If a journey through the archives of Atmosphere's extensive music history wasn't enough to blow the pants off a sold-out Ogden, then a freestyle session to close the night certainly was. What started as a subtle track laid down by the beat-boxing loop master himself, Carnage, turned into one of the dopest freestyles that a collection of rhymesayers has ever dropped in Denver. Yes, God still loves ugly, but Denver loves Atmosphere more.
The fact that Slug, aka Sean Daly, can come out and rap songs that are fifteen years old and garner the same response he did when they were originally composed is amazing. Granted, the Twin Cities duo of Slug and Ant has grown up and evolved out of the hatred of a faceless Lucy Ford and turned into a lethal powerhouse of remorse-filled professionals who dedicated too much of their lives to music. Slug's love and hatred of his fame comes out in all of his songs, and the audience eats it all up. Last night, "Trying to Find a Balance" was one of the opening songs, and with the microphone away from his lips, Slug let the crowd take over.
The Ogden was filled to the hilt with rabid fans. It was apparent why tickets sold out months in advance, and that became obvious when the backing track was provided by the crowd instead of Ant on nearly every track performed. Newer hits like "Shoulda Known" off the 2008 When Life Gives you Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold were immediately followed by earlier works such as "Guns and Cigarettes," which will always be hits but come out at every stop. Check the underside of any Ogden fan's album, and you can guarantee it's scratched to hell and memorized from beginning to end.
Continue for more details and a Critic's Notebook.
On "Sunshine," Slug lent the microphone to the crowd to sing the hook on occasion, so it was a nice change when he followed it with "Shoes" because fewer people could sing along. The old Slug would come out on the heavily female-influenced tracks like "Woman with the Tattoo Hands," and "She's Enough," and then he'd switch gears into the remorseful Slug, the Slug of 2012 if you will, on "Little Man" which can be heard on the 2006 album You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having. The new Slug remembers years of touring, and it comes out in his lyrics now, since rapping about the same old debauchery just won't cut it these days.
But the night's closer was the best part. Through all the classics, which included "GodLovesUgly," there is still that independent rapper deep inside of Slug that is clawing its way out, and he showed himself on the intense freestyle that welcomed both Carnage and I Self Devine out on stage. Carnage beat-boxed the loop, and the three emcees enjoyed a tag-team of verse delivery that no one in the venue could sing. It was awesome to see, smooth to the ears, and everyone was reminded why they fell in love with Rhymesayers, and why they still are.
Personal Bias: In the beginning, I hated what Atmosphere told me to hate. I loved what Atmosphere told me to love. Now, I just appreciate the fact that I can still see a group perform songs that I sing when I walk down the street without headphones.
Random Detail: Whenever he could, Slug inserted some sort of reference to Denver in his music, whether it was in the form of a shout-out or a "303" call-out.
By the Way: Carnage is the Keller Williams of hip-hop, except way better.
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