Starlito w/Petty at Mercy Lounge, 5/25/14

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The Spin honestly can’t remember the last time we covered a Starlito show, so needless to say, we were pretty excited when we arrived at Mercy Lounge around 10 p.m. Sunday night to find the room already mostly packed and pretty lively. We were greeted by a circle of people dancing enthusiastically as the venue played Lil Boosie, the Baton Rouge rapper who was recently released from prison after serving over five years of an eight-year sentence. (On a side note, Boosie played his first post-prison show on April 11, in Nashville, to a sold-out Municipal Auditorium.)

The action began with opener Petty taking the stage in a white ski mask, to much applause, spitting a handful of bars before taking off the mask and addressing the audience. Petty, like Starlito, hails from East Nashville and is part of the new-school of local hip-hop. Over the past few years, he’s dropped a slew of impressive projects, including last year’s Short but Sweet, released by local label Gummy Soul. For the majority of his set, Petty played through some of the best cuts from his catalog, with the audience seemingly chanting every word right along with him. For his last song, he slowed things down a bit, grabbing a stool and sitting down to deliver a new song from his upcoming project, 43V3R. We weren’t able to catch the name of the song, but we can tell you that it was killer, with Petty waxing poetic for several minutes over a soulful instrumental arrangement while the crowd stood in a daze, occasionally offering hoots of approval.

DJ-ing throughout the night were DJ Coop and DJ Logan Garrett, two of Starlito’s in-house DJs. The pair did a good job of maintaining the mood between sets, though the crowd honestly needed little encouragement to keep the energy flowing. After Petty, we stepped out on the balcony to catch some air, returning just in time to see ‘Lito take the stage. For his first song, Starlito brought Petty back up for a performance of “One Long Day” from last year’s Cold Turkey, and then the shenanigans truly began.

From start to finish, 'Lito’s set was a whirlwind of unexpectedness. For the first part of his set, he performed a rapid-fire mash-up of some of his personal favorites, interspersing the cuts with banter and jokes. Then he started to take requests from the audience, with varying degrees of success, as several hundred people simultaneously yelled and repeated the name of the song they wanted to hear.

After playing through a selection of songs from his personal work, Starlito invited Memphis’ Don Trip to the stage, and the pair rocked out to some of the instant-classic cuts from their Step Brothers 2. Something about Starlito and Don Trip's interplay puts us in mind of a 21st century version of Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. And while they’ve always had sizable fan bases of their own, it was their Step Brothers collaboration in 2011 and the aforementioned 2013 follow-up that truly exposed them to wider audiences and new levels of mainstream success. (NPR even debuted Step Brothers 2, if that tells you anything.) Most of the shows ‘Lito and Trip have played over the past couple of years have been together, so The Spin knew the chances of a Trip cameo were relatively high. Still, when he emerged from the shadows with a microphone in hand, The Spin ditched our trademark cynicism for the giddiness of a kid on Christmas morning.

After the show, Starlito, Petty and Don Trip all stuck around Mercy for a meet-and-greet. So did The Spin and about 50 of our fellow concert-goers. It was a strong showing for a couple of the local hip-hop scene's standout stars, and it probably couldn't have gone any better. And if we're being honest, the icing on our evening's cake was definitely the selfie we snagged with Don Trip in the parking lot before heading home.

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