Upgrade HipHop on the West Coast

Right in the midst of a Coheed tour, friend to the band and rapper Upgrade HipHop wasn’t too far off on a tour of his own. Exactly a year ago he was opening for Sadistik (along with Coheed’s drummer Josh’s rap side project Weerd Science) on a tour in the Northeast. This time he’s opening for Sadistik on the West Coast.

Timing worked out very well, as he was performing in LA on a Coheed off-night between LA and Santa Ana. This means that not only can I make the show, but also that Josh and Dirty Ern were able to make an appearance as well.

Apparently the venue moved set times back an hour without bothering to tell any of the ticket holders beforehand, so I spent a decent amount of time outside the venue more or less eavesdropping on Sadistik fans. They were talking about his new album: favorite song, least favorite song, rate it as a whole 1-10, etc.

Eventually they notice me just lurking and ask me what my favorite track is.

“I’m just here for an opener…”


Soon enough Ernie and Josh get there. Ernie hugs me, looks at the venue, and says “Is that the door?”

Cue crazy deja vu back to that Weerd Science show (exactly) a year ago in Brooklyn that was just a sketchy door and did not look like a venue at all.

I kinda hung out with this girl who seemed like she was mostly only there because her fiancé is a big Sadistik fan. We went on an adventure together to try to find a bathroom before doors opened. The best we found was a Taco Bell, but it seemed a lot farther than we should have had to walk.

Since I didn’t know Sadistik but the others in line wanted me to feel included, they asked me to rate Upgrade 1-10. That still made me feel a little awkward, even though I am actually an Upgrade fan. Rating’s just a weird thing to me.

“Uhh well he’s a lot of fun. My favorite song he does is ‘Diet‘ so I’ll probably go nuts for that one.”

Eventually they let us in the venue, and I talked to Ernie for a bit. Upgrade saw me and gave me a hug, and he seemed really happy I was there.

He kept talking about how much he wanted to stay in California rather than go back home to New York after the tour ended. I told him how it only took me three days to decide this was where I was moving, and it sounded like he felt the same.

“It feels so great here and I haven’t even done anything.”

Josh, however, didn’t seem to look in my general direction until I intruded on a conversation. Whoops.

I had to miss Coheed’s LA show because I already had plans to see them 8 other times and my friends’ band was having their album release show the same night. But I got down to SoCal in time for Upgrade’s show and Coheed’s Santa Ana show the following night.

I heard Josh telling Upgrade that the Santa Ana show was gonna suck, and I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out “It better not!”

Ernie told me it was because it’s a smaller show sandwiched between two bigger sold out shows (with San Diego directly following Santa Ana) so not as many people bought tickets. But that means I’ll enjoy it more as a fan, so I’m happy about it.

The guy setting up the stage came by to talk to Upgrade. He goes on first.

“Do you want Josh to do a song with you? Just wondering if I should set up his mic.”
“That would be great, but I won’t ask him to.”

I was so close to getting some Weerd Science. Ugh.

Soon enough he took to the stage. It’s a tiny little venue (remember, just another sketch door) that basically held only a bar and a stage.

I’m the worst and don’t actually know the names of most of his songs. I’ve seen him live a handful of times, but I only have one CD, Chemical Imbalance, so bear with me.

He did one song a cappella, meaning just him and a microphone rapping, and he wears these crazy eyed glasses on stage sometimes, which are fantastic.

There was one song he wearing the glasses for, so he couldn’t see the audience. I actually had no idea he couldn’t see us, so when he pointed his belt directly in my face, I assumed it was intentional. He knows me, so if he wants to interact with the crowd, I’m fine with being the one who gets a belt in my face. But nope, he apologized profusely for it afterward. It was cute.

“When I say Upgrade, you say HipHop. Upgrade!”
“When I say Upgrade, you say ‘Get off the stage.’ Upgrade!”
“Get off the stage!”
“That was the loudest you guys were.”

He kept talking about wanting to stay in California while on stage as well.

“I just need a floor or a litter box. I’m easy. Well… Yeah, I meant that. Buy merch so I can stay here!”

For the last song, he called Ern up onstage with him. Damn right, we’re going on a diet.

“All he does is take his shirt off and everyone loves him so much more than me. I’ve worked on these songs for 10 years and he just says ‘Maybe I should take my shirt off.’ I’m gonna make tshirts of his body and you should all buy them for your girls so they’ll look better.”

Ern kept belly dancing into Upgrade’s mic and it was just the funniest friggin thing. I loved it. I love the two of them onstage together.




The couple there for Sadistik seemed to really enjoy his whole performance too, so that was really cool.

Upgrade is just so funny and entertaining onstage, it’s pretty hard not to love him.

Do I know what songs he actually performed? No, but here are a few of his videos:

Lindsay Marshall

One time I sneezed and Billie Joe Armstrong blessed me.

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