As the Twin Cities prepared for the first snowstorm of the season, St. Paul hip-hop collective thestand4rd played a sold-out show in New York on Sunday night. Though it was only the quartet’s third performance, national press paid attention — due in part to the Internet notoriety of group member Spooky Black, who is making his first public performances as part of thestand4rd’s tour.
The brand-new quartet kicked off their tour last week with a debut performance at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall. The response, reported the Current’s Andrea Swensson, was nothing short of uproarious, with tweens and teens cheering all the way through.
“In a way,” wrote Andrea, “it didn’t seem like the group had come from St. Paul at all, but had actually beamed down from outer space. How else to explain a group that’s so detached from the rest of the scene, so forward-thinking in their approach to smashing together R&B, hip-hop, and soul music, and so polished despite being brand new?”
Waiting in the venue’s basement for the show to start, Spooky Black was asked if he was nervous. “Not really,” he said, Billboard reported. The reclusive teen, whose only previous public appearances before thestand4rd’s tour had been surprise walk-ons on Twin Cities stages, was ready to take the stage.
Billboard’s recap — written by Andrew Flanagan, who previously worked in Minnesota — offered all sorts of praise, mentioning the real-life goodness of Spooky’s voice and the fact that thestand4rd came out of the distant snowy blur of St. Paul. “That desolate setting,” writes Flanagan, “has no doubt played a large part in The Stand4rd’s compelling eccentricism that lies somewhere within the common ground of rap and R&B and the blue glow of a computer screen.”
The New York Times, like Billboard, highlighted the fact that the Internet introduced the collective to the acclaimed DJ Khaled via Instagram before they met him IRL at SOBs, Spooky swinging one arm around him for a photo and tweeting about it later. Writing for the Times, Jon Caramanica called Spooky Black “a beautifully formless singer — not a naïf but a shy wolf.” Caramanica also praised the other group members, including Allan Kingdom, who he called “a nimble, dense rapper with an ear for melody.”
Spooky Black is one of this year’s Picked to Click finalists, City Pages announced today. The alt-weekly’s music editor, Reed Fisher, will preview the publication’s yearly shortlist of the best new local talent on the Current’s Morning Show tomorrow at 9 a.m. The full list of Picked to Click winners will be announced tomorrow at noon on the City Pages blog.
Thestand4rd’s tour will continue this weekend to Oakland, Los Angeles and Chicago before concluding with a show at the Varsity Theater on Nov. 30.
Hailey Colwell is a journalism major at the University of Minnesota and a co-director of Theatre Corrobora.