& Dem Atlas
November 18, 2016
Photos and review by Zach Nellis
Earlier in November, Atmosphere and his band of merry men took over Stage AE for a night of some old school hip hop. The Minnesota natives and Rhymesayers Entertainment label co-founders brought along their long time friend and label mate, Brother Ali, as well as Rhymesayer new comer, Dem Atlas. Atmosphere and company hit the road to celebrate their most recent studio release, Fishing Blues, all performing on an appropriately decorated stage that looked like a giant fishbowl.
The night was kicked off with a short DJ set from Plain Ole Bill, who eased us into the night with some classic hip hop to get everyone’s head bobbing before DJ Last Word took over on the decks. Last Word continued to keep the crowd moving before bringing out Dem Atlas, who came out spitting over an old MF Doom beat, Poo Poo Plater, one of my personal favorites. His set continued with a few more Doom beats which I’m a sucker for. On top of some conscience raps, Dem also had some pretty spot on dance moves and overall stage presence. He did a good job of making sure he kept the crowds attention on him as the show went on. I have a lot of respect for any performer who can keep the audiences attention when the majority of the audience didn’t necessarily come to see them. I think that sheds a good light on the performer that’s giving his/her all to the audience knowing that some of those people will go home and check out their music. It also shows that the audience isn’t just there to see the headliner they are there and excited to hear some new music and go home to buy/steal/download it.
Next, Brother Ali hit the stage and did not let up on the crowd. It was cool to see the transition from Dem Atlas to Brother Ali, as they both have very natural stage presence, but are polar opposites as far as their performance and presentation. Dem Atlas was dancing and jumping around making people want to join in, while Brother Ali seemed to glide around the stage with a very relaxed demeanor, still able to keep the crowd hanging on every word out of his mouth. Ali also stopped a few times to chat with the audience, making sure that everyone knew that this wasn’t just a concert, but a Rhymesayers party. He urged everyone to keep their phones away so they could actually connect, which seemed to work, as I noticed more people mouthing lyrics than holding up phones to take a video that they would probably never watch again. Ali, made sure to give a heads up before performing Uncle Sam Goddamn saying that he gets in a lot of trouble for the song, so he would feel better if everyone sang along so he could spread the blame. He even threw in some extra verses, saying something to the effect of “We don’t have to be on the same level to realize that Donald Trump is the devil.” Before leaving the stage Brother Ali made sure to get a solid “love” chant going from the crowd to leave everyone on a good note, and announced that he will be releasing an album in early 2017 that was produced by Atmosphere. So hopefully we’ll see Ali on a Pittsburgh stage again soon.
After a short intermission, Atmosphere took the stage, Slug with his classic clown like grin stretching from ear to ear, while Ant and another DJ took their places behind the decks. They kicked off the set with the first song off Fishing Blues, “Like a Fire,” before going directly to “Shoulda Known” off their “When Life Gives You Lemons” album, setting up the night for a back and forth of new and old music. With a catalog of music as lengthy as Atmosphere they had plenty of old favorites to mix into their set while still playing the majority of their new album. This seemed to be a good mix as the Fishing Blues album has a much more serious tone to it, as Slug touches on topics such as police brutality with his battle style flow over Ant’s classic boom bap beats. Of course they had to play “God Loves Ugly” which got the crowd all sorts of pumped before Slug brought Brother Ali back on stage to perform some of their songs together. Seeing those two share the stage and go back and forth on the mic was a show within itself. After Brother Ali left the stage Slug went right back into some old music with, “Puppets,” another song that really got the crowd going. Between songs Slug made sure to chit chat with the crowd. Letting everyone know that it had been a rough/awkward two weeks (due to the election…), therefore everyone needed to let loose and have a good time. “It’s Friday night and we all have a lot of things we need to escape from” was a spot on intro into the song, Perfect off Fishing Blues.
Needless to say the dudes of Rhymesayers did not disappoint. They brought the party with them and made sure everyone left Stage AE with a smile on their face. If you were unfortunate enough to miss out, keep your eyes peeled for Brother Ali’s album release and tour announcement in early 2017.
DJ Last Word
Plain Ole Bill