Photo and Words by Mike Mauger

Very rarely do you get to attend a concert where you and just about everyone in attendance simply feels like it’s a privilege to see the certain artists on stage perform their craft. Friday night at Union Transfer was most certainly one of those nights.

UT was packed with hip hop heads young and old, heady and white collar who came out to see a couple of the most legendary independent hip hop acts to grace the city of Brotherly Love.

Grimace Federation set the stage with mesmerizing instrumentals, leading the way for DJ Sosa and Homeboy Sandman to entrance the crowd with impassioned social and political lyrics.

But the real show came when DJ Abilities, Rob Sonic and Aesop Rock strutted onto stage. Sonic, in his usual bandana and oversized T shirt, may be the lesser known of the three but together with Aesop Rock, the two form the duo Hail Mary Mallon, who have recently released ‘Bestiary” LP. Though Rob Sonic may not have the name recognition of Rhymesayers veterans Aesop and Abilities, but when they all share the stage, the power is palpable.

Despite the lyrical complexity of their individual songs, Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic work together seamlessly, as they swap verses back and forth almost effortlessly. Their set was almost a perfect mixture of Hail Mary Mallon favorites like from ‘Bestiary,’ like Jonathon, and Whales, Sonic’s tunes like “Happyland Disco,” and of course Aesop’s ‘Daylight’ and ‘None Shall Pass’.

But you can’t just put DJ Abilities behind the decks and not expect him to do a little damage. Abilities got his stage time, cutting metal samples, some Pharoahe Monch samples, and of course some Beastie Boys and Wu-Tang. There were a few Eyedea shout outs, but that’s somewhat to be expected. Lord know the hip hop community misses him.

Though we may miss the late Mikey “Eyedea” Larsen, leaders like Aesop Rock, Sob Sonic, and DJ Abilities, all with careers nearly two decades long, have not lost a single step and continue to be beacons of light in a crowded market of DIY hip hop artists.

If you missed their shows this weekend, don’t worry. There’s still time. The tour continues with dates in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana before wrapping it up with three dates in Texas.