Killer Mike delivered gruff diatribes against the government and society while keeping the crowd entertained.
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with Killer Mike, Fishhawk, Ace Outrageous, DopeThought
I didn’t quite know what to expect from this show as I walked into The Depot last Thursday night. Big Boi stands as a legend in the rap game, primarily because of his time spent as part of Southern rap superstars Outkast, and Killer Mike has had his share of success, though he seems primarily prominent in the underground these days. I also didn’t know what to expect from the crowd, but it turned out to mostly be populated by the hipsters and goofy white kids I see at the other venues around town, so that wasn’t a very big deal. I knew that I was excited to see Killer Mike perform, and to see how Big Boi stacked up to one of my current favorite rappers.
The show started with a performance from local MC DopeThought. Only about 15 or so people were near the stage as the MC and his hypeman Negrodamus did their best to get the crowd warmed up with their socially conscious hip hop, but it was far too early in the night for the audience to give too much of a shit. The afro-d MC was clearly becoming a bit frustrated, telling the audience that no one is too cool to have a good time, and during his last song (which was a pretty good one about graffiti, actually) DopeThought jumped into the crowd and basically did a lap around The Depot, trying to get some sort of reaction, any reaction, from the lethargic crowd. DopeThought got the people up at the front of the stage dancing, but their set fell victim to bad timing and a bad environment.
Whereas DopeThought made it a point to tell the crowd that hip hop didn’t have to be about misogyny and disrespect, California-by-way-of-Colorado-by-way-of-New-Jersey MC Ace Outrageous took the stage and pretty much did the exact opposite. Ace Outrageous lived up to his name. Sporting dyed green hair, repeatedly referring to himself as a wizard rather than a rapper and beaming with confidence, this dude did not give a fuck about anything, which made for a ridiculous but highly entertaining set. His raps were primarily about his sexual conquests, and specifically his … oral skills (see “Finger Lickin’ Good”). His vocal style was gruff and growly, and his lyrical content ridiculous and blunt (“Gimme three wishes, I’ll take three bitches”). More people migrated towards the stage as Ace spit his game and started to create more of a party atmosphere, and while I don’t think I’d listen to his music as a leisurely activity, I would jump at the chance to see his live show again.
Next, the night took a turn for the weird, as Fishhawk, a five piece rock band from Atlanta, took the stage, and sounded completely fucking out of place from the first note they hit. Hearkening back to the early ’80s, every song this band played sounded like it belonged behind a training montage in some crappy sports movie. The drummer had a mega mullet and creepy mustache, the singer repeatedly thrust his mic stand into the air as he layered on the vibrato, and everyone in the audience just stared with mouths agape. Seriously, I thought Fishhawk was a joke band until a quick Internet search proved their true existence. The band was technically proficient, and the frontman is a good performer, but they were incredibly mismatched with this lineup. It threw me for a serious loop, and I hoped and hoped that each song would be their last, just so Killer Mike could take the stage and hopefully redeem this strange night.
Finally, Killer Mike emerged with a DJ (who had actual turntables!), greeted the crowd, and launched into “Big Beast” from his excellent El-P–produced album R.A.P. Music. Killer Mike is built like a bear, and his gruff Southern drawl sounds hard, but in between songs he was thoughtful and funny, expressing his gratitude. He proclaimed that he didn’t need a hypeman because he had the audience to feed off of, and in between songs he often paused to reinforce the messages behind them. This was especially true before and after “Reagan,” his scathing commentary not only on Ronald Reagan, but on the presidents who served after him. As Killer Mike’s DJ slipped on a Ronald Reagan mask and snuck behind Killer Mike towards the song’s finale, Mike lead the crowd in a chant of “I’m glad Reagan dead.” He delivered a great a capella performance of “Go!” from R.A.P. Music, as well as “Untitled,” “Don’t Die” and “Butane,” during which he solicited the crowd to perform El-P’s portion of the song. He also busted out a couple older tracks, including “Ric Flair,” and dropped his verse from Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared.” Before “R.A.P. Music,” Killer Mike once again expressed his gratitude to the crowd, proclaiming that listening to, writing and performing music is the closest he ever feels to god, reflecting the sentiment of the song he was about to perform: “This is jazz, this is funk, this is soul, this is gospel/This is sanctified sex, this is player Pentecostal/This is church, front pew, amen, pulpit/What my people need and the opposite of bullshit.” Killer Mike clearly stole the show, got a ton of people to sing along, and hopefully got them to think about a few things as well.
Shortly after, Big Boi took the stage accompanied by a guitarist, a drummer, a backup singer, a DJ and a hypeman, beginning his set with a medley of four Outkast songs, closing it out with “Rosa Parks” and immediately established the party vibe of his set. Big Boi (who is actually not as big as I imagined) doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves for Outkast’s success as the flamboyant Andre 3000 usually took the spotlight, but his soulful, funky and sometimes just plain weird solo albums have proven that he is fully capable of making innovative, solid jams without his partner … When was the last time Andre 3000 released new music, anyway? Big Boi played through solid portions of both of his solo albums, including “Daddy Fat Sax,” “Apple of My Eye” and “Thom Pettie” (during which Killer Mike was onstage), but the biggest pops came from the Outkast songs he played. While Killer Mike helped out on “The Whole World,” and “B.O.B.” and “Ms. Jackson” are great songs, they don’t quite have the same punch without Andre 3000, despite Big Boi’s solo success. Regardless, Big Boi’s set was entertaining, if not transcendent as Killer Mike’s had been. Plus, some local “talent” even made it to the stage to rub Big Boi with their butts during “The Way You Move.”
This concert was one of dichotomies—the socially conscious DopeThought and Killer Mike varied greatly from Ace Outrageous and Big Boi, and I don’t know what the fuck was going on with Fishhawk, but it was one of the strangest lineups I’ve ever experienced at a show. There were some cringeworthy moments, and almost certainly too many artists performing that night, but Killer Mike’s killer performance made all the uncomfortable moments worth it. Big Boi is no slouch, but I’ve been bumping R.A.P. Music a lot more since seeing Killer Mike live, and I’m excited to hear his Run the Jewels project with El-P next month. This show should serve as a reminder for fans to show up early, because sometimes the headliner gets blown out of the water by the opener.