Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Killer Mike / November 12, 2012 / The Union

By: Ross Lockhart, Staff Writer

Tickets were 12 bucks, and despite my honest recommendations, no one could be persuaded to go with me. Fuck it, I thought. I never ride solo. It’ll be a character-building exercise. I bought my ticket ahead of time, which I thought would ensure an opportunity to buy drinks at the bar. Doors were at eight, so I rolled up to The Union at a quarter past nine thinking that the action would be starting relatively soon. All my preemptive measures proved to be for nothing. The guys at the door asked for my ID, and I gravely told them I was underage. No 21+ wristband. All wasn’t lost, I hoped. Maybe the dude working the bar wouldn’t notice.

I walked up to the counter, two dollars in my hand and a fat “how’s it going, man?” look on my face. The bartender reciprocated my warm greeting and asked me what I would like. 
"One PBR please."
"Can I see your wristband?" he asked kindly. My heart sank. 
"Oh, uh… I didn’t get one." He was nice about it, and politely told me that he couldn’t sell me drinks if I didn’t bear the mark of a 21-year-old. I was embarrassed. This was basically my worst nightmare turned reality. I thanked him anyway and retreated to the back of the bar, where I sat and thought angry thoughts about the government for a few minutes. When my internal hissy fit was over, I decided that if I wasn’t going to get drunk, I may as well take advantage of my forced sobriety and drain every little detail out of my surroundings.

I’m groomed to believe that liking hip-hop involves a certain amount of nerdiness, but looking around, I felt like the biggest goober in the room. I desperately scanned for someone lamer than me so I could displace my self-consciousness onto them. The bartender came over and asked if I wanted a soda. Fuck no I don’t want a soda. I don’t drink soda, thanks. I’m not fucking 12. How degrading. I had hit an emotional rock bottom. Some other nerdy dudes walked in. Thank God. Like any normal human being, I judged the shit out of them to make myself feel better.

After an eternity of sitting alone at the bar, eavesdropping on everyone’s conversations like an asshole, the Dysfunktional Family took the stage to get the crowd pumped up. I was impressed. They had commanding stage presence and energy. The ladies were digging it. Looking up at those dudes, surrounded by a mob of goofy-looking white people steadily bouncing their middle fingers up and down, I came to a realization. The hip-hop scene in Athens, small as it may seem, reaches out far beyond the walls of a small-town bar. The Dysfunktional Family is made up of people who, like in a real family, support and love each other unconditionally. It’s all about community and brotherhood. They truly could give a shit about what people on the outside think about them and their scene. It’s the people inside it that matter. At that moment I stopped feeling like such an alien and more like a privileged guest. Everything was going to be okay. I was a part of something special, even if just for a night.  

Of course, once the music stopped and The Dysfunkt Fam wrapped its set, the familiar pangs of isolation returned. This time, though, it was kind of funny. I laughed it off. A beaming Hil Hackworth stepped off stage. I gave him a tearfully limp handshake and a “that was sick, man.” He thanked me and continued to the bar, leaving me alone with myself. I walked in little circles pretending to have a purpose for about 10 minutes.

There was one more guy to perform before Killer Mike. He was wearing an Atlanta Falcons beanie. I forget his real name, so I’ll just call him Mr. Meanie Beanie. He was alright, but I’ll say that his flow was weak compared to Hil and Schwartz. Those dudes set the bar pretty damn high. By then the crowd had grown to a decent size and everyone could barely keep their anticipatory boners down. Mr. Meanie Beanie knew the score. He wrapped it up before everyone got too bored. Without further intermission, Killer Mike burst on stage.

He was a big motherfucker. Even bigger than I had expected. He immediately set it off with his explosive verse from R.A.P. Music opener, “Big Beast.” Fuck yes! Everyone went nuts. He was rapping so fast and so hard I couldn’t believe it. His eyes were red. I felt his anger. His passion. I stood frozen to the spot, too terrified to move. This was only the first song. Holy shit! The song came to an abrupt end. A toothy grin emerged from beneath his jungle of a beard. Suddenly he wasn’t so scary after all. He gave a heartfelt monologue honoring the people of Ohio.

“I’m in the Midwest now, where people work their asses off. For six years I worked MY ass off to get here. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

He couldn’t have chosen his words any better. The crowd went berserk and he unleashed a volley of songs like a fucking machine gun. Each was more intense than the last. I was dumbstruck. It felt like I was being physically attacked and I was loving every minute of it. He gracefully wiggled across the stage like a circus elephant. Someone passed him a blunt and it disappeared after one mighty puff. When he stoically invited us to join the political party of “I don’t give a fuck” to segue into his government-bashing hit “Reagan,” I found myself joining a sinister chorus of “Fuck Ronald Reagan!” To hear that song on the album is one thing, but to experience it first-hand and feel the hatred and damnation in his words was nothing short of visceral. Had I died and gone to heaven? I may or may not have came in my pants.

Unfortunately, contrary to what everyone in attendance (including myself) may have thought, Killer Mike is only a man. After a scathing a cappella rendition of “Go!” there was a crack in his voice. A collective gasp echoed through the room. The big guy had gone and overdone it. Wounded, but far from dead, he kept on going, even harder than before. This brought the crowd into even more of a frenzy. I winced as his vocal cords strained and splintered. Sweat ejaculated from his big chocolatey brow. Never before had I been witness to such conviction. At last, he just couldn’t go any longer. He wiped his soggy face with a towel and swung it over his shoulders like a heavyweight boxer. This was a knockout victory, not a defeat. His shirt was soaked through save for a lonely spot on his belly. I felt as though I should bow or something . He was Jesus, but better.  

It was all over. I floated to the stage. He knelt down and took my trembling hand in his. I was a child. “Thank you,” I whispered. Through his sunglasses his eyes sparkled and said, “Thank YOU, Ross Lockhart.” I blushed. He disappeared. I stumbled out of The Union in a daze. The people who had been my brothers and sisters for the brevity of the show stood around, smoking. I took a drag of the night air. It was pure and clean. I walked home in the dark, listening to the streets of Athens sing their old songs as the stars smiled down at me.  

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