By my count, there are 17,543 rappers at SXSW this year. About a handful are transcendentally great. Another handful is God-awful. And the rest are somewhere in the middle, fighting for attention in an ever-growing quagmire of talent.
With so many showcases and artists, the thought of anyone not in the top echelon of notoriety standing out seemed impossible.
Enter Jon Connor.
He and 25 of his Michigan friends drove 26 hours to Austin to run the streets like a vicious armada: fatigues, bulletproof vests, flags, bandanas. The whole nine, as they say. And if you approached them, you’d hear them let out a “YOU KNOW” yell that made me clutch at a coin purse that I’d forgotten I didn’t have. In a downtown where everyone of even a remotely hip-hop gait has on limited sneakers, designer shades and the urban brand du jour and even the biggest artists would have trouble making people do double takes, Jon Connor turned heads.
And these friends of his weren’t just silent co-signers. They bombarded his show and knew every line of his raps word for word. Filling in the blanks and adding adlibs. They were an extension of him. A Jon Connor show became a fully immersive experience – almost as if you were wandering through the Congo when a rap concert broke out.
After his set at Peckerheads, where he rapped his arse off as only he can, Connor rallied his troops and headed out to their next conquest. And all I could think of was, “yeah, he’s got it all figured out”.