Usually, rappers do most of their boasting about themselves. During Tuesday's Rhymesayers Benefit for Haiti concert at First Avenue, though, all the bragadocious bits were for the sold-out audience.
"Ya'll make some noise for yourselves!" rapper Muja Messiah yelled at the start of the nearly five-hour concert, the largest local music benefit yet for Haitian earthquake relief efforts.
Two days of hard planning. A week and a half of ticket sales. And tens of thousands Facebook and Twitter contacts. That's all it took for Rhymesayers -- the Minneapolis hip-hop label behind Atmosphere and Brother Ali -- to organize and tout the event, which raised more than $25,000 for a variety of relief groups.
"This is one big testament to the strengths of our local music scene," Brother Ali said backstage before his headlining set, addressing the quick and rabid response to the concert. "This tragedy makes so many of us think back to Hurricane Katrina. We know we can't trust governments to respond, we've got to step up and help ourselves, too."
Indie-rap stars from Providence, R.I. (Sage Francis) and Chicago (Psalm One) stepped up to take part in the show, which also featured local stalwarts I Self Devine, Sims, Toki Wright and DJs BK-One and King Otto. The calamity behind the concert did not spoil the fun.
Sporting thick winter outerwear and an Elmer Fudd-ian hat, show host Slug (of Atmosphere) traded barbs with the crowd: "Who called me MC Snowpants?! I'm not going to dig you out of a ditch tonight in skinny jeans."
Six weeks away from the birth of his second son, Slug (Sean Daley, pictured) sounded more like a proud papa backstage.
"It says something about us and our fans -- and about the direness of the situation -- that a rap crew from Minnesota can do all this for Haiti," he said.
See more photos from the concert here.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658