If 2023 has belonged to anyone, it belongs to Sexyy Red. The 25-year-old St. Louis native has been grabbing attention on and off the internet all year with her viral hit “Pound Town” and various collaborations with a head spinning number of talented names. Even Pitchfork, the Chicago-based tastemaker that seems to have a hard time with hip hop and music from the 314, gave Sexyy Red’s second mixtape Hood Hottest Princess a glowing review. Originally scheduled for The Pageant, this hometown show instantly sold-out and was quickly bumped to the much, much larger Chaifetz Arena. It wasn’t long before that venue was sold out, as well.
The St. Louis hip hop scene can, from the periphery, look pretty small. Nationally, it has often been overlooked in favor of bigger cities like Atlanta and Chicago, despite the fact that we have been home to some very influential talents in that world. This show was, however, a reminder to me that even if it is a small scene, a step inside reveals an impressive network of rappers, producers, and promoters putting in the work. As nothing happens in a vacuum, one could argue that Sexxy Red is the latest product of this tenacious music scene. For as much as this evening was a homecoming for one of 2023’s breakout rappers, it was also a celebration of the city. We may be the underdog more often than we like, but we have an undeniable drive to make our own fun and art without caring what anyone else thinks.
The openers were explained to me as being DJ Gotti and His Friends, Genesis the Gawd, and Rubi Rose. Sexyy Red was then to go on around 9:15pm. That’s 75 minutes from the show technically starting at 8pm to the headliner performing, not a bad night. Like more than a few hip hop shows I have attended in St. Louis, things did not exactly go as they were planned. Genesis the Gawd did perform, but it was not at any of the times myself and the other photographers were brought out in the 8 o’clock hour. Our media liaison informed us early on that Rubi Rose was not performing and that he wasn’t exactly sure who was on stage at the moment or who would be on stage before Sexyy Red. I found some humor in realizing that a sold-out arena hip hop show in St. Louis was about to follow schedule about as well as a show that drew maybe 40 people at FUBAR back in the day. There was some reason in all this to be anxious, but I chose to be zen, as there were individuals in this building that knew exactly what was going on, and when things were to happen. It just wasn’t our asses. The path forward was to just go with the flow.
A bit before 10:00pm, we were brought out for the last time that evening. The media wrangler did not want us to miss Sexyy Red. Credit goes to DJ Bounce and Bankroll Hank for keeping the crowd hyped up the whole evening, as well as the local rappers who popped in and out. Local entrepreneur and associate of Sexyy’s Heavy G came out with a reusable grocery bag and pulled out a mysterious clear bottle full of red liquid. I have no idea what GRIPP-E is, but it seems like it is some sort of elixir. This was the special Sexyy Red edition, and it is possibly flavored to taste like Strawberry Lemonade. From my photos, I can tell that at least part of the tag line on the label reads, “It looks like drank, but it ain’t what you think,” which definitely has to be read in a St. Louis accent. Admittedly, I’m curious, and the crowd was too as Heavy G tossed at least a half dozen bottles into the crowd as he did his thing. One bottle went maybe a little short and landed on just the other side of the barricade. A brief frenzy ensued as a group of young women, and one particularly tall man in a red wig, tried to take possession of the sacred liquid. This is what it must have been like to watch parents go nuts grabbing at the last Cabbage Patch doll at Grandpa Pigeon’s 30 years ago. Despite the commotion, it all ended rather peacefully with no one seeming particularly salty.
It was not long after 10:00pm that the energy from the stage started to shift. Was Sexyy Red about to come out? The anticipation grew, the crowd started to quiet, and the arena lit up with hundreds of cell phone flashlights casting a warm hue no doubt aided by the copious amount of blunt smoke in the air. Indeed, it was time.
Sexyy Red walked on stage wearing black short shorts and a Cardinals bikini top with a sequined Cardinals that closely matched her trademark red hair. To say the crowd was loud would be an understatement. As someone who has, until recently, lived his entire life in North St. Louis County, to hear over 7,000 people scream and cheer for a young pregnant black woman from the north side was a special thing, and I can only imagine how it must have felt for Sexyy Red herself. As someone who has found an almost overwhelming amount of success in the last year, she came off surprisingly confident and carefree as she performed. People were dancing in their seats just as much as the folks on the floor. It felt, as cliché as it may be to say, like a party. That’s the flipside to local hip hop shows. Things may go a little wonky, set times might as well have been a suggestion, but when everything lines up, it can be a hell of an experience.
Not long after I had dropped off my camera bag and returned to the floor, the twerk contest began. The process of selecting the contestants was not exactly fast, but we ended up with a collection of healthy women ready to get that “crab leg money,” as Sexyy Red herself put it. It was evident early on that one woman from the first group, dubbed Sexy #3, would likely be the victor. She had enough curves to last a harsh winter and proved herself to have an exceptional talent at rump shaking. This is no shade on the rest of the participants, as among them was the foundation of an Olympic team of ass clappers. Folks, these ladies were dropping down to the floor and doing their thing like they were trying to knock birds out of the sky.
Sexy #3 and a fellow competitor with some really lovely braids more or less tied at the end, and both women received a respectable cash prize from Sexyy Red herself, straight from her purse. It is one of the few times I have truly felt proud to be from St. Louis.
It was when Chingy, one of many surprise guests to come out on stage throughout the evening, started to perform his hit “Right Thurr” that I felt like the show was starting to sag. The crowd was definitely still having a fantastic time but it felt like the folks around me were becoming less jubilant than they were when Suki, Rob49, and BlakeIANA joined in with Sexyy Red for a minute. I don’t think the problem was with Chingy. While it feels like we haven’t heard much from the dude in a while it’s, like, c’mon—it’s Chingy. He gave us a great performance and did get a lot of love for it but I must admit I was among those who were starting to tap out.
Thankfully, all fears were put aside when DaBaby came on stage and people ran back in like someone just invented a new flavor of ice cream. Personally, I’m not too familiar with DaBaby’s music. I am, however, familiar with his many controversies over the years. I pulled up the lyrics to “Throat Babies” and what I saw looked like what you’d get if you used ChatGBT to write lyrics for an Anal Cunt song about getting topped off. Nevertheless, people were incredibly excited to see him rip off his wife beater like it was made of onion paper. Despite whatever I feel about the guy, he did bring a certain energy back into the arena that had been waning.
At this point, it was well past 11:00pm and there were only so many directions this show had left to go. Sexyy Red, DJ Gotti, and her dancers had the home stretch to themselves and they did not disappoint. The crowd absolutely lost their shit during “Hellcat SRTs.” I looked up from jotting down some notes on my phone and realized that pretty much everyone around me was dancing their asses off. In flashes of light, I saw a wide variety of folks feeling themselves and looking absolutely joyful while doing it. Sexyy Red’s Hood Hottest Princess may not be as dense as the new Armend Hammer, but it is undoubtedly fun and unapologetic. This vibe continued seamlessly into “Pound Town,” the track that put her on the map. Confetti peppered the sky as she rapped about trying to get her coochie scratched, and it felt like we were right back at the explosive energy I felt at the beginning of Sexyy’s set. She stopped the track at one point and told Gotti to bring it back on the merits that she made a lot of money off the song. Gotti gladly obliged and we were treated to the extended cut. It was truly a memorable end to such a surprisingly fun show.
We have been blessed with so many interesting and provocative female talents in the world of hip hop over the last 10 years, and it would appear that Sexyy Red is well on her way to solidifying her place among the likes of Nicki Minaj and Cardi B. I wonder how long it will be until we start calling the Hood Hottest Princess a queen? | Bryan J. Sutter