On Saturday night, seventeen-year-old Aaron May took the stage at the House of Blues’ side room, the Bronze Peacock, to a sold-out crowd of 300 fans, friends and family. The Alief native, set to graduate from Alief Hastings next month, showed a stage presence, charm and energy beyond his years. Confident, talented and boyishly handsome, with millions of streams to his name, May looks and sounds like a star in the making, and his performance at House of Blues only confirms our suspicions.

May exploded onto the hip hop scene last year with the organic growth of his first video, “Ride.” The video, shot and edited with the help of Aaron’s high school friends, racked up thousands of views within weeks of its debut, and today sits at over half a million. The young rapper followed up on that success with the release of his debut mixtape Chase, a project that quickly garnered national buzz and drew endless J. Cole comparisons thanks to May’s crisp, rapid-fire flows and clean vocal delivery.

Photo by Carlos Brandon.

The Stans

It’s rare for a small crowd, especially so early in a rapper’s career, to demonstrate the level of enthusiasm and singular commitment that Aaron May’s fans showed last night. A group of at least 50 packed the front row of the small stage, phones in hand, mouthing the words to every song with the knowledge and devotion of BTS fangirls (in the most complimentary way possible). Clearly the crowd included friends and family, at one point even breaking into a “go nephew!” chant instigated by May’s gleeful aunt. Still, to pack any room with hardcore fans of all ages and bring the house down with the energy of a mainstream touring act takes a special kind of energy and showmanship.

Photo by Carlos Brandon.

The Stage

A small stage and an intimate room were made more intimate by May’s DJ and crew sharing the stage with him. A least ten hype men jumped and raged behind the rapper during his more intense performances, their energy mirrored by a raucous crowd. A yellow, blue and green light show draped Aaron in dazzling hues as smoke machines covered the room in a daze, indistinguishable from the room’s “other” smoky substances.

Photo by Carlos Brandon.

The Setlist

There’s nothing quite like the purity of an artist’s first setlist. May’s House of Blues performance featured his debut single “Ride” as well as every track off his debut mixtape Chase — each one an apparent fan favorite.

  • “Dreams”
  • “Make it”
  • “In Love”
  • “I’m Good Luv, Enjoy” (played twice)
  • “Let Go”
  • “Cream”
  • “Focus”
  • “Understood”
  • “One for Me”
  • “Closed Hands”
  • “Ride”
Photo by Carlos Brandon.

The Standouts

The unquestionable highlight of the evening was the infectiously catchy single, “I’m Good Luv, Enjoy.” Likely to become May’s next national hit, the song’s snappy hook was blared by the crowd over its funky guitar riffs and up tempo, hip hop drum kit. Its reception was so overwhelming that May brought it back near the end of the night for a second play.

Also captivating were the singles “Leg Go,” “Dreams,” and the closer “Ride.” The brief but confessional “Make It” marked a moment of emotional vulnerability that subdued and hypnotized an otherwise euphoric crowd.

The Sign Off

May finished with a brief speech thanking his committed crew of high school friends, family and talented group of collaborators. He gave heavy props to his native Alief and promised the best is yet to come in his rapidly developing career. After witnessing the young man’s star power first hand, we’re inclined to cosign that declaration

The Score: ♥♥♥♥♥