Louisville doesn’t often get the privilege of hosting quality non-local hip hop shows. Not many MCs think to include Kentucky on their roster, even with the large demographic of folks available that can appreciate hip hop’s experimental side. Although the credibility of artists on Rhymesayers Entertainment isn’t fueled by cult concepts, they’re still able to draw large crowds of music lovers under the same roof. Last night at Headliners, they welcomed us to The Family.
As Atmosphere has recently been warming up to performing with a live band, opening act Blueprint was also joined by an ensemble, minus the drum kit and replaced with a turntable set. He is probably the only current rapper gallant enough to play keytar, although it looked about the size of a Rock Band controller. Transitions between the cadence of a rap flow and instrumental lulls made for a refreshing and incredibly entertaining set. He it finished off with a tribute to anything voluptuous in the room with “Big Girls Need Love Too.”
Evidence performed solo accompanied only by the beat mixings of DJ Rare Groove who also entertained the crowd between sets. In introducing "You," Evidence geeked about having a beat produced by DJ Premier, who has thrown down for big dogs like Dr. Dre and Snoop—and more recently—Mac Miller and Game. He took control of the energy in the room and conducted a spitfest long enough to last through the weekend. Of course, he couldn’t go without crediting influences and hollered a moment of honor to Gangstarr’s Guru who passed away last year.
Atmosphere hit the stage with their own posse of musicians and, hungover, Slug admitted to wanting to call in sick. But like any pro, he sucked it up and kicked off with fresh material from The Family Sign. After “My Notes” and “Just for Show”, the crowd eventually won him over; he seemed both surprised and pleased to see so many faces reciting his lyrics. He lightened up enough to consistently smile throughout the performance and, to really butter us up, name-dropped Kentucky and Louisville into plenty of his rhymes. The unity was strengthened as everyone chanted “GodLovesUgly” and surely people got to recite their tattoos during “Love Life” in a call-response spiel between Slug and the crowd. Although not a common thing in hip-hop, the addition of the band further realized their future sound and texturized the atmosphere. It was an organic departure from a typical DJ set and hit its peak during the cascading outro of “I Don’t Need Brighter Days” that leaned intensely towards heavy-hitting psychedelic rap. Resonating with the positive energy and the comfort of a weed brownie in his belly, Slug announced it was time for a freestyle flow.
In spirit of an encore the show wrapped up with "Yesterday," a song written about Slug's deceased father. Well, Louisville is your father now.
Photos: Lara Kinne