Despite the one-hour delay to his opening performance, freshman Brendan “Slim” Wilkins brought his A-game to The Haunt on Sunday, delivering a great performance to fans. Just after 9 p.m., the awaited backbeats finally ripped, and Slim laid down his rhymes on top of the hip-hop tracks, pleasing the antsy cluster of supporters.
Slim’s baritone voice carried well over the microphone, blending with the pounding synthesizers and steady bass of his backbeats. While most of the vocals are muffled on his recordings, Slim’s witty pronunciations and intonations amplified the room, enchanting even the bar crowd, who came onto the dance floor to enjoy the feel-good entertainment.
Sporting a purple Phoenix Sun snapback cap with a bright orange lid, Slim warmed up the crowd by whipping out his Chris Brown hat trick — though hardly needing this scheme to engage listeners since he had already won them over with his confident yet modest display.
Starting out strong, Slim opened with “I Will,” a hip-hop track with enough mainstream appeal to make it worthy to be in the Top 40. His showcase anthem gelled with listeners, especially college students, who could identify with his lyrics about both the fast-life party scenes and other real world preparations. Moreover, the song’s catchy chorus coupled with Slim’s personable lyrics that carried over the loudspeaker with utter clarity gave the crowd a great picture of what the rapper had in store for them.
Holding nothing back in songs like “Cookies and Apple Juice,” Slim’s provocative lyrics and occasional profanity melded with the playful feel of his music and loosened up the atmosphere. His clown-like hand gestures and facial expressions satirizing the thematic tenor of his songs exuded Slim’s humorous personality and goofy appeal. The rosy blush on his cheeks and the dilated veins on his neck were merely subtleties conveying Slim’s raw passion for his rhymes. His proud confidence shone through with each lyric rolling smoothly off the tip of his tongue flawlessly into the next.
Catchy self-made phrases and inside jokes about “this skinny dude” and shout-outs to his hometown roots and track team echoed throughout many of his works, hitting soft spots in devoted listeners and livening those new in the crowd. Pop-culture references in “Popular” — which uses the chorus from the same-named song of Broadway’s “Wicked” as its background — received encouraging chuckles and hollers from males and females alike.
Bobbing up and down to the pulsating beat of his new song, “Pushaman,” Slim amped up his performance with some slick moves, throwing down hand slaps to the huddle of teammates leaning over the front edge of the stage. Supporting their friend, the hyped-up cluster of athletes translated their camaraderie from the track to the stage. Joining in with a choral sing-along and synchronized dance moves, the crowd mimicked Slim’s onstage energy.
With the final notes of Slim’s vocal performance carrying smoothly from the microphone over to the amplifier, a faint echo came through and faded out the heavy bass. The transition fit perfectly with the artist’s closing rhymes and beats — strong yet not overpowering, much like his onstage personality.
Once the music stopped, a thundering applause from the half-filled dance floor subdued the jazzy filler music emerging from the speakers. As fans waited to congratulate the newly famed rapper, they resumed their pre-show small talk, only this time praising Slim for surpassing their moderate expectations after giving a live performance that was, unbelievably, only his first.