Between El-P's revelatory new album Cancer 4 Cure, Killer Mike's career-defining R.A.P. Music, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire's leftfielder Lost In Translation, and Despot's recent run of track-stealing guest verses with everyone from Danny Brown to Das Racist, these guys have a lot to celebrate. All four of them took to the stage with the attitude that their moment, but instead of using this attitude to build up glossy walls of superiority and stoic domination like so many others rappers do, these guys were here to share the feeling. This is indeed their moment, but when we're experiencing it with them, it's our moment, too.A few highlights from the show, presented by Karmaloop, included Mr. MFN eXquire's instant-classic ode to midweek drunk driving, “Huzzah!”; Killer Mike's euphoric/manic rendition of his seminal verse on OutKast's “The Whole World”; and El-P bringing out the puppet star of the video for Cancer single “The Full Retard” for the song's performance. That being said, it's hard to convey the energy of this show by simply recounting specific moments. It’s easy to write about El-P's backing band soloing away while crowd surfing (one guy on a guitar, one on a keytar), but it's not so easy to describe the exact atmosphere of a show (a rap show, nonetheless) where such a stunt makes perfect sense.
After the show, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Killer Mike about the current state of the rap game. The way he sees it, the bar in rap used to be one of excellence, meaning that the artists who found success were the ones who excelled in their own sound. Then, the bar became a specific kind of sound, and success went to those who fit the mold of what was deemed desirable. But now, he says, things are shifting back to the way they were, a diverse artistic landscape where the attention and accolades go to those who master their own aesthetic, and few better exemplify this than Killer Mike and his tourmates themselves. These musicians master their aesthetic right in front of our eyes, while loving every minute of it. Huzzah!