James Weldon and friends throw a Sunday night party at World Cafe Live - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
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For a quiet Sunday night in late winter, there was an abundance of life and energy in the Lounge at World Cafe Live last night as Philly rapper James Weldon and friends B-Eazyyy and The Bul Bey filled the room with fans, fire beats, and ferocious energy.

The show was originally scheduled for January, but got pushed back due to Omicron — in more ways than one a terrific move, since it built up anticipation and gave the performers room to sharpen their set. Eazyyy apologized more than once during his portion of the night if he came across rusty (it was his first show back, post-pandemic), but it was absolutely unnecessary; his performance was on point, charismatic, and quite cathartic, with many new songs coming as they did in the wake of his father and grandfather’s passing. Closing his portion of the night, “Sage Music” was a prayer for release and healing.

B-Eazyyy | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Eazyyy’s contemplative set was contrasted by Bey’s jubilant opening; he bounced, he sang, he spit and spun around the stage. He deftly navigated the booms of heavy trap beats and the brisk energy of funk-inspired throwbacks. While Bey is lyrically just as inclined to tackle heavy subject matter in his rhymes — something he did during a breathtaking a cappella last night — he often contrasts those emotions with sonic backdrops that transform them into moments of hopeful transcendence.

The Bul Bey | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Unlike his friends on the bill who performed with DJ backings, Weldon took the stage for his headlining set with a full band — many members of The Funkitorium — and they inserted a dynamic texture and throwback neo-soul groove into songs from his recent Well Done, Weldon project, especially “Still Here” and fan favorite “Coconut Oil.” The open and free-flowing dynamic of his set makes sense coming from somebody who’s not just an artist, but a connector via his Artistry Collective studio and regular Juice Jam open mic series.

James Weldon | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Funkitorium vocalists Arthur Thomas and Re-Mus joined in the mix for guest vocal appearances on a couple new songs, but the star of the night (aside from Weldon himself) was Sinnia Brown, aka Queen Maya, who took the stage early for a guest turn on “Free My Soul” and never left, acting as hype person one moment and taking center stage on a dynamic run next.

By far the standout during Weldon’s set was a stirring unreleased song called “Sneakers on a Wire,” a meditation on gun violence in Philadelphia with one verse told from the perspective of a shooter and the other from the perspective of a victim. With bars that travel beyond finger-pointing and dig into root causes, it shows that Weldon’s greatest gift as a storyteller is empathy, and this song has us curious to hear what he does next.

Check out a gallery of photos from the concert below.

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