It’s ten minutes to eight, and Polo G is delayed.
On this baking-Wednesday afternoon, Roskilde Festival’s area is only just opened to the masses. The audience floats over the edge of the Arena Scenes pavilion. The murmur inside sounds like a biblical swarm of horseflies. The restless crowd sets ties on the Seven Nation Army “lo, lo lo lo-lo-loooo, looo” stadium singing, as it is European audience tradition.
At 7:55 p.m., the battery of speakers puts the baseline out of the Polo G’s ‘Flex’, and the Chicago rapper frolics out on stage to huge applause. He is wearing a baggy black graphic t-shirt and a glittering diamond pendant the size of a dinner plate that says ‘1300’. After his opening, he removes this chain, probably worth more than a year’s rent for me, to reveal that he wears a similar-sized, straight-sparkling backup chain underneath.
Moss holes open up like sinkholes
Through leveling bass and shrill snares, the thousands-strong crowd pushes and pulsates in time with the beat. Mosh pits open up like sinkholes and swallow dozens in the steep battle. It’s a young audience, here to burn off energy and impress their dates.
While Polo raps, the massive digital screen behind him flourishes with digital renderings. A nest of Cuban articulated chains twists like snakes over a goat’s head, backlit with a poisonous green glow. Neat grids of ornate NBA championship rings sink one by one into an opaque blue milk. It’s a feverish triangulation between a Robert Eggers movie, Warhammer lore, and Instagram campaigns for the Atlanta nightclubs.
Polo G does not move around much on stage. But he raps clearly, can cut through and command the roaring audience. There is a vocal backing track for each song as a spare parachute, and he often takes a break to let a few bars run out on autopilot.
Many of his songs disappear or disappear prematurely. It’s a bit abrupt at times, but the audience immediately fills the silence with their deafening stadium song. When he tries to cut the beat over and get the audience to end a chorus, it seems that the eager audience is not as familiar with his lyrics as he would like.
At one point, Polo’s DJ commands the audience, “If you’re a Polo G fan one day, make some noise!” and an unlikely percentage of the audience cheers in confirmation. This begs the track ‘Finer things’from his 2019 debut album ‘Die a Legend’. From the lukewarm response from the audience, it seems that many of these recent shouts lied about their long-standing loyalty. Maybe it’s just me, but Polo sounds tired as he sighs the last beats out of this one.
A few numbers later, Polo shouts, “Raise your hands if you’ve ever lost someone!” and hundreds of hands go up. Then he sets in ‘I know’, a number commemorating a childhood friend’s death under pressure from poverty and instability in Chicago. It strikes me that the traumatic reality of Polo’s lyrics is foreign and invisible to these Scandinavian guests. For the raised hands, their experience of loss is more likely to turn in the direction of grandparents dying of old age.
The moment highlighted a fundamental disruption. It is present in some form at most any hip-hop festival, but especially obvious with Polo G. His lyrics are so uncompromising in telling about the everyday trauma black Americans receive from poverty, the racist police state and street violence – however, to the audience, the music is just a soundtrack to dropping another beer and barrel down into a mosh pit.
Both sides of this scene came from deeply different backgrounds and met this music on such different wavelengths. Polo G gives what he knows to the best of his talent. The audience loves it. But still, something is felt about this dynamic.
Does it mean interruption? Should this foreign crowd be able to remove the pain and complexity of Polo G’s music and distill the remnants of pure party fuel?
I do not have the answers.
At least Polo got a sweet payslip out of this.
Source: The Nordic Page