The Independent, San Francisco
October 4, 2015
Better Than: Watching The Price is Right without Bob Barker.
If you gave David Burd, aka Lil Dicky, a magic lamp, Sunday night’s concert at the Independent may have been one of his wishes. The Philadelphia-based comedic rapper is relatively new to the scene, having risen to prominence through a series of controversial Youtube videos beginning in 2013 that culminated in his album, Professional Rapper, being released in July. His San Francisco show was the inaugural date of his “Looking for Love” tour, and the game show antics, removal of his pants, and weed-smoking break (sponsored by a rolling paper company) all appeared to be the ingredients of the show he'd always dreamed of starring in.
Chief among Dicky’s interests were the ladies. Over the course of 90 plus minutes, Dicky punctuated his performance by bringing three different women from the crowd to themes of Jeopardy and Price is Right as they spun a digital wheel listing challenges the “contestant” was required to complete to contend for the ambiguous honor of his affections. Options included Make Mike Laugh, Protected Sex with a Banana, and Give Head to the DJ. The first contestant was a highly intoxicated young woman who seemed equally challenged with keeping her balance as the task assigned to her. The task in question, dubiously titled Pin the Long Dick, required her to don a blindfold and pin a felt replica of hype man GaTA’s manhood onto a Velcro-enhanced pair of boxers he’d pulled on over his camouflage shorts.
The act, like much of Lil Dicky’s music and persona, was borderline offensive, straddling the line between amusing and misogynistic. Another woman was asked to go on an improvised walk home from a first date, while a third saw her wheel spin land on William Tell. As GaTA attempted to balance an apple on her head, Lil Dicky pulled out a crossbow and pretended to take aim.
“You guys didn’t think I’d actually shoot her with a crossbow, did you?” he teased. “I actually spent $350 on a crossbow just for this joke.”
The value of jokes is central to Dicky’s brazen mix of comedy, legitimate rap, and social observation. The laughs come first, but an important facet of Dicky’s rising popularity is his impressive ability to jump between humor and a more authentic expression of the mundanity of everyday life. On his song “Pillow Talking,” the comedic conceit of what is said between two people post-coitus takes a pointed turn when Dicky discovers his bedmate’s brother served in the Army:
Do you fuck to the war?
No I don't fuck with the war
I'm like no I don't fuck with the war
Just don't know how to react to the forces
I should have just thanked you of course –
Uh, why would you thank me?
Uh… I guess I assumed it would extend to the families but okay
The everyman facet of Dicky’s delivery and appearance go a long way towards explaining his appeal. The Christ-like reverence for a rapper like Kanye West is discarded in favor of a Jewish middle-class boy from the suburbs of Philadelphia who talks about things like petty theft, saving money, and applying for a white-collar job. But watching Dicky perform for a rabid crowd of 500 fans in his former hometown, the question remains: is his role as a borderline parody rapper an exploitive outlet that allows him to justify his crass portrayal of women and race?
Take for example Dicky’s hype man GaTa. Despite his Chewbacca shirt with the words “Party Animal,” GaTA was the prototypical hip-hop sidekick, chiming in on the doubles and rallying the crowd at every possible turn. Certainly there is nothing inappropriate about a Caucasian rapper having an African-American hype man, but hearing GaTA come in on lines specifically addressing life as a relatively affluent white man feels like disingenuous enterprise.
GaTa is in fine company, as the likes of Snoop Dogg, Fetty Wap, and T-Pain are featured guests on Dicky’s debut record, but unlike an act like The Lonely Island, Dicky isn’t a character. While it is readily apparent that Andy Samberg is not the homophobic, sexually-confused frat bro speaking in “Spring Break Anthem,” Dicky offers no such clear separation between the man who raps “I'm a mafuckan K-I-K-E” on “All K” and his true nature.
It would be unfair to assume Burd believes everything he says as Lil Dicky, but his fans at the Independent certainly did. Yes, Dicky is a fast-rapping funnyman with abrasive words and brash actions, but he is also a guy who worked at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners on California and Stockton only a few years ago. How one became the other is the story of Dicky's success. How far apart the two actually are is a question no one is ready to answer.
– Sunday night shows that start at 10:00 p.m. are a challenge for even the most dedicated of concert-goers, but the line to get into Lil Dicky’s show stretched around the block. PSA: Have you IDs out before you get to the front of the line.
– During the song “Lemme Freak,” Dicky removed his pants and freaked on a girl seated in a chair at center stage in just his boxers and an unbuttoned baseball jersey. She won the honors by slapping Dicky across the face after making out with him (the former at Dicky’s request).
– If there is a bathroom that’s more difficult to access than the Independent’s at a sold-out show, I hope I never need it.