It almost feels insulting to brand Riverside’s Atom tha Immortal as a rapper, because there’s so much more going on here than mere beats and rhymes. He’s an eloquent essayist, political activist, Biblical scholar—a preacher in many ways, someone who still holds on to hip-hop’s original mission to educate the masses. And we’re pretty sure that no other IE artist has either a Hugo Chavez documentary posted on their MySpace, or lyrical references about quantum mechanics.
Atom is a hip-hop intellectual, you could say, but not so much that you need a dictionary to comprehend his rhymes—he’s one of the rare lyricists who give line-by-line interpretations, so you’ll know exactly where he’s coming from. Atom also drops so many historical references—with sources—in the track “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” that you feel like you’ve been given an intensive history lesson, even if a lot of what he touches on rings familiar.
“Los Pobres” is about Atom’s weeks-long sojourn through South America and having his global perspective completely altered at the sight of overwhelming poverty, much like Ché Guevara’s life-changing motorcycle journey. Though historically clunky in parts (Atom’s Latino pride overwhelms reason with some tired whitey-stole-this-land-from-Mexico lines—“How can you call us the immigrant when you’re living in our ancestral land?,” etc. etc.—the Chumash, Gabrielino, Cahuilla and several thousand other native tribes would beg to differ), it’s still a beautiful cut, inflected with Peruvian vocals and instruments, and miles beyond any hip-hop you’ll hear on the radio these days. Overall, Atom’s rhyming skills are top-notch, his flow is fiery and passionate, and he’s taken Bob Marley’s call to emancipate one’s self from mental slavery to heart (he’s dismissive of both Republicans and the far left). You may not agree with everything he says, but it’s still a pretty great speech—one that leaves you wanting to hear what he’s thinking next.
More info and song clips at his MySpace page, or go to www.atomthaimmortal.com.
Attention, Riverside/San Bernardino County bands and musicians (you too, Claremont, La Verne and Pomona)! Mail your CDs and tapes (along with your vital contact info, plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Band of the Week, IE Weekly, 2175 Sampson Ave., Ste. 118, Corona, CA 92879. Or be lazy and e-mail us your MySpace page link to firstname.lastname@example.org.