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Andy Mineo Performs ‘Never Land’ EP, Connects With Crowd at New York City Show [EXCLUSIVE]

Andy Mineo
Terry Wyatt, Getty Images

It’s been a crazy couple of days when it comes to New York City weather. The temperature went right back down to sub-45 degrees after a tease of spring earlier this week, so passersby understandably carried a slight scowl as they wondered what could kids could possibly be waiting for outside Santos Party House on Thursday night (April 17).

Hip-hop fans were in attendance to see rapper Andy Mineo take the stage. Besides performing songs off his new EP, ‘Never Land,’ the New York native was celebrating his 26th birthday — plus he just got engaged to his longtime girlfriend a day before.

Mineo is often characterized as a “Christian rap” artist, but one of the things he stresses is that he doesn’t rap purely to convert non-believers. Rather, the music is a window to that world view. He again touches on that point when the host of the concert, MTV News reporter Rob Markman, interviewed him as a prologue to his performance.

“I am a Christian, but I don’t make music just for Christians,” Mineo said. “My music is meant to encourage the Christian, challenge to non-believer and introduce them to my way of life — what I love and what I care about. That’s why we stopped adopting that title of Christian rapper or artist just because we feel like it can limit us in a lot of ways.”

The key strategy to get that point across is turning up. After spirited performances by Columbus, Ohio’s own Christon Gray and the Bronx’s Marz, the crowd immediately started pumping their fists as Andy Mineo ran onstage to rap through songs from ‘Never Land.’ The EP’s title and cover art takes its inspiration from the story of Peter Pan. It seems like his performance did too, as he easily won over the mostly youthful crowd. The connection between the performer and the audience was easy because they were here to celebrate his birthday (“Wooo!”), good music (“Wooo!”) and God (“Hallelujah!”).

There were secular thrills to be found all over the hour-long set, which was also Mineo’s first time headlining a show in over a year. From rattling off the comedic lyrics on ‘Paisano’s Wylin’ or sending the crowd into a deeper frenzy by randomly segueing into Baauer’s ‘Harlem Shake,’ the rhymer is a versatile performer.

Another piece of Mineo’s strategy revealed itself a little past the show’s halfway mark. The night was part turn up, part foot-in-the-door technique as he temporarily put a pause on his rapping for an introspective talk. He touched on topics of the male role models in his life (put in place because his father wasn’t around), the moment when he proposed and the beautiful imagery behind that scene.

“That image is so beautiful of a man — a leader — that’s so powerful … getting down on one knee in an act of service an commitment saying, ‘I give all that I have to you,’” Mineo said.

The crowd cheered with understanding. There were no fronts here.

The timing of Mineo’s performance is rather interesting — after Coachella and before Easter weekend. The Coachella festival was highlighted by the return of OutKast and Nas’ performance of his debut LP ‘Illmatic.’ It was a key moment for two of hip-hop’s near mythological figures. It was a flawed one, too, between Andre 3000 performing part of ‘Hey Ya’ with his back toward the audience and Nas forgetting some of the lyrics for the set-closing ‘One Mic.’

Yet, here was Mineo connecting with almost everyone in immediate view in a much smaller-scale venue. He barely missed a lyric, and if he did, the audience had no problem filling in the blanks. He did apparently forget the lyrics to ‘In My City’ during his encore performance, but it’s a minor flub compared to what came before it. He jumped into the crowd to mosh for a bit as he performed the high-adrenaline track ‘You Can’t Stop Me.’

Once the rapper reemerged from the crowd, his black-rimmed glasses were missing. It may have been a bit of a nuisance (like the weather) considering Mineo needs them to see, but connecting with his supporters for that very moment seemed to be well worth the loss.

Next: Watch Andy Mineo Speak on Niccolo Paganini's Inspiration, Mission Trips & More

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