Rap shows are boring. It seems as though this notion has been formulated by today’s tech savvy, rave-loving, social media obsessed generation not satisfied enough with turntables and an angry MC. Once a genre of unification and class struggle, the political implications have almost died down demoting it to a bump-and-grind fest for underage teens. Last year when the renowned hip-hop festival in LA, Rock the Bells, cancelled half their lineup due to financial loss, famous rapper Kid Cudi commented that it’s because hip-hop shows aren’t exciting enough to watch and they needed more variety. Even upcoming New York rap trio Ratking stated in their interview with the Guardian that they aspire to have more punk-inspired shows simply because they are more thrilling live.
Thus lies a camouflaged group of Dilla-worshipping hip-hop heads who assemble at gigs like Atmosphere and prove this all wrong. Building a loyal fanbase for 10 years, MC Slug and producer Ant have been a steady icon of the underground hip-hop scene after their 2002 release God Loves Ugly. Their rocky career, thinly spread onto seven studio albums (including their newest one Southsiders), is distressingly reflected over the obvious correlation between their performance of old-to-new material and the crowd reaction.
While their signature pop, soul and jazz influenced tracks ‘Yesterday’, ‘GodlovesUgly’, ‘Modern Man’s Hustle’ and ‘Sunshine’ received overwhelming screams, their shitty spacey techno-induced tracks (basically their new album) received almost no recognition and also probably the reason why they didn’t perform a single track from their sloppily-put together 2011 album, The Family Sign. Slug even stopped midway through ‘Shoulda Known’ when he realised the crowd was unresponsive, but incisive decisions like this were, in fact, the very reason their performance was so astonishing.
Communication is vital when it comes to Slug. If the crowd isn’t relishing it, then neither is he. He talks to his fans like his own friends; joking about alarm clocks, telling them to put a smile on their ‘uglyfuckingfaces’, and encouraging them to go crazy every second. His heartfelt passion and his influence is so powerful it rubs off on everyone in the room, which reminds us that the sincerity in his music is the core foundation as to why Atmosphere has always stayed on top of the rap game. Ant’s proficient production highlights the performance, scratching and improving various jazzy tunes and beats while dancing around behind the set.
The more they showed enthusiasm the more the crowd went wild and the fact that they got lost in their set for an hour and 40 minutes, and had to get called off stage by sound check guys, shows that passion and modesty is both their strong suit and the assurance that their fans will always come back.