Spose - Live @ Bottom of the Hill

Growing up in Portland, Maine there was not a lot of local music that made it onto the national scene. Maine being a sparsely populated place, it is very rare that one of our citizens makes big enough artistic waves to gain any attention beyond the New England region. There are occasional exceptions to this; the two that come to mind are the band the Rustic Overtones and the actress Anna Kendrick. The Rustic Overtones got some national radio play in the late 1990’s, went on a couple of big tours, and made some great music, my favorite song being Feast Or Famine from their 1997 album ‘Rooms by the Hour’. Ms. Kendrick, who is about my age, made her rise in local and regional theater, performed on Broadway, and eventually transitioned to screen acting. Most tweens recognize her as Jessica from the Twilight movies, although my favorite performance of hers is the role of Beca in Pitch Perfect. That’s right, I’ve seen Pitch Perfect.

I went to college in Maine (UMF ’06 represent!) and it was there I befriended a number of kids my age from the town of Wells. Aside from being a uniquely tight knit and interesting bunch, Wells kids have a distinct affinity for hip hop and various elements of its culture. It was in Wells where I first learned what a whip is, how to smoke a backwood, and who T.I. is. When I first got into freestyle rapping, a good deal of it was in the hazy bedrooms of my Wells homies. And one of those homies was named Ryan, who was starting to create music under the moniker Spose.

It didn’t take long for the small-yet-robust Maine hip hop scene to notice Spose. He was loud, confident, and really motivated. He got his name tattooed on his arm and wherever rap nights, battles, or freestyle sessions cropped up Spose was not far away. Spose is one of those kids who always has something clever to say and is probably the smartest person in the room. He has a way of seriously rapping without taking himself seriously. As an artist he is dedicated, always making new music, and consistently finds new ways to stay fresh in a genre sometimes limited by its narrow bandwidth.

In 2010, Spose struck gold with his song ‘I’m Awesome’. It got him a record deal, a music video, and a boost in resources to take his art to the next level. Since then he has toured several times, launched his own music label and line of merchandise, and generally managed to be a professional full time musician in an era where many musicians still have to work a day job.

Recently Spose went back on tour, this time with MC Chris and MC Lars (who is a California native) and they swung through San Francisco for a night to do a show at Bottom of the Hill. Known for its strong docket of indie/underground artists, the venue is aptly named based on the hilly geography of SF, and the fact that it is indeed located at the bottom of one of said hills. Also, it is apparently a large residential house converted and modified over the years to be a music venue/bar. This gives it the reckless charm of a house party and the intimacy of a small underground club.

a cellphy with the crew

A few Maine homies came up from Santa Cruz and down from NorCal to join forces for the show. When we got there the line was huge and Spose was already performing; we could hear him outside as we waited in line, and I demonstrated how cool I was/killed time by rapping along to ‘I’m Awesome’ outside on the sidewalk. Once inside we plowed our way to the front, cheap beer in hand, and jammed out with as much exuberance as could be afforded to a homie who had toured all the way from Maine to California to share his music with the country.

Spose engages the audience

Spose did not disappoint, blending his familiar half-joking honesty with precise rhyme-schemes and word play. He is incredibly well rehearsed and does not at any point fuck up. He sometimes commits the common faux-paux of explaining what his songs are about before performing them, but he does so in an endearing way that adds to the storytelling element of hip hop. All around us were hordes of young strangers who were completely into it, many were screaming the lyrics right back at the artist, nodding their heads, waving their hands, and generally having a great time seeing an artist they love.

Looking back at those bedroom freestlyes so long ago, I thought about all that had transpired for Spose to finally end up on that stage in San Francisco. The memories put a smile on my face that didn’t go away all night (admittedly part of that might have been the tidal wave of Budweiser I consumed). It felt like a little slice of Maine that night, with all the homies in California coming together to see Spose and hang out with friends.


If you liked this blog entry, check out Lil Dicky - Live @ the Independent