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WHYTRI, headlines first show, rocks Middle East

The Massachusetts artist held his first headline show at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge.

Comparable to the way some politicians have to build themselves up from scratch, the culmination of WHYTRI‘s headlining show campaign came to fruition on Sunday.

With a lineup including Samuell Leone, Ill Addicts, Nino, ALMTY Yami and Beato on the boards, every aspect of the show was meticulously curated by WHYTRI. Born Dimitri Jean, the Massachusetts-based WHYTRI did what I haven’t seen too often β€” market every aspect of his show almost entirely on his own. 

Grinding it out for the last couple of months is a given, but with the rollout he had on his newest project A Bad Porno, I wasn’t really expecting less in terms of the content he pushed. When WHYTRI called me before the official announcement of his first headline show, he left me with an idea that he was going be performing. If you’ve seen any content he pushed from the ABP, you would know that it was going to be both original and entertaining. 

Middle East Upstairs offers bar space and a capacity north of 150 people. On show day every bit of that space was occupied by friends, family and more. Merch tables with posters, CDs, wristbands and more took up the far wall in the venue all the while Beato was set up on stage and playing music that worked toward the opening performances.

GUESSWHOIDK

I’m careful to not call these opening performances “openers.” The artists who performed that Sunday are all friends of WHYTRI and hand-picked. They weren’t there because they sold 20 tickets, they were there because TRI wanted them to be.

Samuell Leone had the always-difficult role of being first. The crowd was into his music, though the venue wasn’t completely full at that point, he worked with those who were there. He jumped off the stage, performing and drawing approving head bobs from those watching. The Ill Addicts quartet followed with a performance that upped the energy in the room and set the tone for the others who followed. There weren’t enough microphones on stage so a strategic, asynchronous baton-style passing of mics took place between individual members of Ill Addicts. 

When I first saw Nino hit the stage, I was curious as to why he went ahead of ALMTY YAMI. He had a hand in the creative process of ABP and I figured that would put him right before TRI. Nino’s performance came with some live singing, rapping, piano and melodica playing. Each of the last three or so times I have seen Nino perform he has taken it a step up. This time around, the melodica was a new addition (bad Boston pun) and added an extra layer to his performance, but I’m still waiting to hear the full version of “Vibes” live.

YAMI followed and right as his performance started I knew why he went on before the headliner. He brought out JOHN, who also came out at the end, and their energy was stupid. They split the crowd down the middle and pretty much started a controlled riot and mosh pit within the Middle East. That’s an oxymoron probably, but that’s what it was.  

The Riot Shield

When the time came for the main event, a young woman stood at the mic and introduced WHYTRI. With the cheering and mic level, it was difficult to make out what she was saying, but after she finished talking she snapped a clapperboard and Motorhead’s “The Game” began playing through the speakers. At this point, WHYTRI, who was around earlier in the night, was nowhere to be seen. Following several seconds of “The Game,” and zero seconds of WHYTRI facetime, I was half expecting Triple H to pop up instead. 

With an entrance akin to that of a boxer, or Intercontinental Champion β€” the latter up for debate β€” he made his way to the stage. Donning a boxing robe and mask over his mouth, WHYTRI weaved through the crowd with someone in front of him taking lead. 

 

 

“It was cool to unapologetically be myself on this project and really just talk my shit but at the same time not be afraid to express what I like and things I like and things I do and things I done.”

If I said he told me this on Sunday, it wouldn’t sound off. In reality, WHYTRI said this in December when I covered ABP. However, this quote is real deal TRI and was embodied at his show. 

Kneeling on stage, he was helped out of his robe and mask, revealing his two-tone blonde and black hair color, loose pants, batting glove and a black, blue and red G-Unit jersey, giving us his best Triple H spit in the process. Symbolically or possibly superstitiously, WHYTRI wore his jersey top during what he called one of his most memorable performances last year. Doing that served as a prophecy of sorts for the show he was about to put on. 

The Big KAHUNA

WHYTRI opened his performance with tracks from his 2017 project KAHUNAThroughout his performance, he would cut the music and provide those in attendance with an anecdote related to one of his songs or make it ambiguous enough that you are left to guess what he will be playing next. One of the best ones was his story on when his mother found out he was making music and asked him if he thought he was Wyclef.

When I turned and looked at the area where his mother, grandmother, sister and stepfather were standing, you could see their elated, enamored, supportive and interested emotions as they took in what their Dimitri put together. 

“Bro I saw my mom the next day and the first thing she says to me is FUCK WIFI!” – WHYTRI said in a text

One of my top WHYTRI tracks is his and Lily Rayne’s remix to “XURWIFI.” Beato dropped the instrumental and while I was singing along, I thought that would be it. Unbeknownst to me and most of the people in the crowd, Rayne was in the building. He said he didn’t know they would be doing the track together until sound check, but when she stepped on the stage it was over. 

 

The Riot Shield moved on to perform all of ABP, but prior to completing that he yielded stage time to Rhode Island OG Jon Hope. Hope took the stage and performed “Eat”  off of his 2017 album Savage Beauty.  Following his performance, an emotional WHYTRI returned to the stage. Struggling to find the words, he thanked everyone and explained why this particular moment was so important to him, providing anecdotes about how some told him he wouldn’t be successful or how others were supporting him.

He closed the show by having anyone and everyone in the crowd who has been supporting him from 2016 or earlier to join him on the stage. The night was a combination of energy and a performance that shows what having a support system can be especially in a place where some more nationally known acts can’t even fill.

To reward his loyal fans, WHYTRI dropped LUCIES Vol. 1, a collection of tracks that didn’t make ABP.

Reaction

Here are some thoughts from folks who attended:

Hensley Carrasco
Hensley graduated from the University of Rhode Island where he was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, the Good 5 Cent Cigar. He founded the site with hopes to add to the ever-growing digital music newsroom. Hensley generally writes about Hip-Hop, but other genres are not out of his writing spectrum. On the side, Hensley is a photographer, specializing in concert photography.

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