour can be summed up in one phrase: They got high. "They" being co-founders Jonny Shipes -- the guy who discovered Big K.R.I.T. and Nipsey Hussle -- and Smoke DZA. Walking onto the tour bus parked outside Phoenix Concert Theatre on Sherbourne Street, one immediately thinks of the movie Soul Plane, that is, without all the bells and whistles, and with a destination somewhere north of HIP 13044 b, that new extragalactic exoplanet.
Parked at the very back of the bus, sucking down Domino's pizza, eyes sealed shut with drips of perspiration starting, was 17-year-old lyrical phenom Joey Badass and his crew, Pro Era. Performing songs from his acclaimed mixtape 1999, such as the DOOM-produced "World Domination," "Survival Tactics" and "Don't Front." Joey and co. -- Capital STEEZ & CJ Fly -- glided around the stage, knocking into each other, high-fiving fans, basically reenacting what goes on in a schoolyard in Brooklyn, or when they get rowdy, the line at McCarren Pool. Joey's set, at about 30 to 40 minutes long, could have benefited from an in-house DJ, but besides that, it ran smooth and had a nice freestyle section tacked on at the end.
Nearing the front of Smokers Club bus, you encountered Smoke DZA, who talks about his Polo gear with the pretension of a practised wine critic/connoisseur, and Cinematic Music Group president Shipes, who was dressed in an Elvis costume and offered lost reporters a swig of Pino from the bottle. Smoke took to the stage immediately following Joey Badass, wielding a gold wrestling belt over his camo Polo attire, and asked that all 300 or so fans crowd the front of the stage. After all, "This is the Smokers Club Tour, not the Jokers Club Tour."
Smoke performed a long set, close to an hour, including standout tracks "New Jack," "Ashtray," "Loaded" and "Four Loko," all with the fiery energy of an artist continually overlooked by the mainstream hip-hop institution. "I picked that up from Method Man," said Smoke of his newfound stage presence.
Unsurprisingly, the headliner of the tour, Juicy J, was nowhere to be found on the Soul Plane. Instead he was back at the hotel countin' faces, burnin' dope, before bursting onto the stage in a "Turn Up" T-shirt, as if he were Rampage Jackson stuck in Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes. If Juicy's lifestyle is at all like what he projects on stage -- a Xanax-snorting, Trippy Stick-wielding Adonis who parties so hard customs officials allow him to import quantities of lean -- then perhaps he himself was born on HIP 13044 b, where trivialities like cardiac arrest cease to exist.
Running through hits like "Geeked Up Off Them Bars," "Drugged Out," "Juicy J Can't," "Get Higher" and crowd favorite "Deez Bitches Rollin'," as well as old-school jams like "Stay High" and "Poppin' My Collar," Juicy gave fans exactly what they came for: a dose of drugs, bitches, and explicit hashtag phrases. One especially inspired fan managed to sum up Juicy's set in two words, when he told a cute girl in a skimpy blouse, "Nice tits!"