Where my ladies at?” screamed Sasha Go Hard, leaping across the stage in a light blue sweatsuit. A chorus of high-pitched screams was her answer. She paused, mic in hand, and stared out at the crowd for a moment. “I said,” she repeated, “where my ladies at?”
This was, more or less, a mantra for Sasha’s show at Reggies Rock Club on State Street. Along with Katie Got Bandz, Sasha is one of Chicago’s most successful up-and-coming female rappers; her recent slew of vibrant mixtapes, including 2013’s Nutty World, have attracted national attention, and she’s been touring the country over the past twelve months. On April 3, however, she was back in her home city, serving as headliner for a show entitled “Femme Fatale.”
The show’s theme was the celebration of a certain breed of triumphant, confident woman. In Sasha’s words: “the bad bitch.” Every interlude between performers (and most of the songs performed) contained some kind of ode to empowered, rich, and sexually powerful women (“I keep my man around, he give good head”). The lighting was predominately pink. Some of the opening acts had women rapping with nameless men on stage hyping the ladies up. Halfway through the show, the hostess invited people from the crowd on stage to twerk. Immediately afterwards, skullcaps that said “BOSS ASS BITCH” on them were tossed out into the crowd.
Sasha was preceded by half a dozen opening acts, all female hip-hop artists from around Chicago. By the time Sasha came on, the crowd had been treated to almost three hours of music. One highlight was the crooner Assata Jones, whose sensual crowd-pleaser “I Can Love You Better” produced more than a few bobbing heads and body rolls from the audience. Jones was followed by Bebe O’Hare, a fast-rapping diva with a flow reminiscent of Big Sean or Nicki Minaj. O’Hare closed her set with a mind-blowing a cappella rap. The last act before Sasha was the rapper Chella H, the self-described “First Lady of Chicago.” Chella’s jangly beats and wild lyrics recalled Sasha’s best work. Her marijuana anthem “High” was a crowd favorite.
One may have expected Sasha to take the stage to find a crowd exhausted by three hours of bass bumps and feminine energy, but the audience still gave it all up for Ms. Go Hard. Their energy, however, could not match hers. Sasha is smaller than she sounds in her explosive drill tunes, but she’s also more coiled, more aggressive, and more passionate. As she screamed out the hook to her smash hit “Rondo,” one got the sense that she, at any moment, might throw down the microphone and do the rest of the show without it. When she brought up half a dozen girls from the crowd to dance on stage with her for the raucous “Bounce,” she still commanded the most attention as she loped back and forth.
The best moment of Sasha’s set, however, was when she brought Chella H back out for their explosive duet, “Real Bitch.” It was here that the show’s themes reached their peak, and it was here that the ladies in the crowd went wildest. Chella and Sasha spat back and forth to each other and to the crowd, “Real bitch, authentic / Best believe I put my heart in it.” This was not just boasting; it seemed to be the expression of nothing less than a lifestyle.
Sasha only performed six or seven songs before leaving the stage, which was only a few more than her opening acts had performed. Sasha seemed to call it quits at the moment when she had generated the most hype from her audience, but there seemed to be a lesson. “Femme Fatale” was more about women as a whole than about any one woman. It was an expression and a celebration of women as women. In the chorus of “Real Bitch”, Chella H says, “I talk that real shit / So all the bitches gon’ feel this.”
All of them. Sounds like something Sasha Go Hard would be on board with.