No stranger to performing in Athens, Atlanta rapper Killer Mike still made a splash when Athens Intensified, the weekend-long music festival that rose from the ashes of Pop Fest, announced him as this year’s headliner alongside Japanese weird pop duo Cibo Matto at the festival kicking off next Thursday.
Killer Mike’s past dates at New Earth Music Hall and Georgia Theatre were well attended, to say the least, by Athens’ own hip hop scene, members of which had been entranced by the emcee’s Southern style lyricism since before he guested on the Outkast classic “The Whole World”.
But the rapper’s star has shone brighter in recent years with the release of his studio pairings with rapper El-P, calling themselves Run the Jewels and attracting the attentions of the oft-hip hop trepidatious indie rock community.
It’s not hip hop directly that has everyone talking about Killer Mike at the moment, though he does seem to be cresting whatever arc of power he’s riding, meaning he’s at the top of his game.
The emcee turned into an outspoken critic of the current police state in the wake of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo. Beginning with an op-ed piece in Billboard, the outlet of record for the entertainment industry, Killer Mike then took to TV, most notably Fox News, to decry a slate of highly controversial deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers.
None of this could have been predicted, of course, when Killer Mike signed on to helm Athens Intensified. But his presence at the 40 Watt next weekend gives an unintended poignancy to a festival notable for its corralling of talent local and regional, and in some cases international.
Spanning a number of venues in downtown Athens, the festival kicks off Sept. 11 with an all-ages Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records showcase at the Caledonia Lounge, 256 W. Clayton. Starting at 8 p.m., the showcase includes, in order, Tunabunny, Bows and Arrows, Muuy Biien, Robert Schneider, Deep State and Eureka California. Also on Thursday is a night of experimental and dance music at Go Bar, 195 Prince Ave. Staring at 9 p.m., the lineup is AstroShama, Future Ape Tapes, Holotropic JuJu and Dr. Fred’s Karaoke.
On Friday, Killer Mike headlines a night of hip hop at the 40 Watt Club, 285 W. Washington St., that includes Floridian producer Frost the Waver God, fellow Floridian Dola, Eddy Braveaux, local Louie Larceny.
At Caledonia on Friday is Under a Sky So Blue, Pinecones, Blue Blood, The Powder Room and T. Hardy Morris and the Hardknocks.
The Friday lineup at Flicker Bar, 263 W. Washington St., is still coming together, but Orgegan’s Genders and Athens’ Mothers are highlights on this bill of minimalistic-named bands.
Outdoors on West Washington Street Saturday afternoon is a skate competition co-sponsored by Get Rad Skateshop from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Currently scheduled live outdoor acts include punkers Burns Like Fire and Come What May.
The 40 Watt hosts Nels Cline of Wilco and Cibo Matto on Saturday night. Go Bar has Death Domain, Future Ape Tapes and Feather Trade.
Flicker has Four Eyes, Grand Vapids, Shoal Creek Stranglers and Matt Hudgins.
Caledonia, again, has the all-ages goods all night Saturday beginning at 5:45 p.m. Lots of young-ish local and touring indie acts fill two stages, with the night capped off by a scenester’s who’s who in Faster Circuits.
Athens Intensified also extends to the weekend of Sept. 20. New Earth Music Hall, 227 W. Dougherty St., has Djs Mahogany and Osmose early on that Saturday. Then at 10 p.m., there’s Javon Womack, Wesdaruler and The Egyptian Lover.
Festival passes are $35 for all events or $30 to skip Cibo Matto. Individual tickets to Killer Mike are $15, Cibo Matto are $16 and Egyptian Lover are $10. For tickets, go in person to Wuxtry in downtown Athens or order atwww.athensintensified.com/tickets.