I had a spiritual experience at the Brother Ali show last night. Atmosphere was the co-headliner, and he’s sick, but honestly, I was really there to see Brother Ali.
A couple days ago I was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a condition that causes half of the afflicted person’s face to become paralyzed. So basically, it’s been a relatively gnarly couple days, but the love and support from friends, family and co-workers has been great, so it’s definitely made it easier to deal with feeling like I look like a monster.
Throughout Brother Ali’s set, the rapper would stop to have a conversation with the audience: “We don’t ask you to do stuff (putting our hands in the air) to celebrate us, we do it so that you can participate with the people in your community,” Ali told us. “The people around you are the same people who found the same basement music that you did”.
Watching Brother Ali was like being at a sort of hip hop guided meditation. With his positive lyricism and overall good dude vibes, Ali, challenged the audience to look a little deeper at life, community, and really, ourselves.
During the interim, before Atmosphere’s set, my friends and I nudged a little closer to the stage and I noticed that a lot of the audience looked like the same kids that I would see at any other hardcore punk show. The Rhymesayers label (started by Atmosphere’s Slug and Ant) is home to many of today's indie alternative rappers, Blueprint, Aesop Rock and MF Doom, rappers whose lyrical content sound nothing like their mainstream hip-hop counterparts. It’s dark, gritty, uninterested in any kind of pop sensibility; in a way, Rhymesayers are kind of the punk rock kids of hip-hop.
Atmosphere took the stage — and everyone lost their fucking minds. The Minneapolis boys carried us from past the present, and before a several song encore, Slug invited fellow touring mate and new Rhymesayers recruit deM atlaS, for a couple minutes of a friendly cypher session, which didn’t fail to impress.
Minus the normal couple of necios and necias (which Paper Tiger draws few of to begin with) the audience, looking happy and satisfied, started scooping up merch on the way out the doors. With nearly two decades in the independent rap game, Brother Ali and Atmosphere remind us that God does love ugly and The Truth is Here in the underground, not in the mainstream.