As I was writing this, my wife went into labor. Our child arrived nine days earlier than expected. It may have been the bass. I’m lost for words, except to say that publishing this, in a sense, is the best way for me to mark here at the Bunker this singular event in our lives.
Attended two great concerts this weekend, both featuring key players in the independent hip hop movement of the early naughts. Sole, formerly of Anticon, performed at Stengade 30, alone with a laptop, on Friday, while the Rhymesayers collective (featuring Greives and Budo, Blueprint, Brother Ali, Evidence, and Atmosphere) ended their European tour at Store Vega this night.
Attending these shows in such close succession recalled for me that very special moment in hip hop in the early naughts when the genre was expanding in so many different directions at once, seeing white suburbia embrace it on an artistic level theretofore unknown outside the inner cities and with an entirely new set of sensibilites. It seemed then, suddenly, that the sky was the limit for the art form. Eminem was only the most visible exponent of a watershed in hip hop that ran the gamut from his confessional hardcore to the hermetic abstractions of Anticon.
Atmosphere were at the center of this, defining a midwestern hip hop sound on the balance between boom bap and breaking form, while Anticon created an avant-garde within the avant-garde with their heady lyrics, abstract flows and arrythmic production.
Problem was it kind of ebbed. Only a few of the innovators of these years have kept up the steam they were building from grains of salt in those years. They foundered and lost their way as they got older and life became more complex, and as hip hop once again shifted in character and its prime innovations increasingly came southern fried.
Atmosphere are one of the few exceptions to the rule. They have continued to grow, releasing music that reflect their age and experience, and they still rock a show like few others in hip hop. Although we sadly lost their early associate, the insanely gifted Eyedea, last year, they continue to surround themselves with solid talent. Brother Ali, a born stage performer if a somewhat weak songsmith, tends to steal the show as did he this night, but Blueprint and the new Rhymesayers signee Evidence (of Dilated Peoples) held their own too.
Sole, who left Anticon last year and currently resides in Colorado has had a more difficult time of it, but then his artistry has always been grounded in personal difficulty, and he has kept releasing some high quality music, much of it under the collaborative moniker Sole and The Skyrider Band. He has become more politically aware, less introspective, but has also lost some of the personal nerve that made his first two albums, Bottle of Humans and Selling Live Water, classics. His barebones setup on Friday in no way impeded an intense performance which at times seemed defiant assertion that his approach to hip hop, an approach that has all but been eclipsed today, is still a vibrant alternative.