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Best of Boston 2009

Review: Atmosphere at House of Blues

Game changer
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  May 18, 2009


There are two things about Atmosphere MC Slug that provoke endless fury in linguistically thugged-out Internet rap snobs everywhere. First: Atmosphere shows bring out hundreds of pretty girls in their slutty best. Second: Slug admits to having feelings. If that's what it takes to shoo away shitheads who illegally download music and attract instead eager hordes of merch-crazy college kids, then I suggest wanna-be MCs zip it and start taking notes.

Word spread quickly around Lansdowne Street last Wednesday that Slug was outside his tour bus signing autographs. He's been doing this for years — hence the fan retention — but these days he's more or less a full-blown star, and people act as if they'd found Jesus on their toast. Most pictures taken will have Slug half-smiling, and chicks blushing with their eyeballs floating toward him, as if saying to the camera: "OMG I can't believe this."

In case I haven't yet fellated their label, Rhymesayers, enough, I'm compelled to say that opener Brother Ali is my favorite MC to watch live. He doesn't dance, or even move around much (he's legally blind), but instead lets passion and clarity do his hot-stepping. I'm not alone; more than half the crowd knew every word to "Palm the Joker," which dropped a mere two months ago. Ali is "a motherfucker who loves being himself" — an endearing quality that distinguishes him from artists who simply love themselves.

After Atmosphere producer Ant finished smoking a pack of butts on stage and DJing for Ali, he was joined by a touring three-piece band who helped manifest joints for Slug. Their songs ring differently from tour to tour; this time cuts like "Saves the Day" caught new wreck with monstrous dutty hooks courtesy of singer Mankwe Ndosi. Slug emerged to "God Loves Ugly," then tore through the least sour tracks from When Life Gives You Lemons . . . and as many classics as time permitted. He's told me before that he can do his staples with his "eyes closed," but that doesn't mean he doesn't push it to 11 every night.

Atmosphere will never attract black fans, who represented roughly .5 percent of the sold-out House of Blues mass. For some reason, "urban" listeners repel vulnerable rappers, even though they eat that corny R&B junk up like (insert stereotypical African-American food joke here). But though a handful of tasteless commercial whores like Jay-Z have that market locked, Atmosphere might as well be crowned the king of white hip-hop. Sorry, Asher.

I wanted to stay and politick with the senior-week crowd (one girl asked me whether I was Sage Francis, so I could have milked that), but I had to check a Canibus show at Harpers Ferry. I may have trashed chat-room roughnecks in that first paragraph, but apart from my Atmosphere admiration, I'm one of them, and I never miss an opportunity to watch someone hacksaw innocent civilians while a bunch of dudes sit around drinking cheap beer and staring one another down.

Related: Brother Ali | The Truth Is Here, Master of ceremony, Solid gold, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Ant (Producer), Atmosphere, Boston House of Blues,  More more >
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