The other underground Atlanta 

Realm 4 unearths choice musical booty

MJQ Concourse, Oct. 27-- Sometimes in order to appreciate a true underground music event, you have to literally go underground. Such was the case last Friday at Realm 4, held in the subterranean trappings of MJQ. Just as the unassuming cracked asphalt of a parking lot off Ponce gave no indication of the hyped crowd that lay packed beneath, so too was a level of explosive creativity craftily concealed beneath the modest profiles of eight local acts.

Billed as "an underground experiment in hip-hop, trip-hop, jungle and drum&bass," Realm 4's featured musical scientists proved empirically that local underground acts can draw a crowd, create mass positive energy and cold move the people in the house like their name was U-Haul.

Hip-hop openers Mars Ill made believers out of the early crowd through the emotive, almost pleading lyricism of vocalist Man-Child and the complementary beat interplay of DJ Dust.

With eight acts on the bill, the sets were short and to the point. As the crowd began to fill in, the Vinyl Junkies raised the energy level, peaking with a super up-tempo (if a bit loose) hip-hop/drum 'n' bass joint, "Amalgamate," which cranked out enough beats per second to kill a healthy adult rhino.

The hip-hop sets of the next two acts, Chief Justice and Miscellaneous, mixed in a few tastes of the old school, as MCs Chief Justice and Melodramatic pulled off freestyle work over special guest beatboxer, D.R.E.S., who pulled double duty as the event emcee.

D.R.E.S. and his crew in 4 Kings Entertainment, the promoters of the show, describe themselves as "champions of the underdog." Through events like Realm 4, they attempt to pump up the visibility of some of Atlanta's deserving acts.

Good talent in the form of MCs Jax the Axe Handler, Flux the Wonderbat and Vertigo of Binkis Records took the stage, asking appropriately, "can I keep this crowd hyped?" Though a dynamic set that constantly shifted lyrical stylings, the answer proved to be "yes."

Next, Justin Hale and LOA brought full instrumentation and turned out creativity from an entirely different angle. Hip-hop oriented Justin Hale laid down smooth phrases, creating a sort of "live" sampled break sound. Their fresh musical approach, imaginative vocals and animated stage presence made the set one of the show's highlights.

LOA (a.k.a. Live on Arrival) distinguished themselves by moving in a more acid jazz/trip-hop direction. Immediately before they came onstage, the house intermission music, which consisted of '80s TV show themes, busted out "Diff'rent Strokes." Appropriate, as the smooth Fender Rhodes-heavy foundation of the LOA sound proved as classy as Phillip Drummond himself.

Rounding out the show at well after 4 a.m. was Soul Prophetic Sound, a three-piece hip-hop outfit that put on one of the most electrified performances of the night. The effectual DJ work of J-Stroke underscored both the vocal and visual eccentricity of Jahim, a glam rock star of an MC who was able to rap in a bizarre Chris Tucker register while flopping around the stage dousing music reporters with fake blood (thanks). Soul Prophetic Sound left a serious impression as well as a somewhat haunting feeling that they wouldn't be around on this intimate level for long -- a feeling applicable to many of the Realm 4 acts.

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