By Vince Bailey
Hip hop is universal. The demographics surrounding the music can never be identified within a simple box stating, “this kind of person is the typical hip hop fan or artist”. Watsky and Dumbfoundead proved that Friday night with a sold out concert at the Drunken Unicorn in their Atlanta leg of the “Nothing Like the First Time” tour. Watsky has been on the radar since his breakthrough spoken word performance on Def Poetry Jam in 2007, and since then his talent has been realized by millions of viewers watching him effortlessly burst speedy Twista/Busta Rhymes level flows while petting a cat. Dumbfoundead’s web presence as a successful battle rapper garnered many fans attention, and his jazz influenced style on the mic has rewarded him with a very busy touring schedule over the years.
Before the groups took the stage, I had the pleasure of chatting with Watsky about his transition to rap from spoken word poetry. He makes it clear that he’s always been rapping while he formed his poetry, but he had to battle the fact that “there is a stigma for white rappers but I believe it is starting to fade away a little bit, with the internet especially as fans try to find their own niche. It was just a matter of showing folks that I can do it and I still do spoken word in my rap sets. I just try to make sure I have a cohesive identity across both media so when people hear my poems and rap they don’t think its two different performers or put on airs about my craft.” By the time he finishes this statement and some quick side comments, the crowd is cheering and the show is underway.
The opening group, Baby Baby, is a local favorite that charged the audience nicely throughout their set. They have been known to maximize the energy of audience ranging from a house party (one of which I’ve personally seen) to much larger venues all over Georgia. They set the stage for the Breezy Lovejoy band, a funky group infused with hip hop where Breezy would rap on the mic or take up the drums before and during Dumbfoundead’s set.
The moment Dumbfoundead approached the stage, the crowd exploded with cheers. He declares that he feels the love in Atlanta and proceeds to mesmerize the crowd with tracks like Cell phone and Green from his 2011 album, DFD. I look around the audience and everyone is grinning from ear to ear. Many people around the front looked like they had a religious experience with each song. After a few tracks, Dumbfounded cracks a joke about a few beers affecting him more than he expected. He calls it the Asian glow hitting him, looks at his PBR can, and proceeds to make a freestyle based on his slight inebriation that ends with the crowd nodding with respect.
By the time his set ends, I also get a chance to talk with Dumbfoundead about his interesting journey from being an illegal immigrant from Argentina to becoming a successful rapper living in Los Angeles. “My mom was an Asian woman who snuck in me when I was 3 and my 1 year old sister through the Mexican border like the Coyotes into Los Angeles. Eventually we became green card holders when we lived there long enough and I finally took my citizenship test last year… I think it’s amazing that I’m living the American dream and I’m living my passions. It’s all thanks to my parents for making such a bold move to get us here. It’s dope. It’s a big part of me growing up and representing for Asian Americans… but the funny thing about me is that I never got into this to represent Asians, it was kind of a responsibility that fell upon me when I started winning battles… Over time I learned that it’s much bigger than hip hop and it’s a beautiful thing.” After a few more words, the crowd let me know it was time for the headliner to approach the stage.
Watsky gets on the stage and many had to wonder how he was going to start his set. Is he going to open with a flow, pure spoken word, or have his group set the mood? He opens the set with a very personal story his experience as an epileptic and transitions that to the track Seizure Boy from his self titled album, Watsky. The crowd excitement keeps growing and reaches a new high when Watsky’s proclaimed love for signing breasts gets tested when one woman in the front attempts to hand him a sharpie on stage. The moment creates the perfect segue into his song Kidnap your Boyfriend in the most loving (albeit terrifying) fashion. After this, Watsky pleases the crowd with a number of his spoken word poetry and through action clarified what he meant by “blending poetry and rap in the correct way”. The set ends with a jam and an eclectic mix of rap styles similar to the stacking techniques of Eminem and percussive end rhyme flows like Chali 2na of Jurassic 5. By the time it all ends, I’m blown away from the experience. Atlanta had a great taste of Los Angeles flavor and it shouldn’t be long until we start craving another bite.