Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 8 a.m.
Welcome To Minnesota Tour 2014
with Atmosphere, Toki Wright and Big Cats, No Bird Sing, and Dem Atlas
First Avenue Mainroom, Minneapolis
Monday, February 17, 2014
The fourth annual Welcome to Minnesota tour once again found Atmosphere bringing a range of local rap acts around the state with him, finishing last night with a triumphant sold out show at First Avenue. An impressive night of music from front to back, the mini-tour's line-up was well-chosen and showcased the different kinds of quality rap music coming from Minnesota.
See Also: Slideshow: Welcome to MN at First Avenue, 2/17/14
Jimmy 2 Times of Get Cryphy spun throughout the night and worked through tracks as variant as M.O.P., Le1f, TNGHT, and Future, and used Pusha T's "Numbers On the Board" as a cue to introduce Dem Atlas, at the rapper's special request. As his DJ spun some garbled Charlie Brown samples, the recent Rhymesayers signee leaped out from the side of the stage with a passionate hunger and a baseball bat in hand. A very physical performer, deM atlaS brought a tempered aggression to material off his Charle Brwn EP and owned the stage like a seasoned performer.
Lydia Liza of Bomba de Luz joined him for their joyful collaboration "Who Loves the Snow," and later beatboxer Bloomer backed him up for the latter half of "Lucille" (appropriately enough during the track's "La Di Da Di" reference). Ending on the huge "Watabout," deM atlaS jumped into the crowd to give his very last breaths to the singalong chorus, and the impression his set left should prove to everyone how he caught the attention of Rhymesayers in the first place.
No Bird Sing hit the stage after a brief intermission and added a dark tinge to the night's energy, with heavy lyrical material from Joe Horton over the live guitar and drums of the band. Horton keeps his rap patterns tight but his content deep and difficult, and the backing music gives the songs a haunting accent. Aby Wolf came to the stage for "Apogee" off the group's recent Definition Sickness, their latest album since signing to Strange Famous Records, and the vocal textures added an off-kilter depth to the band's work. The contrast from Dem Atlas's set gave the night a nice nuance and the crowd showed an appreciation of the stylistic diversity.
The immediate bass hit from Toki Wright and Big Cats introductory song was gigantic. Like many of the songs the pair have crafted and gradually made public through recent performances, it moved and meandered into unexpected directions that highlighted Toki's poignant flow and songwriting ability. It's some of his most honest and stark material yet, bolstered by Eric Mayson's lush keys and Lydia Liza's deep vocals. Toki is not one to let mellow-leaning material stop him from encouraging the audience to turn up, and galavanting around the stage, in the audience, and atop speaker systems added an entertaining physicality to his lyrical focus.
His closing number added a backing dancer to the mix, and Lydia's big vocal performance got a huge response just before the crew left the stage. Toki is forever taking grand strides forward in his music, and the years he's put into perfecting his live act have manifested into one of his best incarnations to date.
Slug, Ant, and Plain Ole Bill stepped to the stage shortly afterwards with the cocksure "Bad Bad Daddy" introducing a set that spanned Atmosphere's career. Big lit screens added some visual spectacle, but Slug's impressive handle of the microphone was what made the night. Bringing an unfaltering vitality to every word, Slug also worked the audience with anecdotes and funny quips, and changed certain lyrics to reward the close attention everyone paid him.
The audience gave back a lot of energy and Slug soaked it up to add to his performance. He announced before playing "She's Enough" that he'd recently had a second child 6 weeks ago, which seemed to add some extra impact to his song about family and monogamy. When he got to taking over scratching duties next to Bill as he freestyled, it was clear he was having a great time onstage.
After stepping offstage briefly, Slug returned for an encore performance of the song he sarcastically referred to as his "sell-out song," "Trying to Find a Balance." The audience sang back basically every word. Slug invited his openers back onstage for their collaboration "Color In the Snow," a great melding of the differing character's charisma that made the show a success that played really well. Everyone had their moment to shine and put their best foot forward for the inspiring tour's last hurrah. Between this regular tour and his Twitter account, Slug has been a fervent supporter of the local scene, even though he really doesn't have to be. With a packed house as a reminder that he'd have the draw either way, he's used his influence to shed some light on some of the other corners of local rap music, and it's commendable. This show was a great reminder of the vibrancy of the scene and of why Atmosphere rose to their level of prominence.
Personal Bias: I've seen enough rappers who use backing tracks at this point that seeing someone hit all their words might seem better than it would normally.
The Crowd: Packed, high-energy, appreciative.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I've never heard of these guys." "You need to step your local game up!"
Random Notebook Dump: Nice to see how Cryphy DJs consistently rep P.O.S.' 'Get Down."
Bad Bad Daddy
The Loser Wins
Modern Man's Hustle
Party For The Fight To Write
Woman With The Tattooed Hands
God's Bathroom Floor
Trying To Find A Balance