Harlem rapper Vinny Chase is a new, yet fairly recognizable, name. He’s amassed a decent following online, with more than 114,000 Twitter followers and nearly 25,000 followers on Instagram, while videos for his bass-heavy party anthems have earned him enough buzz that he was recently signed to Epic Records.
But online notoriety doesn’t always translate into the real world, as Chase’s Sunday night show at Empire proved.
At its peak, there were about 20 people in the crowd at the Springfield venue — and that included a few opening acts who stuck around to watch Chase’s headlining set. Perhaps it was the venue’s lack of proximity to D.C. that kept people away? Or maybe a lack of promotion was to blame?
Chase was left to spit raucous bars to an incredibly sparse crowd, his earsplitting soundtrack bouncing heavily throughout the venue’s main room. He played for only 30 of his 40 allotted minutes, and it often felt as if Chase’s onstage entourage, the Cheers Club, outnumbered those in attendance.
Though they livened the show’s dry energy, Chase’s performance was disorganized and unfocused. He did little to establish himself as leader of the pack, and his crew often overpowered the slight rapper, his voice drowning among a sea of booming synthesizers and overzealous hype men. His performance felt more like the crew’s first practice than a serious gig from a major-label rapper.
The only discernible rhymes centered on two well-worn rap topics: swag and smoking weed. The lyrics are trite, even more so as Chase drills the notion into your head at 100 decibels. Throughout the show, the rapper referenced his habit ad nauseam. “You smoke weed? Put your hands in the air,” he once commanded the crowd. By show’s end: “We got one more [song], then we ’bout to go smoke the whole [expletive] up.”
It wasn’t all bad, though: Near the end of his set, Chase and crew turned out a decent rendition of “Nice Clothes No Swag,” a standout cut from the rapper’s 2012 mixtape, “Golden Army.”
But the show was beyond saving at that point. By then, it was clear that Chase has a lot to learn about engaging his audience and asserting his presence. Then again, there was this one guy in a red Chicago Bulls hat and a gray button-up shirt who was holding a camera. He danced all over the floor and moved vigorously to the beat as he took pictures. At least he seemed to have a good time, so about 5 percent of the crowd went home happy.
Moore is a freelance writer.