After Tuesday night’s Atmosphere show, I’m convinced that it’s high-time we retired the label, “underground hip-hop.” Like “indie rock,” before it, the term has ceased to have any real meaning. When the phrase first started to gain currency in the mid-to-late 90s, it actually referred to something specific: the Rawkus/Rhymesayers/Def Jux/Quannum/Fondle ‘Em stuff that outwardly bucked the mainstream, big Willie posturing. But in 2008 there’s no mainstream to speak of. Rappers that move units: Kanye, 50, Wayne, are as pop as they are hip-hop.* And when a guy like Slug can sell out every date of his West Coast Tour, be named MTV Artist of the Week and debut at #5 on the charts, it’s a sign that the lines have grown hopelessly hazy. A dub or a sendspace link to Black and White in Dub to the first person who thinks of a clever genre catch-phrase that I can co-opt. Act now while supplies last.
As for the show, it was solid. Slug’s always been an impressive rapper and even though he’s arguably past his prime, he still can bring it on-stage. Moreover, I was stunned by how rabid his fan base has gotten. I saw them in October but this time felt more triumphant, a victory lap with both crowd and artist semi-stunned by the group’s recent trajectory. And yes, in case you were wondering, Ant still looks eerily like Burt Reynolds on Celebrity Jeopardy.
*Don’t argue with me Wayne fanboys. Granted, I know that new cut with Bun B features dope rapping but still, this exists.