All I Wanna Do: T. Mills at Warehouse Live
Photo Credit Yoshino Photo
Sometimes, I find myself in a place or at a show, where I’m not the demographic the artist is attempting to reach. It’s cool if I’m an ardent fan and I don’t fit the crowd, but when I know that the artist has one song I’m familiar with, it can be rather vexing to be in attendance. That was how I felt when I was tagged to do a write up on a T. Mills show. I had to think, as I seriously don’t listen to pop radio, nor do I watch whatever the youth of today watches. Don’t get me wrong, I dig pop music, I’ll admit that it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. But if I hadn’t seen the show poster several months prior, I couldn’t have picked Mills out of a police lineup. What transpired proved that sometimes, not being a part of the target audience can be a good thing.
I should preface this the notion that, as a tween; I wasn’t very familiar with pop music. My youth idols were Muddy Waters and Ian Mackaye, not New Edition and NKOTB. But, since I never witnessed the phenomenon of New Kids, I can say that seeing T.Mills’ crowd, was as close as I’ll probably ever get to it. As a guy in my thirties, I quickly realized, that if I had daughters, many in attendance could actually be my own. The average age was between thirteen and nineteen, with various aged parents of either sex standing in the back of the Studio at Warehouse Live. It’s a little bizarre to be in a room full of tween age girls, who are screaming for a tatted up Caucasian rapper to hit the stage. As a guy who missed the phenomenal act of screaming girls at pop concerts, I was just relieved that the sound would drown them out.
As I found my place in the back of the room with the other attendees of my age, I couldn’t help but notice the two massive backdrops of Mills’ own face that flanked either end of the stage. The lights dropped, and within a few seconds, Mills had launched into his first song. The screams of young girls balanced by the thumping bass and Mills’ own voice had now become part of the sound mix. What I would figure out, after the twenty five year old made references to his earlier works, and after he dropped a pretty decent flow and rhyme session, was that this was a little further than the pop sound I had associated with him. Sure, there were pop hooks in pretty much every song, but it was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, as a guy who grew up in a world with Vanilla Ice’s music, I have a tendency to lump most white rappers in with him. It’s seriously a bad trait, but in all honesty; I still haven’t listened to much from Action Bronson after having to spend an exhausting car ride with him last year.
So, as I watched a guy who I thought looked like a mix of Justin Bieber and that Blink 182 drummer; I realized that for what Mills does, he’s pretty good at it. He was way closer to a legitimate rapper than a pop star. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that he’s legit in his own right. If I had seen Mills at a Riff Raff show, I would’ve seen him as a guy who’s just trying to make his way in the confines of the music industry today; and not a pop star.
The truth is, I’m certainly not the litmus test of what’s good hip hop and what isn’t. But, as someone who witnessed Mills’ run through a fairly hefty set of hip hop tunes intertwined with pop melodies; I can attest to the fact that he’s more than a one hit wonder. When the mass hysteria had calmed down, and most of the tweens had settled down, what I saw was a pretty good rap show, for pop rap. I realized that Mills’ would never be like Bun B. or Scarface, but that he wasn’t trying to be either. I would say that I would definitely recommend giving his live show a try before you judge him. And if you have kids who are fans, it’s such a harmless thing for them to be into. Am I gonna’ buy his current or next album? No. But, I won’t lump him in with some of the lackluster junk that came before him either.