Last night my eyes were opened – a new kind of show was introduced to me, and I loved it. Hip-hop. Rap. More specifically, Atmosphere.

It was great.

I’ve never been much of a hip-hop/rap fan, primarily because I hadn’t been exposed to much of the genre. It took me quite a while, actually, to embrace the music. I cut my teeth on A Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys in college, but started a few years before with the ultra-popular Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Everyone listened to gangster rap, and I was no different.

I moved along to the mostly indie sound of Tribe and Beastie Boys in college because it was somewhat familiar; I had a friend that listened to Midnight Marauders and Ill Communication constantly in high school. Things never really wavered from those two groups, though. I was too involved in discovering indie rock and Brit-pop to give much thought to anything with any semblance of a beat.

As college rolled along I did pick up a few more groups – mainstream stuff: the solo projects from the Fugees crew, Jurassic Five, The Roots. Hip-hop artists with more beats than “broads” – more substance, less posing. Eventually I desired an entire hip-hop collection – one that I could use to give the genre a little more prominence in my life.

Which brings us to now. Kerrie requested some hip-hop from our friend Mary. Mary responded with a CD of hip-hop artists with an indie mentality: Atmosphere, Sage Francis, Aesop Rock. Since then, it’s become a habit. I’ve added some bigger names to my arsenal – Outkast, Common, Jay-Z – but I’ve become a true fan of the small label, no nonsense artists. The ones that make hip-hop more than just a vehicle for wealth accrual and sexual acts.

To me, Atmosphere is at the top of this group. Last night’s show revitalized any notion I had about seeing hip-hop live. Where I was unimpressed with other groups, Atmosphere took the place apart – an incredibly healthy mix of ego and self-effacement. “I’m the best” would be mixed with “Please step back so the people in front aren’t crushed.” When a group of young girls got on stage to grind, Slug told them to get down, saying later that he appreciated having women at his shows, but wants them to be more than eye-candy.

Simply put, Atmosphere is all I’ve ever wanted in a hip-hop outfit – indie values, progressive politics, a warm embrace for the central states, and incredible word play. Self-depricating, but incredibly bold. And a live show that, regardless of how well I knew the words, blew me away.

– – –

A few more words on the show last night. Soulcrate Music, for some reason, seems to be my favorite artist that I’ve never seen. Sure, I’m friends – well, good acquaintances – with one of the members, but they seem like they’d be good. One of these days I’ll actually show up in time to see them play. Until then, you should check them out. Tell me what I’m missing.

Second, no one puts more work into promoting shows (and arguing with security when they suddenly turn the lights on in the middle of a set) than Jayson Weihs. Just remember, Jayson – I was the one that added that “y” to your name!

I’m not just saying that because he let us in for half-price, either. It helps to know the promoter, even when you’re too old to still feel comfortable at shows.

Finally, I ran into a friend of mine that is starting to scan and color some of his comics. His name, at MySpace, is Samtron, and you should check out his site in anticipation of some great artwork. Again, this is not just because I’m going to be a character. This is just because he’s my friend, and in no way because I do what I can to self-promote whenever I can.

This was lovingly handwritten on March 15th, 2006