Spittin’ venom

Hard-hitting hip-hop collective lets loose on Rose Garden crowd

Eminem? Atmosphere’s McSlug is pointing the finger at you!

Eminem? Atmosphere’s McSlug is pointing the finger at you!

Photo By Tom Angel

Atmosphere plus special guests Chico State Rose Garden Friday, Sept. 19

For the second time in as many weeks, hundreds of kids gathered around the lawn of the Chico State Rose Garden to nod heads and wave hands to critically acclaimed underground hip-hop. Just a week after Bay Area faves Blackalicious rocked the joint with their freestyle-oriented hip-hop, reps from the Minneapolis crew Rhymesayers came to town carrying a collective chip on their shoulders bigger than the twin cities.

I don’t know if it’s because they’ve been tagged by critics as a traveling “white rap” show, but the four Midwestern groups all displayed genuine aggressiveness when they hit the stage, spitting realistic, everyday rhymes with punk-like zeal—which makes sense considering the headliner, Atmosphere, has a new album, Seven’s Travels, out Sept. 23 from punk label Epitaph. Indeed, the invective-filled music seemed tailor-made for angry young white kids from lower-to-middle-class ‘burbs who may feel alienated from the more commercial, fantasy-driven images of mainstream rap.

The show began early, around 6 o’clock, with Odd Jobs, a rock-the-party trio of young MCs who had their most poignant moment with a biting song featuring the ghetto-fied chorus chant, “We don’t need no broke-ass fathers in our life!” Next up was a bald, chunky albino rapper known as Brother Ali, who delivered a hardcore set (read: violent and boastful) clearly influenced by classic rappers KRS-One and Nas. Afterward, when I tried to interview Ali backstage, he got pissed that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the show and spewed about his hatred of critics with the same bitterness, blunt honesty and thin-skinned paranoia that I got from his music.

The Micronots were more open-minded and smooth, featuring abstract rhymes, lefty political slants and funky turntable work from Kool Akiem.

But the crowd was here to see Atmosphere, namely the talented MC Slug, who bounded around the stage, hyping the crowd with a strange mix of self-deprecating and macho lyrics. Something about the intense, in-your-face anger driving each song (even the funny ones), accompanied by hard, minimalist-style beats and light sample use, reminded me of Eminem. But it wasn’t so much the inventive vocal flow as the "fuck you" attitude that Slug seems to have mastered.