Welcome to MN with Atmosphere at First Avenue, 3/5/13

Categories: Last Night
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Photo by Erik Hess

Welcome to MN Tour 2013
Atmosphere and Brother Ali
with Get Cryphy, Carnage and Haphduzn
First Avenue Mainroom, Minneapolis
Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Starting back in 2011, the reigning lords of MN hip-hop decided that 'burbs, exurbs and townships of our fair kingdom were getting left out. While hamlets like Bemidji, Mankato and St. Cloud had long been staunch supporters of Atmosphere and the Rhymesayers brand, they were often omitted from major tour schedules and forced to commute down to TwinCitiesland for shows of this caliber. But then, it came, like a glittering sunrise over the frozen North Shore, shining culture throughout the blighted tundra: The Welcome to MN tour.

By 2013, it's become something of a victory lap for our town's biggest names in rap -- a chance to rile up the fanbase and introduce them to some more underground names that probably wouldn't have otherwise discovered. Last night, they landed back home in Minneapolis for the tour's closing date and proved why they remain Minnesota royalty.

See Also:
Slideshow: Welcome to Minnesota - Atmosphere, Brother Ali & more, 3/5/13
Atmosphere's Welcome to Minnesota Tour at First Avenue, 2/22/12

Openers Haphduzn and Carnage the Executioner formed the "names you should know" portion of the show that, in years past, has had a great effect on breaking promising young talent. Haphduzn was definitely the greenest MC on the bill, but you'd have a hard time telling that by watching him rap. Cutting around the stage with the presence (and prodigious height) of a power forward, the newcomer definitely made a case that he belonged in the Mainroom. With a confident flow that never lapsed into cocky swagger, Haphduzn was a blast to watch, and his relatively short set definitely left the crowd eager for more.

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Photos by Erik Hess

While St. Paul's Carnage was only the second opener and seemed somewhat unfamiliar to the packed crowd, close followers of the local hip-hop community know him as something of an underground legend. Blessed with a supernatural beatboxing ability and a rapid-fire flow that would make Twista jealous, the Executioner live is a force to be feared and respected. Who needs a DJ when you can create your own beats with nothing but your own voice and a few stomps of a loop pedal? He took the room hostage, spitting every line with utter conviction and hunger. A standout track "Save My People" ruminated on the rapper's lack of acceptance by his African-American fans, and the artistic statement was distinctly brave, well-worded and necessary. While I'll admit to being a Carnage skeptic in the past, the MC shattered my expectations and brought his A-game.

Kicking things off with a riff on "Whatcha' Got," MN's street-prophet-laureate Brother Ali dived headfirst into a set that would also defy preconceived notions. The scratchy boom-bap beats and laid-back melodic flow of Undisputed Truth and Shadows on the Sun-era Ali were nowhere to be found at Welcome to MN, as nearly every song was given a Jake-One style banger-remix update. While it was a little jarring at first to hear clothing rattling bass and crisp, modern drums on Shadows era classics like "Bitchslap!" the king-sized beats seemed to finally match Ali's commanding stage presence. His set started a bit breathless, but the good Brother took control of the show during a decisive moment in the climax of "Mourning in America." Standing in a cloud of red-hued smoke on a darkened stage, the Ali made a deadly-serious salute and uttered the words "RIP Hugo Chavez" with utter conviction.

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