MFN Melo Credit: Micheal Salisbury

If you’d seen any Pivot Gang rappers performing in the last nine months without knowing they belonged to the local hip-hop collective, you’d have soon caught on based on two phrases they pepper throughout their time onstage: “Pivot Gang” (obviously) and “Long live John Walt.” Walt, the Pivot cofounder and rapper-singer born Walter Long Jr. (he changed his stage name to Dinner With John in 2016) was stabbed to death on February 8. He would have turned 25 on November 25, a day his friends in Pivot Gang have christened John Walt Day. Every member of the collective will perform during tonight’s tribute concert, which will benefit the John Walt Foundation, the local youth and arts organization they’ve launched in his honor. To a lesser degree, the event is also a belated release show for Pivot Gang member MFnMelo, who released his debut full-length mixtape, Melodramatics, last month. Melo raps with a resonance that emanates from deep within him; his voice carries a weight that sounds like it’s emerged from his belly, and brings with it a force that’s imprinted with his soul. He’s a smooth performer, and he dispenses his lines with a conversational ease that allows him to shift into half-singing when the moment suits him. Melo’s lighter, uplifting turns on “Lately,” which features Walt and Saba—whose lyrics to a new single called “Where Ideas Sing” were displayed in a work by by public artist Matthew Hoffman on the outside of Apple’s new downtown store—suggest he may not be far from seeing his own work plastered around town.   v