“When I say ‘T,’ you say ‘I,”’ the crowd willingly repeated after the emcee.
Screams ensued and fog invaded the stage at Halifax Exhibition Centre, but T.I. was still nowhere to be found. I could hear murmurs all around me, gossiping that the artist wouldn’t come. Why? One of the bodyguards for the Atlanta rapper Tip Harris had been stabbed the night prior at his show in Moncton.
Would he show?
The entertainers were quick and resourceful at keeping the audience occupied.
“T!” the one emcee shouted.
The fog was quickly blending in with the inconspicuous smokers’ puffs; they needed to fill the anxiety in their stomachs with something.
“I!” They barely managed to cough out the response.
I watched person after person take a toke and pass it on, fleeing their minds and bobbing along. I wondered if everyone or anyone was here for the same reason that I was.
T.I.’s new album Us or Else interrogates current political issues, publically referring to it as a “Letter to the System.” The album features his song “We Will Not,” which touches on the police brutality happening in the U.S.
For a while I had lost hope, hearing only lyrics to a rap about Donair meat. As funny and relatable for East Coasters as it was, I wanted to go deeper than “hold the onions.”
The audience was eating the famous recipe up, even I was craving the legendary sauce. They slurped and drizzled every response that the act demanded from them. Like every good feast, it stopped mid-course for some relative sparking up dinnertime political banter. The familiar voice of CBC Halifax stood up and clinked the glass.
The audio clip silenced the crowd and Quake Matthews interjected.
He was one of three show openers and he demanded to be heard.
“I told myself if I were ever in front of a large audience I’d say something that fucking matters,” he said as mock gunshots were fired and news releases were blasting.
I stopped seeing the crowd bob. No one spoke, only some lifted their hands creating the silhouette of a gun.
Matthews said he had “lost a lot of friends,” and his face was still and serious. He let the CBC clips continue, sobering the crowd ever so slightly before he continued with the Christian child’s bedtime prayer.
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray to God my soul to take.
If I should live for other days,
I pray the Lord to guide my ways.
Even if T.I. hadn’t shown, which he eventually did, this moment was enough.
It was enough to add to T.I.’s sound, the message and motive for a more proactive society. It was raw, bare and real, even if it wasn’t standard for a concert.
It almost felt like we could all stand in solidarity, connected by music. The purple lights flashed back on, making the gun silhouettes disappear; they were quickly replaced by the white light of makeshift mobile phone “lighters.”
The emcee was on again, cheering: “Who’s going to the after party?” And the crowd slipped back into blissful ignorance, clouding their eyes as they took another toke. They felt the rush of T.I. finally emerging on stage. I realized that maybe this was how we stood together in an unobvious way.
I pieced the puzzle of the prematurely finished prayer together and I silently rapped to myself:
Bless my friends, the whole world bless;
Help me to learn helpfulness;
Keep me every in thy sight;
So to all I say good night.