Whether it was the result of a booking error or artist preference, but last year’s 6:30 p.m. Summerfest set was much too early for an act as popular and influential as Atmosphere. Fans of the Minneapolis hip-hop forefathers (and onlookers seeking the best act in the so-so timeslot) came out in droves, lining every available inch of bleacher and picnic table – extending from the Miller Lite Oasis to the sky gliders stationed near the Fest’s main corridor. The staggering turnout and world-class performance no doubt made Atmospheric re-entry an easy decision for Big Gig brass. Atmosphere’s Slug and Ant are back this year, this time at their rightful place as Harley-Davidson Roadhouse headliners Friday night.
Better yet, they saw fit to bring some of the best acts from their record label, Rhymesayers Entertainment, to help set the stage for a night of unforgettable midwestern hip-hop. If you plan on seeing Atmosphere, but are wavering on when to arrive, Music Notes can acquaint you with the openers and tell you why early entry is a must.
Blueprint, 4 p.m.
Columbus, Ohio, emcee Albert Shepherd, better known by his moniker “Blueprint” cut his teeth in turn of the century rap crew Greenhouse Effect, before taking his distinct style solo in the early 2000s. Since then, Blueprint has flooded the market with a combined 13 EPs, mixtapes and full-length albums, including last year’s Deleted Scenes, which came out on Atmosphere’s label Rhymesayers Entertainment last year. Last February, Blueprint joined local players from Juniper Tar, Field Report and Testa Rosa, as well as Robbie Fulks, Jon Langford and Bethany Thomas to contribute to Alverno Presents concert series “Beautiful Dreamer: The Foster Project.”
The Uncluded, 5:30 p.m.
Featuring Rhymesayers’ own Ian Bavitz (better known by his stage name of Aesop Rock) and Grammy-winning singer Kimya Dawson (of The Moldy Peaches fame), the side project bends convention while melding rap and indie rock sensibilities with peptic production and witty lyrics to forge something fresh, new and wholly exceptional. The dissimilar duo’s debut collaboration, Hokey Fight, was released (via Rhymesayers) in May.
P.O.S., 7 p.m.
Stefon Alexander (better known as P.O.S.) is the founding member of Doomtree hip-hop collective and Minneapolis’ most up-and-coming rapper at the moment. Since 2011, he was forced miss his last two Milwaukee stops due to family commitments and health concerns. The happy father and proud owner of a gently used kidney, P.O.S. – fingers crossed – will make his long-awaited appearance in Brew City. If his live show is anywhere near as good as his ever-evolving albums, P.O.S. will be well worth the wait. The eclectic emcee is touring in support of 2012’s We Don’t Even Live Here, which cracked the top 50 albums on Billboard charts and features Wisconsin’s very own Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver fame) on “How We Land.”
Brother Ali, 8:30 p.m.
Though a Wisconsin native (Madison), Brother Ali hails from – where else?!? – Minneapolis and has been putting out excellent efforts for 15 years and counting. At times fun loving, other times controversial, Ali is always pushing the envelope, both stylistically and lyrically. His biting social commentary has lost the veteran emcee some sponsors in the past, but he’s more-than made up for it with a vast, passionate fan base. The rapper and producer has managed a combined eight releases to date, all on the Rhymesayers label. Most recently, Ali released 2012 full-length The Bite Marked Heart.