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How They Used To: In Memory of Victor Pontes-Macedo (a/k/a MC Exposition of Audible Mainframe)

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When initially crying about how the loving and enlightened MC Exposition exited this weekend, I couldn't help but to also water for the lesser artists who remain, and who use their platforms to echo the nonsense that he eschewed through his final verse. More specifically, I thought about how those cats might learn from Expo's example. In a time of eroding rap values, he was a beacon of fundamental hip-hop pride. In an age of small ideas, his creativity stood out like his trademark 'fro.

It was only months ago that Expo, known to friends and family as Victor, received a devastating cancer diagnosis. Living with his Boston-bred band, Audible Mainframe, in California, the news came following a chronic cough that dulled his teflon performance chops. For a man whose lifeline to the masses was through rhymes, it was an especially troubling development. For the rest of us, it was absolutely devastating – a cold reminder of how unfair life can be to those who least deserve to suffer.

Audible Mainframe was among the first Boston acts that I covered as a rookie eight years ago. Describing them early on, I noted how Expo worked the stage like a stud outfielder, nailing each play with precision. My other observation was the diverse scrum at Audible shows; in addition to the tough-guy rap set, Expo and his crack unit were a magnet for the likes of co-eds and hipsters. I've seen them smoke dozens of stages in multiple states since, and their draw only grew more kaleidoscopic.

Though I came to know Victor personally, that's far from the only reason I felt close to him. He's one of hip-hop's great memoirists; starting with his 2004 solo debut, The Metro, Expo rapped like he was telling friends about a long day over a late-night pint. There was always a didactic dart or two tucked in there – something encouraging for us to take home. But on the surface, he was an artist who all heads could relate to – a working class MC to the core.

Of course Expo was a political beast as well, and a radical who kept A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn beside his toilet bowl. His music was deeply rooted in progressive gusto, every line raising, in his words, a “middle finger in the face of the establishment.” I'm sure that beers will be poured out and ounces burned in his honor. A more fitting tribute, though, would be to raise one's own fist at nefarious forces, or to work with at-risk young people, as Expo did in his off-stage life for years.

The thought of not getting to see Expo perform live again is unbearable. It was hard enough when his band moved to Cali back in 2008, leaving Boston with just one show a year around the holidays. Still it seemed like the right switch at the time, and in practice, their Long Beach sessions inspired Audible's brightest gems. Though never lacking for hooks or sounds that ranged from catchy to addictive, songs like “Subi Alto” found Expo and his team manifesting something close to perfection.

I'm heartened that there are some unreleased expositions. That feeling, though, does little to compensate for all that we'll be missing. As noted in his rhymes, Victor planned to rap well into old age, and to do it unapologetically. He learned that from veteran associates like Slick Rick, who Audible backed for years. But perseverance also stemmed from his warrior mentality; Expo's wisdom warranted attention, and he glowingly embraced the fight to spread his gospel.

For Victor's closest friends, bandmates, and relatives, there are countless memories of his presence; he was a warm soul, and his hugs and daps were unforgettable. As for those who came to love him through his rhymes – there are the lessons that he left behind, among them: if you take from this planet, leave something in return, and “young folks are born to defy and to remind old folks how to laugh and to cry.” On this sad occasion, we're all reminded of how painfully true his words were.

Visiting hours will be held on Tuesday, April 10th, from 4 to 8 pm, at the Rogers Funeral Home, 380 Cambridge St., CAMBRIDGE. A Celebration Of Victor's Life will be held at the funeral home on Wednesday, April 11th, at 10 am.

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