The New York hip-hop trio Hangar 18, comprised of Alaska, Windnbreez and paWL, and solo artist Cryptic One, are all members of the Atoms Family, a collective of East Coast rappers that formed in 1995 and once consisted of over 30 members. Now reduced to a group of eight, half the crew, Hanger 18 and Cryptic One, is carrying the family banner on a cross-country tour full of first-time adventures and diverse rhyming styles.
“I’ve known these guys for over 10 years, so it’s nothing but good to be with them on the road,” says Cryptic One, embarking on his first national tour and talking from the road as the four drive across Nebraska. “They’re breaking my cherry and teaching me all the things that I now know.”
Included in the lessons of the tour are the trials of traveling to unfamiliar venues and overcoming the increasingly saturated underground hip-hop market. Windnbreez says the shows so far have been “hit or miss,” with one recent gig upstaged by a Ghostface Killah performance in a different part of the same venue on the same night.
“You know what, though, I don’t care,” says Cryptic, “because whether it’s five people or 500, we’ll still get up there and give it our all. That’s one thing you learn real fast.”
The current tour is a mix of Cryptic One’s self-described dark lyrical content and the more upbeat, irreverent styles of Hangar 18, who claim to be “the greatest power trio since Rush.”
Cryptic is in the process of putting the final touches on his second full-length album, Truth: The Whole Truth, Half Truth and Lies, due out in March. It’s an effort he calls “more angry than depressing”—content better suited for his live show than his debut release, The Anti Mobius Strip Theory.
“I went through a really dark period and it just came out in that first album,” he says. “The new stuff is more high-energy and aggressive. I’m angry about the world, about politics, about media, about hip-hop. I’m just a pessimist. I’m not a happy guy. I sound like I need therapy right now, don’t I?”
Meanwhile, Hangar 18 is still promoting its optimistically titled 2004 release, The Multi-Platinum Debut Release.
“Well, it’s not platinum yet,” explains Windnbreez, who adds the trio has written nine new songs, two of which are being performed live on tour.
“The shows that we’ve done have had a real connection so far,” he says. “Cryptic’s new material is involving the crowd, and that’s something you know we’ll do. Right now, it’s all going over well—a solid Atoms Family effort.”
Hangar 18 and Cryptic One play The Other Side Sunday, Oct. 23, at 10 PM. $5, or $7 for under 21.