The Aggie’s Atmosphere show last Saturday was surely filled with dedicated fans of the duo, but easily could have made a new fan of the group, and even of the hip hop genre itself, if one who was a fan of neither happened to get in.
The show, comprised of various members of the Minneapolis-based Rhymesayers Entertainment label, had a line wrapping the block almost immediately after the designated eight o’clock show time. DJ Keezy was there to kick off the night and was, essentially, the rock of our evening, between the classic hip hop jams with which she settled us into the evening, as well as acting as DJ for two of the following acts. Keezy had the perfect sampling of songs that should be in every hip hop head’s vocabulary: from Busta Rhymes and Lauryn Hill, to other Rhymesayers acts like Brother Ali and Doomtree. She even threw in a bit of reggae to round out the positive vibe already moving around the crowd.
The first rapper to face the crowd was Lioness, and she did so with a wildly impressive range of styles for the crowd. She employed styles evocative of more of a Kendrick Lamar type—with good wordplay over an impressively rapid cadence—but could also slow it down quite well, even bringing her choruses closer to reggae in nature at times.
Lioness was also incredibly emotive with her body language, seemingly feeling every single word she uttered with a reflection of each word in authentically theatric movements.
Dem Atlas was next on stage, and wasted not a second, sprinting onto the stage and right into his boisterous set. Dem Atlas incorporated a myriad of genres in his particular style of hip hop, but to such an extent and authentic adaptation, it makes it hard to call him strictly a hip hop artist. Many rappers incorporate a few elements of other genres, but more adapt them to a hip hop style; yet Dem Atlas seemed to adapt the sounds of hip hop to the styles of other genres which clearly influenced him. Many of his hooks included him singing in a manner that evoked that of maybe an alt-rock artist, and his performance contained some gruff vocal outpours that could fit into a soulful song, such as one by Charles Bradley, quite easily. This, combined with some dance moves borrowed from Michael Jackson, and an unarguably practiced faculty of rap made for one rounded-out and lively performance.
Contrasting with the entrance of Dem Atlas before him, rapper Musab took to the stage almost unnoticed. This lack of an entrance still made quite the impression, however; he stood like an obelisk, hood low over his eyes, and began pouring lyrics into the microphone. As he proceeded to remove his hood and interact with the crowd, he displayed a very conscious assortment of lyrics including topics like the effects of violence and the differences we perceive, lined by religion. All of this was backed by the beautiful beats of Ink Well, comprising the second half of the recently-formed MInk.
Atmosphere were every bit the seasoned veterans their fans would expect them to be, but this is not to say that they lacked any energy or enthusiasm in the least. Focusing on many of the classics, going all the way back to the now two-decade old “God’s Bathroom Floor”, every fan of the duo was able to once again live in the unique style of the group which made them the legends they are now. Besides hitting so many of their classic songs—among them “Yesterday”, “Trying to Find a Balance”, “Sunshine”, and so, so many more—they also clearly took their live performance serious to an extreme degree. This was exhibited in elements such as Slug bringing some fans on stage to rap with him (to not much success, but it’s the thought that counts, as they say), responding to specific members of the crowd, and bringing all the other performers on stage for a completely improvised freestyle session.
What Atmosphere truly embodied was the spirit of hip hop which is largely (although not completely) missing from rap music today. Hip hop is a versatile genre, which can lend itself to very personal and heartfelt lyrics which help listeners emote to real and passionate struggles which face us all but, completely conversely, also lends itself to a willingness to party and feel a joyous celebration among the conglomeration of fans. What Slug especially excels at is storytelling in his songs, taking the listener on an actual journey through the verse, instead of being able to rely on melody or anything of that nature. Hip hop is a stripped-down style, essentially prodding one to deeply think about life in some cases, and to celebrate with abandon in others, and Atmosphere displayed all of these qualities in spades. The city was truly lucky to have them grace a Fort Collins stage once again.