I love a good hip-hop show.
Although I was born in the house-music-infused Chicago metro, rocking the mic was my main desire growing up.
One thing that kept me from pursuing it was an arresting case of stage fright. The one time I actually found myself on stage, I was too nervous to say much more than the lyrics I'd memorized. Asking for crowd participation was out of the question.
So I appreciate how hard it is to face a crowd with nothing but your skills. But at a show a few weeks back, I was completely discouraged by the crowd's lack of support for the local guy.
The turnout was impressive for a Thursday night. Masquerade's bottom level packed in people of all kinds and ages ready to hear some good MCing. Even types not typically on the hip-hop scene had come for this show. This was, it appeared, the place to be.
And maybe that was part of the problem. Was the crowd too cool to clap?
It's true that the likes of Compton MC Kendrick Lamar can make a one-man show look like an off-Broadway performance, hip-hop style. No gimmicks, no costumes. He asks for crowd participation, and he gets it.
Maybe he's just that talented, and his interludes between songs that engaging. Or maybe he's using some kind of Jedi mind trick.
I think it's because he's not local.
Atlanta seems more enamored of its musically inclined visitors than the workhorse residents who round out the bills that make shows here complete. No doubt that many of our city's artists are transplants, but they've put in years of work here, and seem to gain recognition only after they've toiled for years in makeshift studios, hustling CDs and fliers at shows. The respect is hard-earned, and too often only from those in the know.
It could be that the crowd simply wasn't feeling the Atlanta-based act that came before Lamar. Given the buzz that Lamar has built up, and the relative diversity of the crowd, maybe people just hadn't heard of Aleon Craft and didn't feel as obliged to show him love. But in a city that damn near worships the Dungeon Family and the head-nod-inducing, bass-heavy tracks it's known for, it baffles me that self-proclaimed Dungeon grandchild Craft couldn't get 20 people to follow his lead. The music was good! The rhymes tight! Where's the love for the home team?
Since my raver days in the early '90s, it's worked the same way with local DJs. Yeah, yeah, I know that Atlanta is known for being a late-night crowd, but there are consistently fewer people on the dance floor when the opening set — usually by a local — is under way. You could blame it on the alcohol not having kicked in, but with so many promoters offering discounts to the early birds, that doesn't fly. Despite consistently good track selections — often more nuanced and attuned to the crowd than headliners — the cheers are louder and the moves more dynamic for the out-of-towner.
I'll admit that I'm stubborn. There's a good chance that I'm not putting my hands up anywhere, no matter who's asking (get your mind out of the gutter). I do what I want! But when you feel so moved, don't forget that more often than not, our Atlanta artists — 4-IZE, Madam CJ, Applejac, Riitz, Dinko's Bones, the 54 — are just as deserving. So, go ahead and put your hands where their eyes can see them.