SOB x RBE has a way to go before it is truly festival-ready

Caroline Smith / Staff
Caroline Smith/Staff
Caroline Smith / Staff

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By now, it feels a bit redundant to comment on yet another Bay Area crowd failing to get hyphy or to show even the smallest inkling of recognition when hearing Mac Dre’s legendary hit “Feelin’ Myself.” Nonetheless, it remains astonishing to see that, especially when it happens right before a set by the Vallejo-based rappers of SOB x RBE at one of the Bay’s biggest music festivals.

It would be easy to point to this moment as some sort of a sign that the group was doomed to perform to a middling response before its Saturday set at Outside Lands even began, but that would be far from true. As SOB x RBE’s young fans pushed to the front of the crowd, ready to mosh, it was clear that they had come for the group itself, not to see how it would fit into any Bay Area rap legacy that had come before it.

It was clear from the buzz that concentrated itself around the stage and stretched far back into the field that all anyone really wanted was to see the group that has had one of the most miraculous come-up stories in recent history. But the downside of a miraculous rise to success is that there’s no miraculous crash course in being a grand onstage personality that comes with it.

The group opened its set with “Lane Changing,” layering tight flows over the song’s surging 808s with precision but no oomph. Each successive verse was delivered with less conviction than the last. By the time the set was halfway through, it began to feel like SOB x RBE had altogether given up on the idea of performing. The crowd, too, began to tire of sustaining optimistic energy with nothing in return.

Thankfully, former collaborators Nef the Pharaoh and Lil Sheik showed up just in time to pump some much-needed vitality back into the set. As they took care of the putting on the visual show, SOB x RBE began to redeem itself with the most explosive songs of the evening. By the time the group closed out its set with “Paramedic!” — the track from the “Black Panther” soundtrack — people in the crowd were primed to rap along to every word at the top of their lungs. Hopefully the next time SOB x RBE secures such a prime spot in a major festival lineup, it’ll be able to get the crowd excited on its own without the help of special guests.

Sannidhi Shukla covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @sannidhishukla.