- El-P and Killer Mike at Fortune Sound Club, July 2.
I initially opened this review with "Brooklyn and Atlanta have always been two of hip-hop's most respected watering holes" but that statement is too blatantly obvious to ever work as a lead.
Brooklyn has its Jay-Z's, Notorious B.I.G.'s, and Talib Kewli's (with honorable mention to M.O.P., Mos Def, and GZA), while Atlanta plays host to OutKast, T.I. and Ludacris (and Lil Jon and Gucci Mane, and Waka Flocka and Future among others) - it kind of goes without saying that these cities have bred some of the genre's finest minds. It must be something in the water, or in the case of Atlanta, the sweet tea. Whatever it is, it works.
This geographical theory was put to the test and proven flawlessly last week at Fortune Sound Club. Making a stop in Vancouver on their Into The Wild tour were El-P, Killer Mike, Mr. Muthaf#!in' eXquire, and Despot. With El-P (Cancer 4 Cure) and Killer Mike (R.A.P. Music) just dropping their latest albums (the latter of which was entirely produced by El-P himself), and eXquire coming up on his four-month anniversary of signing with Universal, these guys had a lot to celebrate.
Unfortunately, I missed Despot and just caught the tail-end of eXquire's set. This was an immense disappointment to me since eXquire's 2011 mixtape Lost in Translation was one of my favourite records of last year. Lost in Translation truly embodies a contemporary Brooklyn aesthetic with its gritty, hard exterior simultaneously mixed with hipster panache. As far as I'm concerned, eXquire is one of the best rappers out at the moment.
Lost in Translation, both visually and sonically, mimics the man as a person. Intimidating on the outside but soft and vulnerable on the inside. I found that out firsthand when I ran into him wandering around the club in-between sets. I told him how big a fan I was and how bummed I was to have missed his set and asked if he'd be performing again later on in the show. eXquire was incredibly kind and offered to talk shop over a drink in the dressing room below the stage before Killer Mike's set (I know what you're thinking, and stop thinking it). Of course I said yes because the prospect of both talking to this character and the possibility of meeting the other acts on the bill was too amazing an opportunity to pass up.
Faster than you can say "swerve," I was standing at the head of the dressing room, staring at Despot, El-P, Killer Mike, eXquire's seemingly hypeman Goldie Glo, and a handful of other individuals (mostly of the female variety) all lounging on couches. The furniture framed a few centre tables that were littered with multiple bottles of Grey Goose, Jameson and a few glass jugs of green and pink juice.
They told me to help myself so I did.
I mixed together some type of whiskey-lime drink for myself and took a seat next to El-P, who had an entire couch to himself where he was rummaging through his suitcase. El-P leaned over and introduced himself as Jaime and I immediately felt at ease. Noting the suitcase, I asked him how he enjoyed touring on a bus to which he responded he absolutely loved it.
eXquire came over and introduced Despot as their lighting technician. We talked about the tour, his Cazals, Danny Brown, and how Despot controls the stage lights with his mind. I wanted to get eXquire's feelings on being signed to a major label after living in the Projects with his mom up until the year before. Not prepared for an impromptu interview, his answers were curt, but not in an intentionally rude way. Of course he was happy about the signing (who wouldn't be?) but I sensed there was more he wasn't giving away. The juxtaposition between his intimidatingly clownish outer appearance and reserved persona was endearing, but before I could press him any more, it was time for Killer Mike's set and we all headed out.
You could smell the Georgia peaches as soon as Killer Mike hit the stage. He has a presence that goes beyond his physical immensity. His album R.A.P. Music transports the topical focuses of Ice Cube's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted into 2012 and in doing so, teaches us that the political climate hasn't changed all that much in the past 12 years. Case in point: Fortune's crowd of young Canadians went absolutely ape for "Reagan," a political track that accuses the American government of spending billions of dollars on foreign invasions and theorizes that the "war on drugs" is an intentional means of Black suppression.
Of course there were more upbeat tracks, too. "Big Beast" (the set and album opener) and "Untitled" were met with mass swaying bodies and head nods, the whole crowd lurching as if we were in one giant black Chevy Imapala together. And as if the Atlanta heat wasn't strong enough, Mike went into OutKast's "The Whole World," a track which he's featured on. The entire crowd was snapping and tapping to this perfect ATL homage.
But it was time to head back to Brooklyn. The crowd was more than ready to hear Cancer 4 Cure in all of its five-years-in-themaking glory. El-P is cynical and biting on stage. It was hard for me to believe that this was the same person who shook my hand backstage while counting how much clean underwear he had left in his suitcase.
"Drones Over Bklyn" shook the venue and "Oh Hail No" saw the return of eXquire to the stage and had everyone in the audience pointing their middle fingers to the heavens. By the end of the set, no one wanted to go home because to leave Fortune would mean taking the next plane outta Brooklyn or Atlanta. But as the play-out music came on, we all rubbed our eyes and realized we were still in Vancouver.