There’s not much that needs to be said. Let’s face it, either you were there or you weren’t. Icelantic’s 6th annual Winter on the Rocks was a phenomenal exercise in incredible rap for the people of Colorado in the middle of winter.
tl;dr: the show was badass, you should dig in the crates for all these artists, Atmosphere are kings in the hip hop world, tons of photos at the bottom.
Thankfully, it didn’t snow; the photographer for Icelantic told me, “the snow is great for the photos, but yeah…it’s cold”. Leave it to me to forget my coat at home and bring two pairs of gloves and a quarter full water bottle I forgot had tequila in it that I had leftover from Arise festival. The gods of winter cospired to keep me warm from the sips even as the gods of rap were preparing to descend on Red Rocks to keep our souls fed. In a bit of good news, because of the construction on site due to sinking seats (apparently that’s a real problem), I was forced to migrate from the photo pit to the GA section for every performance to chill with my team, which helped keep me warm and gave me a good leg day. But I think it’s time we talked about the actual show.
Starting off the show was DJ Cassidy, who was easy to miss because they had him playing from just before doors till a half hour after. DJ Keezy took over turntable duties next. The venue opened the doors at 6 p.m. for a show scheduled at 6:30 pm, meaning nobody was in their seats on time. Really, I counted a few dozen early heads who were there, but it was thin. Red Rocks wasn’t at full capacity till almost halfway through Living Legend set, which is sad because we met one very lovely and excited woman name Valeria who had been standing in line trying to get in to see deM atlaS, who was the second performance of the day, following The Lioness, whose work was amazingly good and made me feel like I should have had her in my playlist already.
Valeria missed deM atlaS who, it should be noted, talked with Yellow Scene Magazine before the show. Can we just say that we really liked him. That is one cool dude. deM AtlaS performed an array of past hits and music off his current album, Bad Actress. Local music afficianao and personal friend of mine, Amadeo Miera, was absolutely in love with the range of musical influence, the performance acumen, the dancing, and the lyrical quality of his work. Which makes perfect sense. I’ve been saying that deM is definitely a top 10 rapper right now, in my book. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rise to the top along the lines of Atmosphere or a Kid Cudi type.
Watsky is a name I know but an unfamiliar rapper to me. Positive, hyper speed flow, incredible energy, terrific backup band and backup vocals, and the crowd seemed to love him. I really enjoyed his “Don’t be nice” song. The crowd enjoy engagement was phenomenal. He definitely left everybody with an emotional high, rapping about the experiences connecting us all to the universe and to each other. He was a fantastic showman and I’m definitely interested in digging into his stacks and finding out what I’m missing out on.
But then the crews started to hit the stage.
I’ve been a fan of Living Legends my whole life. Coming from Los Angeles, going to college at UC Davis in Northern California, Living Legends have always been a force in my life. I did see them at Arise Festival back in July up in Loveland, Colorado, but I was running around taking photos of the different stages so I missed most of the show. This was by far the best experience I’ve ever had seen Living Legends. They were on point, firebrand, dropping history in melody and rhythm through that mastery of interchangeable flow reminiscent of the Golden Era of hip-hop. And I don’t care who you are, you really can’t get with Eligh’s flow. He’s a phenom. Also, it’s nice to see – in the middle of all this Minneapolis rap – some West coast rap styles, which I love, some L.A. vibrations. That L.A. to the Bay energy is definitely necessary and I wonder if it’s something that Rhymesayers do, that Atmosphere does when they perform. The Atmosphere show on August 31st at Red Rocks, which also featured deM atlaS and DJ Keezy, also featured Evidence, an L.A. rapper famous for his work with Dilated Peoples crew.
Follow the Living Legends, legendary in their own right, and a group that I had never had the privilege of seeing until this night, was De La Soul. To be honest, I don’t have any words for what I saw. I’m legit shook still. De La Soul are true professionals, masters of the craft, Godfathers of hip-hop, mind blowing with what they do. There was not a crew, not a rapper who performed, that had the crowd management that they have. They work the crowd like no other. In between performing songs that, arguably, many people in the audiences’ parents knew, they had the place grooving to that soul and jazz inspired Golden Era hip-hop that we all love. The highlight for me, as a member of the media, was being in the photo pit when De La Soul, as they did at Grand Uzi I’m told, told all the photographers to stop taking photos, stand up, and just be in the moment. As media we never really get the opportunity to just stop and hang out with the crowd and dance. The photographers usually just chill off to the side of the stage, waiting to be ushered into the pit by whichever AEG rep is handling business that night. I like to hang in the crowd and groove a bit. And I love to bring a colleague along to have someone to chill with. This was the first time I was able to get fully into the vibe of Red Rocks and participate in the show as a music lover, and not just as a journalist. Shout out De La Soul for the goodness. It’s a highlight I won’t soon forget.
Finishing off the night, closing it down, reminding the entire region why he’s one of the greatest, Atmosphere came up next. MC Slug with long time friend and producer, DJ Ant, are always poised to kill. Slug has that way about him, what he calls the “sad clown”. It’s an intrinsic and otherworldly ability to read a crowd, to talk to masses of people as cooly and effectively as if he was in a one-on-one conversation, pausing here and there for crowd response before twitching back to life. It’s the faces he makes, contortions of implied happiness and humor, trauma and misery. Slug worked his way from pre-modern hits to the earliest stuff – 7even’s Travels – and up to new work released this year. We don’t have to get into the nuance of the songs and their meanings. The fact is, if you’re into good hip-hop, you’re into Atmosphere. As a hip-hop head I can tell you, I’ve never talked to another head who didn’t have some of their work in the files, you know what I mean? Atmosphere are universal. They’re just poppy enough to get peripherally mainstream appeal that overlaps with the devoted underground vibes, decorated with tinges of the alt, rock and country past that informs their musical history through upbringing and exploration. This is good music.
It was another glorious night in Colorado. Crisp and cold, with gusts from the West as cool and timely as the rhymes dropped on the stage. Icelantic is doing some good work and you’ll want to make sure to show up for next year’s event. Plan ahead. If it’s half as good as this year’s, you’ll have a blast. I may even remember to bring a coat.
Anyway, here are some photos. Enjoy. All photos by De La Vaca