Doing an interview with ATLiens, the Atlanta-based duo who headlined Saturday night’s Super Bowl Live show, isn’t easy. Ahead of their performance, the two men appeared in the media tent dressed for the show in silver masks and black hoodies, making it clear they wouldn’t be speaking to press. They’d still conduct interviews, but all answers would be delivered through head nods, shrugs or other gestures. It was a bummer, considering there’s not much online about the act, but perhaps the duo likes it this way. Attending their show in Centennial Olympic Park, it’s clear they don’t have to say a word to attract fans.
Throughout their bass-heavy set, the duo transformed popular songs such as 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song” into massive EDM ragers. A euphoric beat drop followed the popular breakdown of Sheck Wes’ “Mo Bamba,” before the crowd began chanting “ATL [expletive].” Super Bowl Live sets have to be family-friendly, but this week there’s been no censoring the crowds, especially when it comes to Atlanta classics.
During the Heroes x Villains set, the crowd erupted into the popular, vulgar opening lines of the second verse on DG Yola’s “Ain’t Gone Let Up” at the urging of DJ Daniel Pollard and his hype man. Even when you couldn’t hear the words of the songs away from the stage, the bass and synths from the set likely thumped and hummed in the chest of anyone within close proximity of the park.
Like ATLiens, Pollard is also from Atlanta. The producer, who has lived in Old Fourth Ward for the past 13 years said he was honored to represent the city on the stage. “Atlanta influences everything,” he said backstage. “Our culture is our main export and it’s something that we don’t get a lot of credit for. But we down here know where the sauce is made.”
“I’m kind of known as this bridge between the EDM community and the rap community,” Pollard said of his career, which has included producing and engineering for T.I.’s Grand Hustle collective, Jeezy and more. “I saw it as an opportunity to branch over these other artists to a whole different world that they weren’t accessing yet.” Pollard said he’s working on some rap music alongside fellow Atlanta artists such as 21 Savage, but he also serves as a licensed interventionist and recovery specialist in the city to help fellow musicians who might struggle with substance abuse, an obstacle he’s personally familiar with.
Much like the Super Bowl halftime performance, expectations were high for this year’s Super Bowl Live lineup. Atlanta’s musical history carries with it the (perhaps unrealistic) expectation that any performances tied to the big game would pay homage to the city’s legacy in some way. Fans got their wish when Big Boi was added to the Super Bowl halftime lineupm, alongside Maroon 5 and Travis Scott. And, several of the Super Bowl Live shows have delivered on this promise, too.
Still, Super Bowl Live shows dedicated to genres such as country, pop and EDM certainly didn’t have lineups as strong as the R&B and hip-hop nights. And, while all of the acts on Friday’s lineup were great, not all of them hailed from Atlanta. It’s a shame, too. Atlanta is no-doubt the cultural hub for rap, but the city has had notable acts in variety of other genres as well.
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