The $uicideboy$ Circus Comes To Town
About halfway into last night’s stop on the $uicideboy$’ Grey Day tour — after Ramirez, before Night Lovell — the Richmond crowd started up a chant: “Suck my dick! Suck my dick!” Men chanted it. Women chanted it. Children probably chanted it. As far as I could tell, nothing in particular set the chant off. The massive crowd wasn’t mad at any one person. It wasn’t visibly horny, either. Instead, this was just a few thousand motherfuckers excited to be out on a warm night, yelling cusswords into the night. It was that kind of party.
You should be aware: $uicideboy$ are huge. I knew this going in, and I was still stunned at what I saw in Richmond last night. The New Orleans duo headlined at Virginia Credit Union Live!, a confoundingly named outdoor shed venue that sits in the shadow of the hulking Richmond Raceway. I saw Rancid and the Dropkick Murphys in the same venue a month earlier, and the $uicideboy$ crowd was probably twice as big. During their set, $crim, one half of $uicideboy$, mentioned that the group had played at Strange Matter, a since-shuttered Richmond rock club, in 2019. The Raceway amphitheater has a capacity that’s at least 10 times what Strange Matter had, and $uicideboy$ filled that motherfucker all the way up. It’s not like $uicideboy$ have had any hits or mainstream attention in the past two years. They just got 10 times bigger on word of mouth alone. It’s fucking nuts.
But it wasn’t just the size of last night’s crowd that impressed me. It was the intensity, too. There is an audience out there — a vast and teeming hoard of people, most of whom could be your sketchiest friend — who love the $uicideboy$. These people know every word of the duo’s songs, and they mob the merch table in numbers like I’ve never seen. Last night, the one non-rap act on the bill was the great Baltimore hardcore band Turnstile. Turnstile’s merch is a hot commodity within hardcore, but at Grey Day, their shirts are an afterthought; it took me all of five minutes to pick up a longsleeve, while the line for $uicideboy$ gear — most of which, it should be said, is pretty sick — barely moved. There’s an emotional connection between $uicideboy$ and their audience. When the duo ended their set with the self-loathing anthem “And To Those I Love, Thanks For Sticking Around” — “Never really felt like I belonged/ So I’ll be on my way, and I won’t be long/ I’ll be dead by dawn/ I’ll be dead by dawn” — the resulting singalong was deafening, some real 1999 Dashboard Confessional shit.
$uicideboy$ have a fun crowd. My friend Jason had a couple of lines — “so many people who look like Jeff Hardy,” “so many people who have probably been kicked off of job sites” — that I wish I’d thought of myself. This was a fired-up audience with an unstable energy that sometimes made me think of how it must’ve felt to be in the ECW Arena in the ’90s. The venue’s EMTs had a busy night; I saw a lot of extremely fucked-up people being helped into a lot of wheelchairs. The cops working security had a busy night, too; after one guy flipped over the barricade during Turnstile, cops threw him down and handcuffed him right in front of me. At one point, the venue stopped the show because someone had dragged a bike-rack barricade into the pit. The crowd had to give the barricade back before things could continue.
It took work to get here. $uicideboy$ became a group in 2014. Ruby Da Cherry and $crim are cousins, and they’re both white gutterpunks from the greater New Orleans area. Before $uicideboy$, they’d both lived lives. Ruby had played in a series of go-nowhere punk and metal bands. $crim had started out as a DJ and mixtape host, landing an in-house production deal for Universal where, he says, he was repeatedly screwed. They’ve said that their group started out as an actual suicide pact — a blood-sealed oath that they’d both end their lives if they hadn’t made it by age 30. I don’t know whether that story is supposed to be metaphorical, a symbol of how they were devoting themselves to this new group, or literal. In any case, they’re both well past 30 now, and they’ve both made it.
In a Mass Appeal interview a few years ago, Ruby described the whole stylistic idea behind $uicideboy$: “I saw this wave going on, these punk aesthetics in rap music and this ‘I’m broke and I don’t give a fuck’ type shit, and I was like, ‘Wait, this is what’s going on in underground rap right now? Like, this is me. I could fucking destroy this shit. These kids don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.'” In their first few years, $uicideboy$ cranked out dozens of EPs and mixtapes, and they became foundational forces in the whole SoundCloud-rap world. Lil Peep was a big fan. XXXTentacion went on his first tour as a $uicideboy$ opener. But now that the whole SoundCloud-rap wave has died away, absorbed into whatever’s left of the rap mainstream, $uicideboy$ are hitting whole new levels by burrowing ever-deeper into their own sound and style. At this point, they’re probably the only act who could get booked at both Rolling Loud and Knotfest and who could draw huge reactions at both.
$uicideboy$ have assembled a whole crew of likeminded rappers on their G59 label, and in 2019, they booked their first Grey Day tour. They shared bills with their G59 roster, with fellow cult-rap institutions (Denzel Curry, Shoreline Mafia, City Morgue, Pouya), and with hardcore bands like Trash Talk and Turnstile. The current Grey Day tour looks pretty similar. The only rapper on the lineup who doesn’t come from the G59 team is Chief Keef, who has no-showed all his dates on the tour. I felt bad for the guy standing in front of me, who had a full Chief Keef backpiece, but that guy seemed to have a fun night regardless. (Nice guy. Partied hard.) I felt bad for myself, too. It would’ve been fun to see that crowd go off to “Faneto” and “Love Sosa.”
The crowd did go off for Turnstile, who are out of their element in a venue where nobody can stagedive but who made the most of it anyway. (I’ve been to a million rock shows with one rap act on the bill. This might’ve been my first rap show with one rock band on the bill. There should be more of those.) But Chief Keef’s absence meant that the show was a little samey, with all the G59 affiliates working slightly altered versions of $uicideboy$’ witch-housey lo-fi ’90s G-rap pastiche. The crowd went up for all of the openers, even though some of them seemed a little puzzled on how to work a crowd. You cannot, for example, tell a crowd to start a circle pit during the silence between songs. You have to start the song, then tell the crowd to start the circle pit. This seemed to be a difficult puzzle to crack for some of them. (Shakewell: “Run in a circle, you dumbfucks!”)
$uicideboy$ were a different story. Those guys are performers. I’ve tried to get into the duo’s records, and they haven’t hit me on a gut level. They can switch between emo dirges to fired-up splutters, but it all comes out repetitive and monochromatic. (I love ’90s Three 6 Mafia, but that can’t be the basis for your whole catalog. $uicideboy$ have stuck with that sound so hard that Three 6 sued them.) Onstage with a rabid crowd, though, $uicideboy$ make a lot more sense.
$uicideboy$ aren’t showmen in a traditional sense. They dress bummy. They don’t wear jewelry. They look like guys who have been through some things, which is what they are. But they can own a room. They’ve confident enough to have fun onstage, though that fun can get mordant. ($crim, for instance, does the robot while pretending to hang himself.) And they have a real empathetic connection with their audience, the kind of thing that can’t be faked. Near the end of the show, after the entire G59 roster returned to the stage to bask in the moment, $crim told the crowd, “We may be up here, but we struggle. We all got our mental health problems. We got our addiction problems. We got problems in general.” I believe them. Maybe $uicideboy$ are hitting new levels right now because everybody has fucking problems, because some of us aren’t even trying to pretend otherwise. Maybe the world needs a rap group that’s ready to wallow in it with us.
1. C Biz & Giggs – “Long Time Coming”
Those horns might make me throw a Hyundai Elantra like it’s a football.
2. The Alchemist – “Miracle Baby” (Feat. Mavi)
Mavi seems to go harder when the beat is looser and mistier. He might be the most percussive thing about this song — the beat for the beat. How does that happen?
3. Bandgang Lonnie Bands – “Hot” (Feat. EST Gee & The Big Homie)
EST Gee might be the biggest new rapper to come along in a while, but he’s got a raspy and deranged energy that fits perfectly with the Detroit underground. I hope he keeps showing up on songs like this one.
4. Pouya – “Wig Split” (Feat. Denzel Curry)
I’m typing this to you from beyond the grave because that bass hit and my skull imploded.
5. Rhys Langston – “Change Of Address Form”
I don’t know if I’m smart enough to follow all the lyrical threads here, but I like the feeling anyway.