For full photo gallery from the night, click here or on any image.
The year 2015 marks the 20th Anniversary of Rhymesayers Entertainment, the independent hip hop record label and artist collective that became the gold standard in artist and fan-friendly DIY record labels across the country. Labels in all genres, not just hip hop, have been looking to the business model of Rhymesayers since the beginning, and no one has been able to quite replicate it since.
RSE co-founding father, Slug, of Atmosphere has been there since the beginning, and if last Wednesday night’s performance at The Trocadero in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is any indication… he’s not going anywhere any time soon.
Now, full disclosure, I was not around at the dawn of Rhymesayers twenty years ago. I should clarify… I was around, I just I wasn’t listening to hip hop twenty years ago. Or at least I didn’t know I was listening to hip hop. In fact, I didn’t see my first Atmosphere show until 2008. April 28, 2008 at the Trocadero. Slug was no spring chicken then, either, having been rapping for well over a decade at that point, but, just ten days after the release of When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, Atmosphere was arguably as popular as they’d ever been. Though their popularity was perhaps at or close to its peak over seven years ago, to use the term “prime” or say that Atmosphere is currently “past their prime” would do nothing but diminish their present performances as anything less than the exceptional live shows.
Things are different now though, and not necessarily in a bad way. Everyone has grown up a bit. Where as ten years ago you might hear some song requests being shouted from a crowd that had more than its fair share of over-boozed teens and young adults eager to see Ant and Slug play the songs they came to hear, now everyone is a bit more mature. Sure, we all have our favorite Atmosphere tunes, and we may even appreciate some now more than we did in the beginning, and others we used to favor may have dropped off a few of our playlists. But at this point, instead of demanding what we want from a touring artist who is hitting us up for a one night stand, we seem to treat Atmosphere more like a long-time friend with whom we’ve maintained a steady relationship, even though time and geography have kept us apart for the greater part of the last two decades.
The feeling throughout the old renovated theatre last week was more that of, let’s lay back, kick it, share old stories, ad-lib some of the old parts, share some new stories, some things we’ve been working on since we’ve last seen each other. Not to say the energy wasn’t near roof-blowing status. But no one was just waiting through songs hoping to hear their own personal favorite. The fans roared at the opening beats of nearly every song, letting the crew know that at this point, it doesn’t really matter too much what their set list contained, so long as they continued to pour their heart and soul into it. Not a problem for a Rhymesayers artist. It’s kind of their M.O.
Some notes about the supporting acts…
B. Dolan is a difficult opening act for a headlining artist. Mainly because the guy could and really should be a headlining artist. His songwriting and poetry are a step above the vast majority of emcees in the game right now and the political and social commentary involved make for more of an intellectual think piece than a hype building act. It’s a double edge sword having someone like B. Dolan come out before you, but damn… if you have a chance to catch the Strange Famous rapper, please be like Nike and just do it.
Having deM atlaS come out with B. Dolan to close out the night with Atmosphere at the end for a round of freestyles and crowd favorites seemed almost like a passing of the torch, having multiple “generations” of rappers (deM atlaS is in his young 20’s, B. Dolan young 30’s, and Slug young 40’s) share the stage for the last 15 minutes. I say almost because Slug is still on top, and he isn’t stepping down in the near future. Sure, a wife, kid, and a business to run may take some time and energy out of his music making, but he’s as strong as ever.
Thanks to Rhymesayers and the Troc for a great night!