Rhymesayers Came to Perform, Stayed to Talk Politics


Rhymesayers Came to Perform, Stayed to Talk Politics

by Daniel Perle

The rap duo known as Atmosphere have been making their living off touring the country since the mid-1990s, and Sean Daley, also known by his stage name Slug, let the audience at the Marquee know that on Monday, giving them a show they won’t soon forget.

Dem Atlas, a member of the Rhymesayers collective, which Atmosphere created in the 90s, opened up the show and set a good mood for the rhymes to come. Brother Ali, a 39-year old albino man, gave an impassioned performance with social justice overtones that got the audience going. Ali’s performance came at just around the time the first presidential debate was happening so he fittingly performed one of his most well-known songs “Uncle Sam Goddamn.” When Ali got to the chorus, the whole crowd joined in, singing, “Welcome to the united snakes/ land of the thief/ home of the slaves.” Ali then proceeded to go on a diatribe of America’s current political situation before doing a beatless rap entitled “My Black Son,” which reminded this reporter of James Baldwin’s letter to his nephew in “The Fire Next Time,” in which Baldwin tells his nephew what his existence as a black person means in America.

Ali’s performance set the stage for Atmosphere. Slug, clad in a Black Lives Matter hoodie and a Jill Stein 2016 t-shirt, began his set with the opening track from Atmosphere’s latest LP, Fishing Blues, “Like a Fire.” Atmosphere continued to hype the audience up after his fiery opening, playing hits such as “God Loves Ugly” and “Best Day”. The overriding message other than to have a good time was that everyone in the audience should love their life. Slug constantly urged the audience to raise both their hands in the shape of Ls, standing for love life.

“Yesterday,” Atmosphere’s ballad about his late father, was one of the most well-received songs. Following the final line “I thought I saw you yesterday/ But I know it wasn’t you/ because you passed away, dad,” Slug urged the audience to make some noise for the people whom they missed, which they did. The best moment of the night came at the end, when Atmosphere came back onto the stage for an encore. Slug said there was one song which they had forgot to perform. He then said it was “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam. And true to his word Slug began singing the first few verses, “At home, drawing pictures/ of mountain tops/ with him on top/ yellow lemon sun,” at which point he stopped and immediately went into Atmosphere’s most popular song, “Sunshine,” quite possibly the greatest song ever written about a hangover.

Afterwards, all the Rhymesayers came on stage for some freestyling. Slug ended the night with a particularly poignant verse, “So I’ll just be here on my diggery-doo/ and f**k Donald Trump and Hillary too.”


Reach the writer: @danielperle19