On a sharp Auckland spring evening, fans of the specific South Florida Soundcloud Rap strain metastasised inside a sold-out Powerstation venue to welcome Boobie Lootaveli and Pouya for an evening of underground, underdog rap supremacy.
Boobie and Pouya’s DJ, named Will You Be My Friend, delivered a blistering set of tracks that got the room vibing, drinking and primed to shake out with these two fan favourite rappers. The set he delivered was peppered with obvious iconic artists from the subculture including Fat Nick, Shakewell, Ghostemane, $uicideboy$ and Lil Peep.
However, what was surprising was the sense of camaraderie and understanding among the punters; so surreal that it’s a real feeling where there’s a knowing and shared sense of life experience woven through this crowd; as Boobie and Pouya’s DJ dropped some deep cuts that I was genuinely surprised played so well to them. We’re talking about Papa Roach – Last Resort which was screamed like an anthem by the assembled. Or Blink 182 – All The Small Things and Panic! At The Disco I Write Sins Not Tragedies; or jump forward to his interlude between Boobie and Pouya’s sets, where he unleashed and turned up System of a Down’s Chop Suey most likely made dear to these fans for it’s namechecking in Pouya’s Suicidal Thoughts In The Back Of A Cadillac. Songs of disenfranchisement and suicidal ideation speak to these fans, giving them a soundtrack for their world where’s there’s nothing to lose cause it’s all burning to the ground anyway.
Boobie Lootaveli is an absolute joy. There’s just no other way to describe the delicious, inclusive energy that Boobie brings to the stage. It was clear that Boobie was very happy to be in New Zealand for the first-ever time. Connecting with the crowd to impart how welcomed and humble he felt to be in our presence performing for us.
On the cusp of his mixtape release, which is a short three weeks away; Boobie delivered Grandmas Boy – a favourite track at my place, but seemingly a surprise for Boobie as the crowd vibed and sung along to the hooks; to which Boobie honestly offered “Wow. I didn’t think you guys would know that!” Boobie’s effort through his set was earnest, meticulous but still with that overwhelming sense of fun and cheekiness that his flows deliver in spades; with the assembled going wild on Rey Mysterio and Pe$Os.
Who would have ever thought that a bunch of South Florida based Soundcloud Rappers could do so much for the “Body Positivity” movement? Boobie, like some single-handed BoPo warrior, removed his shirt to the encouraging wails of the crowd; to which he requested that “[we] cut the stage lights and everyone put up your phone lights so they can shine on my sexy body.”
Boobie is a sexy man because he believes he is and it’s so good to see this kind of self-love and self-confidence in a man and that this vibe can be shared to give others that power to love their selves and champion their bodies in the same way. Party vibes were high and Boobie looked like he had a gooooood time, so no doubt he’ll be back to visit us again before too long.
As it became time for the American Iranian-Cuban Miami native Pouya (pronounced Poo-yah) to take to the stage it was clear that the wildly pumped, beautifully chaotic energy of the night was going to increase. As eclectic as his heritage, Pouya effortlessly switches styles and flows within his set and within the same verse as he comfortably owns the space on the Powerstation stage connecting with his fans and leaning out to brush the tips of their fingers.
As the heaving sold-out venue on the last night of his tour churned under his instruction, Pouya expertly paced the set to deliver different shades of his rap artistry. Kicking off his career as a YouTube comedy kid, it’s undeniable that hip hop and intellectual, introspective rap flows are his calling. With a deep catalogue of collaborations to draw from Pouya selected tracks that spoke to the vibe of the night but wasn’t afraid to take it down to a more sensitive place on tracks like Five Six or Mood Swing Misery.
Pouya peaked on the little impromptu stage he created for himself in between the main stage and the balcony, hoisting his wiry but energetic frame up to this pedestal and moving with so much panache and swag ,hot-foot shuffling from side to side or getting into a low gremlin crouch to break his neck in a righteous, green-haired headbang.
If I’m honest, I did expect Pouya to have been a bit more loved up and relaxed in his performance than he was. He seemed agitated and a little annoyed which was converse to footage on his social media from the Australian leg of the tour where he vibed with crowds, encountered koalas and kangaroos and rediscovered his love for skating. All I can say is, I hope that New Zealand didn’t piss him off in some way because as a fan, I just wanted a better, more uplifting experience for him personally; despite him delivering a professional, connected and pitch-perfect set.
Maybe it was the kid in the front row that perpetually waggled a Lil Peep tee in Pouya’s face. Imagine just trying to do your job, your calling, to express your art in a new part of the world; and a fan’s misguided bid for recognition turns into a chide from Pouya and wake up call for this lil youngblood. I’m proud Pouya addressed it, even though this kid will no doubt introspectively destroy themselves at Pouya’s suggestion that “You can put that shirt down, I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it a hundred times… Peep would think you’re really annoying right now, you know?”
Perhaps it was the misguided hurl of a sweaty tee at Pouya’s head which prompted him to cut a song mid-flow to let us know that, that shit might fly down here in New Zealand but “where I’m from, you can get fucked up for that. So please don’t throw sweaty shit at us cause then Boobie has to beat you up and then we got to go to jail and have to get out on bail and it’s a whole thing and it takes too long.”
Don’t get it confused though. For these brief moments of darkness, there was plenty of catharsis, mosh pits, walls of death and sing-a-longs to counterweigh this. During Superman Is Dead a punter rose from the pit adorned in a Superman outfit and Cowboy hat; on seeing this Boobie excitedly brought Pouya over to show him, upon where Pouya reached out to connect with his fan for a moment.
Pouya delivers his art faithfully, taking time often to lean on a mic stand and really feel the weight behind his words as he delivers them, closing his eyes and sinking into his beats and melodies. Much like Boobie, Pouya was delighted to see how much the crowd knew and participated in tracks from Pouya’s new album The South Got Something To Say; where we were treated to I’m Alive, 95, a blistering rendition of Ghostemane collab Cyanide and Bulletproof Showercap. While elsewhere faves like Middle of the Mall, Handshakes, Daddy Issues and Stick Out brought the writhing soup of people to a frenzy.
With a set as deep, complex and mysterious as the man himself; it was great to host Pouya on our shores as he steps into this upward propulsion of his career trajectory and I can only hope on his return visit as a crowd we’ll treat him with more reverence and as less of a mouthpiece for the genre, or for the icons we’ve lost.