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Music Journalism Done Differently

News: Lineup Announced For Rhymesayers 20th Anniversary Concert

Posted by on Oct 14, 2015 in Featured, Latest, News, Reads | 0 comments

Written by Kevin Madert

In a hip-hop landscape overpopulated by inconsequential lyrics tracking at the third grade level, manufactured radio-friendly rhymes, and whatever the hell Iggy Azalea is, Rhymesayers Entertainment shines bright as a last bastion of hope. Born and bred in Minnesota, the independent label has come a long way since being founded by Sean Daley, Anthony Davis (both of Atmosphere), Musab Saad (aka Sab the Artist) and Brent Sayers (aka Siddiq), but the music over profit mindset & consistently thought-provoking lyricism present from day one has never wavered.

In the aforementioned climate of the genre it’s laudable for anyone to stay relevant for twenty minutes, much less two decades, yet here we are. And in true RS fashion, the twentieth anniversary shindig slated for December 4th at the Target Center in Minneapolis is shaping up to be a hell of a celebration.


Atmosphere, Grieves, Dilated Peoples, Brother Ali, and Aesop Rock top a bill stuffed to bursting with Rhymesayers-signed talent – an indicator of just how influential the label has been in the underground hip-hop community since the mid-90s. You can bet AltFreq will do everything we can to make the trek to the Twin Cities in December to take part in this party for the ages.

Tickets for Rhymesayers 20 go on sale to the general public starting this Friday, October 16 at 10am CST (that’s 11am EST, local friends). A general admission ticket will run you a whopping 20 bucks, with VIP options also available. All other pertinent information can be obtained via the Rhymesayers website.

Rhymesayers 20 Lineup (in alphabetical order)

Abstract Rude | Aesop Rock | Atmosphere | Battlecats | BK One | Blueprint | Boom Bap Project
Brother Ali | deM atlaS | Dilated Peoples | DJ Abilities | Evidence | Felt | Freeway | Grayskul | Grieves Hail Mary Mallon | I Self Devine | Jake One | K-Salaam | Los Nativos | Micranots | Mr. Dibbs | Musab P.O.S | Prof | Soul Position | The Uncluded | Toki Wright

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AltFreq Weekend Planner (4/30/15-5/2/15)

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Latest, Noise, Reads | 0 comments

Written by Kevin Madert

It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all the events going on in the area, so we’re here to let you know what’s happening in live music over the next few days. Watch out on Sundays for our “Weekly Planner,” where we’ll cover the remaining four days of the week.

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News: Lineup Revealed For Camp Bisco 13

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Featured, Latest, News, Noise, Reads | 0 comments

Written by Kevin Madert

Camp Bisco continues to fire on all cylinders; after announcing their return a few days ago, then their new home at Scranton, PA’s Montage Mountain, the long-running festival has just released the lineup for the 2015 festival, slated for July 16-18. The bill – topped by The Disco Biscuits, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, STS9, Atmosphere, and Tipper – is varied enough to appeal to a wide audience and strong enough to make us entirely okay with last year’s hiatus.

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Show Preview: Atmosphere w/B. Dolan, Dem Atlas, and DJ Adatrak @ Echostage (Thur. May 2)

Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in Featured, Latest, Noise | 0 comments

Written by Kevin Madert

While spring has struggled to shake the persevering grasp of winter, I’ve struggled to maintain my composure in the lead-up to May 2. Between this recent bout of cooler weather and my steadily rising anticipation for Atmosphere’s Echostage debut this coming Saturday, neither I nor spring seem to be succeeding. The Minnesota-based duo is bringing the Fortunate Tour to the nation’s capital with B. Dolan, Dem Atlas, and DJ Adatrak along for the ride.

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Frequencies of 2014: Hip-Hop

Posted by on Dec 28, 2014 in Featured, Frequencies of 2014, Latest, Noise, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Words and list by Kevin Madert

This is another installment in the “Frequencies of” series. The music that got to me most in 2014 – that got my head nodding, that sent goosebumps prickling across my skin, that had me screaming at the top of my lungs – placed in a handful of semi-specific categories (for organizational purposes more than anything else). Am I telling you these are the best things released all year? Certainly not. Am I telling you they’re all great, and suggesting you check them out in order to grasp a more complete picture of the year in music? Absolutely.

Atmosphere – Southsiders

Atmosphere – aka rapper Slug on vocals and producer/DJ Ant on everything else – has always managed to stay both relevant to their fanbase and true to themselves throughout their twenty-plus year career. On Southsiders, their latest, Slug is even more mature than when we last heard him on The Family Sign in 2011. He raps about topics ranging from his marriage (“Fortunate,” & “My Lady Got Two Men”), to a eulogy for former Rhymesayers artist Eyedea (“Flicker”), all backed by restrained but raw beats courtesy of Ant. Between this album and their rigorous touring schedule – I was able to catch the Minnesota twosome on their recent North of Hell tour and couldn’t have been more impressed – it’s a safe bet Atmosphere will remain a force in the underground hip-hop community for many years to come.

Grieves – Winter & The Wolves

It’s no surprise two of the best hip-hop offerings of the year are Rhymesayers products. Grieves (real name Benjamin Laub) drew a fair bit of comparison to Macklemore upon the release of his fourth full-length, Winter and the Wolves, but the similarities extend about as far as their shared home of Seattle and the similar color of their skin; neither of which have any bearing on the quality or sonic components of their music. Laub has often been a serious guy, crafting morose tracks and telling tales of childhood struggles and emotional loss, and WatW is often about as bleak as it gets. While these tunes are admirable, it’s when he breaks from this mold and gets more optimistic that things really get interesting – the playful “Whoa is Me,” and the Slug collaboration “Astronauts,” are two stand-outs in this category.

People Under The Stairs – 12 Step Program

Imagine a day of channel surfing soundtracked by head-nodding alt-hip-hop, and you’ve got a rough idea of the structure and sound of People Under The Stairs’ latest effort, 12 Step Program. Complete with sampled television interludes and growls of manufactured static between (and sometimes during) many tracks, it’s a concept album sonically rather than thematically. PUTS have always been stellar storytellers, and that quality is prominent here too – “Pictures On My Wall” and the appropriately named “Cool Story Bro,” are just a few of the best-spun yarns. All in all, it’s another quality album from an established group with a career full of them.

Pharoahe Monch – PTSD

Pharoahe Monch is one smart dude. The NYC-based rapper finds himself most at home crafting intricately layered rhymes within thoughtful tracks compiled into unique conceptual albums, and that’s where we find him on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Envisioned as a follow-up to his previous LP W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), Monch’s razor-sharp tongue chronicles the path of a war veteran returning home and dealing with the condition from which the album draws its name. The duality is in the details, as the album is also a metaphor for Monch’s own path as a newly independent artist. If you enjoy your hip-hop with a healthy dose of contemplation, this album is well worth your time.

Sage Francis – Copper Gone

Über-smart alt-hip-hopper Sage Francis returns from a four-year hiatus with Copper Gone, his sixth full-length offering. From the seething verses and powerful backbeat of opening track “Pressure Cooker,” the indie-rock feel of his previous LP Li(f)e is long gone, replaced by the more familiar vitriol and sense of urgent honesty. It’s a pleasant return to former stylings because it’s a successful one; it feels as if this is the album Francis was itching to make all throughout his hiatus, releasing all the energy he’d contained in that time into a taut, pointed final product.

Logic – Under Pressure

This local legend turned international rap star (he calls Gaithersburg home) has released plenty of unofficial mixtapes in the past few years, which have played a large role in his ascension to wider prominence. But it’s this debut LP that most fans were really waiting for, and it doesn’t disappoint; the often autobiographical style of Logic’s work is on full display on Under Pressure, making for a real and relatable collection of songs. His storytelling prowess is complimented by his undeniable flow – look no further than the nine-minute title track for proof of that.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

What can I say about Flying Lotus that hasn’t already been shouted across rooftops the music world over? The electronica/experimental hip-hop/jazz fusion genre-melter has made a career out of combining the oddest influences and harnessing the results into a string of bizarre crossover successes. His fifth studio affair is more of the same, and finds FlyLo at perhaps his most poignant – even though he often says very little at all. The bottom line is this: if you’ve always loved him, you’ll be enamored with You’re Dead! from the get-go. If you’re not a fan, this isn’t going to win you over – it probably isn’t meant to anyway.

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