A sold out night of hip-hop at Knitting Factory that was full of positivism and good vibes.
Opener: The Lioness (with DJ Keezy)
DJ Keezy started things off with a nice blend of rap songs, many of which were old enough that I recognized them (some Dre, Snoop Dogg, and N.E.R.D were included). We even got “Master of Puppets”, which was a nice surprise and injected a boost of energy into the crowd. She won me over right away with her vintage Rage Against the Machine shirt, and while hyping up the crowd gave numerous shout-outs to the excited ladies in attendance (of which there were many).
When The Lioness came onstage, the crowd was definitely ready for some Slug time- but as soon as she started rapping the crowd was pretty damned transfixed. I saw a few people shouting along but most folks were as unaware of her as I was – and she won us over.
Her songs were intense and showed a serious talent in both writing and delivery, but my takeaway was her consistently empowering and uplifting themes and messages: manifesting the life you want to live, perseverance and the belief to keep fighting, and that beauty is on the inside of all of us. I don’t claim to know her songs and can’t tell you what the setlist was, but I enjoyed this passage: “Nothin’ can stop the progression, not hate or aggression; not fake or deception…not weight from the pressure”.
Sean Daley is old, y’all. Dude was born in 1972 and has been doing this (by “this” I mean writing and performing consistently great rap music under his stage name Slug) since the mid-90s. The thing is, he is not only overtly talented but still possesses that “it” factor that all of the greats have: you just want to like him from the get-go.
When he emerged onstage in his jacket and gloves that would be right at home in Minneapolis, the sold-out crowd went apeshit right away. By the time he got through “Bde Maka Ska”, the opening track on Atmosphere’s terrific latest record, it was game on. Although he had his two-man posse behind him mixing the music (“meet your new best friends” he said as he introduced them), this was a truly solo effort in a way I‘ve never seen in a rap show. No guest appearances, no filler, no bullshit – just Slug bringing the flow for 90 minutes of really good times.
He made a point (mostly to himself) right away that “time is not a renewable resource” and promised us that “I talk too much between songs, and I’m going to try not to do that tonight”. Well, he lived up to that in a big way, with very little banter in between – but the things he did say sure sounded positive and happy for a guy who famously isn’t always those things. It seems to this amateur writer that Sean is in a good place, grateful for the success he has found and the life he is living. His most important note for the adoring fans? “Two things I need you to know before you leave – first, I love you all; and second, we are from Minneapolis”.
OK, that is all fine and good, but how was the music? Well, friends – it was great. A truly diverse mix of old, new, and everything in between including “God’s Bathroom Floor”, a song so old that it isn’t even on an album that Spotify recognizes. His intro to that track was comical even if a bit forced: he pretended to be getting a message through his earpiece, and then said “my boss says I have to play some old shit for the old people”.
Before tearing into the thought-provoking “The Woman with the Tattooed Hands”, he implored us to “raise your hands if you already masturbated today”. I heard more cheers than I saw hands, but it was a funny moment. Although many of my favorite Atmosphere tracks didn’t get their time to shine, there was never a time that felt like a lag. Slug and his crew kept things moving briskly and full of energy throughout, and my highlights were “The Loser Wins”, “Love Each Other”, and “Say Hey There”.
If you like hip-hop and somehow aren’t familiar with the music of Atmosphere, you probably just emerged from a rock and I have so many things to tell you, many of which are horrible. But, one positive- you have some great music to check out.
Bde Maka Ska
The Loser Wins
Fuck You Lucy
Love Each Other
Say Hey There
The Woman with the Tattooed Hands
Spotify setlist link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1oUQriD4j6rEuQ5ND21fKe?si=YThnhenFQlewPoJ7gPUb_g