Columbia Records is home to some of music’s most loved artists, including Beyoncé, The Chainsmokers and Pharrell Williams. At NYC’s Sony Hall on Wednesday, (Feb.27) the label aimed to champion for what their team had in store with a showcase titled Columbia Records The Draft 2019. Recent signees Lil Tjay, Polo G, Yung Bleu and a couple of their surprise guests stepped up to earn stripes in the city that is notorious for sending hip-hop acts home with hurt feelings.

Chicago spitter, Polo G, ran onto the Sony Hall stage amping “Finer Things,” a record he penned while incarcerated in Cook County Department of Corrections. In a navy blue Miano Di Rouge tracksuit, the Columbia Records opener’s dance moves caused some laughter for his millennial fans below. The charming maneuver broke the ice, as G’s hype man followed behind him before taking a more serious stance. Crowd control wasn’t an issue, and when G extended his microphone, the mass fired back, “A lot of people dying and it’s a chance that you might/ You got God on your side but it’s hard to do right/ Don’t pay them haters no mind, you can be what you like.”

Soon, G took a more relaxed approach towards his New York audience with mention of switching his zip code on the bop, “Hollywood.” The emcee’s admirers recited word-for-word, right until his lyrics became heavier with the hard-knock truths waxed through, “Battle Cry.” Shaking his dreads with sincerity, G rhymed, “Boy, I won’t play, yeah, I go to war about my gang members/ I was in the trenches slidin’ with them grave diggas/ Choppa showers, he gon’ fall, once that rain hit him,” before sirens rang out to cut his set. Still, as he bowed out, it was clear, Polo G wasn’t attempting to embody anything he hadn’t truly lived.

DJ Drewski dropped bombs, and the showgoers began to chant, “Yung Bleu!” In time, the rapper’s breakup track, “Miss It,” thronged above the venue. The sound of the Mobile, Alabama, native’s heavy drawl caused wreckage on the GA barrier before he was even spotlighted. Sporting gaudy jewels, a Fendi button-down shirt, and skinny pants, Bleu looked the part.

“This is my first time performing in New York. Y’all finna turn up with me,” he barked. The Kevin Gates-assisted remix, “Ice On My Baby,” showcased Bleu’s flashy star power, as he wooed onlookers with a piercing voiceover. Still, it was the song’s final acapella verse that earned the loudest screams, yet.

Taking a swig from his cup, the viral hit, “Unappreciated” cued up and Bleu signaled a hand wave over the mass. “Let me tell you about this situation/ I been feeling so unappreciated/ Everything I do, it ain’t enough/ I done been lied to, I done fell in love,” the gathering sang back with authority. Clutching his chest, Bleu crouched down closer to connect with his listeners as the popular beat faded. “If you weren’t a Yung Bleu fan when you came here, I hope you leave one. Real talk,” he professed while running backstage through the left wing.

Sony Hall’s MC ordered, “Now I want y’all to make some motherfucking noise for Lil Tjay.” With a kick, the Bronx representer made his energetic entrance, as he was eager to put on for NYC. The anthemic earworm, “Long Time,”  created a bounce, so much so that Tjay vowed to “do my thing, and I fuck up a party.”

Donning a red durag, and a black tracksuit with red stripes, the self-proclaimed Prince of New York lifted his chain for the full effect. His digital banger, “Leaked,” began and a man who stepped beyond the stage wing was ripped off the platform by security. Spectators looked above confused —  until four dancers leaped beside Tjay’s hype man. This happened just in time to salvage the initial enthusiasm of the MC’s effort.

DJ Drewski encouraged Tjay’s choreography and directed him to, “Fuck it up one time. Go, Tjay! Yes, go, Tjay,” as the headliner’s devotees joined in, too. “You want to take it to Brooklyn one time,” DJ Drewski questioned. A stage light flickered, and Casanova pounced in front of the booth sending NYC into a frenzy with, “Don’t Run.” His verse cut short and Tjay launched himself into “Brothers.”

Ripping off his jacket and shirt, Tjay’s followers reached up for the garments, but the artist tossed forward his durag instead. Pushing his braids away from his face, the rapper commanded, “Told my shooters no mercy or chill button/ I done been through so much I don’t feel nothin,” prior to his music halting. The evening appeared to have reached an end, but Polo G jumped in view to activate his collaboration with Lil Tjay, “Pop Out.”

Together they balanced great chemistry and appeared to enjoy sharing mics, making for a notable Draft ’19 moment. Columbia Records logo shirts were tossed into the audience, as Tjay signaled his final number, “None Of Your Love.”  Followers began stretching their cell phones towards him, and Tjay filmed a couple of videos while rapping in front of the reaching patrons. Many record label executives bobbed their heads in approval and cheered as Tjay waved off.

“Shout to the Columbia family. We are going to take it home like this. I told you we had a special guest tonight,” the evening’s MC boasted. To the sounds of horns, Jacksonville, Florida rapper YK Osiris emerged. “Valentine,” a single which significantly changed the course of his mainstream airplay chimed around.

Catching the turnout off-guard, Osiris ripped his shirt off, and those who began to exit, turned around to sing along for his brief spectacle. As Osiris’ performance winded down, three Columbia Records banners were erected for Polo G, Yung Bleu, and Lil Tjay before the curtain was dropped. The audience was directed to yell, “You know the vibes,” and what that reception, it was time to say good night.

By Bianca Alysse for Billboard

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is a creatively driven Bronx-born writer and editor. Before becoming The Knockturnal‘s music editor she served as Latina‘s creative coordinator and was a contributor at Billboard. The Boricua scribe has a lengthy resume in the music industry and has penned for Universal Music Publishing Group, Epic Records, G.O.O.D. Music, Compound Entertainment, Artistry & Récords, and Arcade Creative Group. Her work has been seen on platforms like VIBE, mitú, TIDAL, Remezcla, and behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week. As an independent contractor, she has written for Sony Music Entertainment’s global business affairs department, Warner Music Group, and currently Roc Nation.

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