Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rhymes & Life: When God Gives You Ugly... You Paint That Shit Love

It had to have been maybe five years ago since the angelic sounds of Anthony Davis' drums from a song called "Lovelife" has graced my ears. "Lovelife" was my first exposure to this indie rap group hailing from Minnesota, Atmosphere. Since then the emcee/DJ combo of Sean (Slug) Daley and Anthony (Ant) Davis has become a soundtrack to my daily life. Brother Ali also tagged along for the show in Cleveland [Area], even though he's not on the When God Gives You Ugly Tour. Also Nate Collis' band (Collis plays guitar in many of the songs on When Life Gives You Lemons... and tours with Atmosphere), Attracted to Gods opened.

The show started about 10 til 9 with Attracted to Gods. The alt rock band consisted of Collis and a drummer. They were fairly good, and for a rock band at a hip hop show seemed to get a pretty decent reaction from the crowd. I am not familiar with any of their work, but the band performed some excellent instrumental songs which I may have to explore. Also Nate Collis provides strong vocals for most of the songs.

After about a 45 minute set by the opening act, Brother Ali came on stage. He opened his set with battleraps from his song "Bitchslap!" from his first song. Then spared no time going into the first single from his 2007 album, "The Truth Is" which had the full house screaming "MORE" over ant's reggae fused loop. Ali's stage presence was that of a merging star, as he interacted with the crowd telling jokes in between songs, and having the crowd hanging on every word during his performance. His next album, slated for a September release, is going to be huge (and by huge i mean top 10 first week on the billboard 200). Ali has already established himself in the underground with arguably two classic albums, and I have a feeling he will be getting a lot more exposure with his next release. One of the biggest standout performances of the night was his performance of "Walking Away", which is one of my personal favorites and Ant's bluesy backdrop perfectly compliments Brother Ali's heartbreaking story of his divorce...

"I Guess theres nothing more for us to say,
Got my mind made up, I'm walking away,
sometimes we just outgrow the roll that we play,
I hope you find a happy ending to your story someday..."

Also towards the end of the song, Ali adds another, just amazing verse to the song explaining how his wife neglected his infant son, which made him divorce him. I really wish I knew what the verse was from, it may have been a freestyle, but it seemed too well constructed to be so. Ali's performance of "Good Lord" which was off of his "Truth is Here EP" released in March, was another highlight of the night. The entire crowd knew every word to this song, and the crowd participation to "Freedom Aint Free" was another unforgettable moment.

After Ali's impressive, but short set, Sean and Anthony took the stage with a couple background vocalists, Nate Collis on guitar, a bassist and a keyboardist. Their set opened with "Godlovesugly". Slug was charming throughout the 2 hour set, telling humorous anecdotes inbetween songs. At one point in the show after an outstanding performance of "Painting", Slug had to bounce an intoxicated couple for acting beligerent and disrupting the show, but he made a smooth transition into another excellent performance of a crowd favorite, "Yesterday". Another high point of the night, was "Guarantees", which was played at a faster tempo than on the record, giving it a much different vibe, Slug also included another verse at the end, which was way too perfect to be a freestyle, but at the same time, I wouldnt put it past the Minnesota emcee.

Slug, indeed is the face of indie hip hop, and I like to refer to him as the voice of the unheard generation. No doubt he has the capability to be the biggest hip hop star of the decade, but chose to stay independant instead of selling out to a major label. This may have cost him millions of dollars, but at the sametime I have a hardtime thinking Nickelback and other multiplatnum artists having this strong of a fanbase. Cleveland, Ohio is not known for its hip hop roots, but the Beachland Ballroom, located on the outskirts of Cleveland, was jam packed at maximum capacity with people who knew every single bar the underground star uttered.

The show's most unforgettable moment had to be the performance of "Fuck You Lucy". My personal favorite song off of the God Loves Ugly album, which is Slug at his best:

Fuck the what happend
I got stuck
They can peel pieces of me off the grill of her truck
Used to walk with luck
Used to hold her hand
Fell behind and played the role of a slower man
I wanna stand on top of this mountain and yell
I wanna wake up and break up this lake of hell
I feel like a bitch for letting the sheet twist me up
The last star fighter is wounded time to give it up
On a pick it up mission
Kept it bitter
Getting in a million memories just to forget her

Out of my few live shows I've attended, this is the best musical moment I've ever been a part of. Slug captured the crowd with his tale of heartbreak so sincere, it's almost like it had just recently happened to him. I personally was sucked into the moment so deeply, I almost felt like I was experiencing an outer body experience, chanting the haunting reversed lyrics with the background vocalists:
"It leave never would you, you shouw could I if"

The show consisted mostly of songs from "When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold" and "God Loves Ugly", but towards the end, they threw in some crowd favorites from older albums including "Trying to Find a Balance" "Guns & Cigarettes", and "Always Coming Back Home to You". During the encore, Brother Ali came back on stage and ran through performances of "Cats Vans Bags", which sounds much better live than on the album and "Blah Blah Blah". After that they broke into a rendition of Prince's classic, "Purple Rain", which was very ammusing, then they closed the set with some freestyles.

This was probably the best concert experience I've ever had. Everything was on from the ticket prices, to the stage, to merchandise (I got GLU and WLGYLYPTSG on vinyl), to the crowd, to the performances, and everything else in between. It was an excellent show.

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