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Dem Atlas Proved His Star Is Rising Rapidly at 7th St. Entry

Dem Atlas's attire had some MJ flair.

Dem Atlas's attire had some MJ flair.

Dem Atlas 
with Radio Ahlee, Breakaway, Bloomer, DJ Adatrak and DJ Bob Marino
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
Saturday, January 17, 2015

Even after spending a large chunk of 2014 on the road with his Rhymesayers labelmates, Dem Atlas hasn't lost his humility.

Charismatic onstage and off, the young St. Paul rapper made the most of his first local headlining show in front of a sold out crowd at 7th St. Entry Saturday. In addition to performing a set filled with melodic tongue-twister raps, Atlas stood outside the venue to thank his fans for coming and rocked in the front row to his opening acts.

See also:
Slideshow: Dem Atlas Packs the 7th St Entry

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Radio Ahlee opened the night with a throwback flow similar to the Pharcyde vibes Dem Atlas gives off. He caught the attention of the audience and won them over nearly immediately. Playing with tempos and rhythms with a smoothness in voicing and cadence that made it look easy, Ahlee proved himself to an audience that was eager to get to the main act. His set was fun and subtly impressive, and his between-song popping and locking certainly contributed to the crowd's positive interaction.

It was harder to tell what the crowd thought of Breakaway's bizarre electro-pop. The crooning echo-chamber choral arrangements over heavy bass and drum machine rhythms resembled a warbly Depeche Mode. The extreme falsettos compounding on one another created a looped harmonic that came off both haunting and cornball. It was unique and subverted a lot of expectations, which may or may not have gone over with the backpack audience. Some yelled for him to get off the stage, some grooved moderately to the slow pacing, but most weren't sure how to react. The sound worked in that it was decidedly different, but it felt overlong and indulgent at points, though there was plenty in it that was interesting and engaging.

Bloomer brought things back to the comfortable world of rap with some undeniable beatbox skills. His fusion of traditional breakbeat beatboxing with hints of EDM flourish approached the same sonic mentality that DJs Adatrak and Bob Marino of Slipmats brought to their between-set playlists of rap and electronic remixes of everything from Nelly's "Flap Your Wings" to The Imperial March from Star Wars. All firmly rooted in hip-hop classicism, the openers all had tinges of other elements in conversation with traditional fare, and they helped make the show as a whole reminiscent of Dem Atlas's early days as a regular at hodgepodge basement shows and house parties.

The crowd roared with applause by the time Dem Atlas came out from behind the curtain and opened with an a capella snippet of a new track he'd return to later before jumping into the hopelessly catchy "Watabout." The audience sang along with nearly every word and channeled the spastic energy he gave off throughout the set. "I've never been in a position where people knew all the words to my songs," he said, surprised and humbled. His stage presence carried a passionate amalgam of emotions, from excitement and awe to rage and volatility, and it was wildly entertaining simply to see him get into his performance. One minute he'd be red-faced and cheesing at the positive reactions, the next he'd glare bug-eyed and menacingly to accentuate a particular emotive key.

The fans responded with equal fervor to every song on the setlist, from his Charle Brwn material to the gruniger album tracks from DWNR to a string of brand new songs, which found people listening intently instead of screaming along. Delving deeper into his troubled home life as a child, his new material was dark and starkly specific, referring directly to incidents from his past rather than speaking in loose allusions as was his tendency on DWNR. The new songs were powerful and grabbed people even without their familiarity.
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The genre-blending elements of Dem Atlas's music were made even more evident in a live setting, where raps that verged on punk harmonics, metal growls, and R&B smoothness mingled alongside the West Coast-inspired throwback stylistics. Above all else, it was fun. The music is positive, uplifting, and affirming, and achieves this core optimism through facing negativity head on rather than ignoring it.

Atlas's lively rapping and manic movements were cathartic, rejuvenating, and simply a joy to watch. He employed the Atmosphere method of slightly altering lyrics for the live set, at times goofily ("The world ain't pretty but it ain't shitty neither / We all need to smoke reefer") and others more profound ("I got people in Chiraq and I got people in Ferguson that's never coming back"). The latter placed the original lyrics about war overseas into a setting closer to home.

Closing on the boisterous "I Wanna Be a Kid Again" and the encore "All We Got," he left on a high note, hoping to leave people with a good feeling and a message. "To anyone with a dream, don't let anyone persuade you to do anything you don't wanna do," he said after the set was complete. "Fuck fear. Be yourself. Be yourself. Be yourself. Love yourself."

Personal Bias: I was one of the older people in the crowd, whatever that's worth.

The Crowd: Young and exuberant, all very big fans.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Oh no! The fun girls are here!"

Random Notebook Dump: Got the opportunity to go next door and catch ZuluZuluu in the Mainroom thanks to fortuitous timing.

Setlist:

Watabout
I Don't Care
Dandelions
Shake [new song]
Lucille (Everything's Broken)
Charlie Brown
A Happy Sad
Time Of Our Lives
Candy (Know Wat Can Be)
Drive North
Down In The Low
Video Game [new song]
I Been Let Down Before [new song]
Broken House [new song]
Wannabe A Kid Again
All We Got


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