Atmosphere Videos

Atmosphere – Became video

From October 2011 to January 2012 a music video was collaboratively made for the song “Became” by Atmosphere. The goal was to create an engaging educational experience with students as the focal point. The result, a collaboration story with The Minnesota School of Business, MTS Digital Media Academy, Rhymesayers Entertainment, Visumm Media, Alex Horner Pictures, Hickey Photography, Hanson Creative Group, Justin Staggs, Jeremy Wanek, Tom Okins, Nick Mihalevich, and Cinequipt. Watch the Behind-the-Scenes documentary here:

Producer: Sam Kovar (MSB)
Director: Nate Maydole (Visumm Media)
Director of Photography: Alex Horner (Alex Horner Pictures)
Art Direction: Kate Hasnon (Hanson Creative Group) and Nicole Nelson (MSB)
Editor: Nate Maydole (Visumm Media)
Visual FX and Design: Jeremy Wanek (MSB Digital Video Alumni)
Concept: Nate Maydole (Visumm Media) and Justin Staggs (Filmmaker)

Atmosphere Tour Dates

Atmosphere 2012 tour dates Welcome To Minnesota tour


This February, Rhymesayers and Atmosphere bring you the Second Annual “Welcome To Minnesota Tour”. With performances from Atmosphere, Kill The Vultures, Big Quarters, MaLLy and DJ sets throughout the night from BK-One. Join these artists as they tour throughout their home state of Minnesota. The tour begins February 20th in Mankato and makes subsequent stops in Bemidji, Minneapolis, Duluth, Rochester & St. Cloud. Last year all of the shows sold out in advance so make sure you get your tickets early!

Tickets for the “Welcome To Minnesota Tour” go on sale Friday, December 16th at 11:00AM CST and are available through Ticketmaster. Tickets for the Minneapolis, Duluth and St. Cloud shows are also available at Fifth Element (2411 Hennepin Ave S, Mpls, MN | 612.377.0044) in Uptown.

Kill The Vultures
Big Quarters

2.20 – Mankato, MN – Verizon Wireless Center Ballroom
2.21 – Bemidji, MN – Sanford Center Ballroom
2.22 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
2.23 – Duluth, MN – Clyde Iron Works
2.25 – Rochester, MN – Mayo Civic Center Auditorium
2.26 – St. Cloud, MN – Atwood Center Ballroom @ SCSU

Atmosphere Reviews

Review: Atmosphere live at Stubb’s

Atmosphere performed at Stubb’s, Monday, May 2 in Austin, Texas. Opening for the indie rapper were other Rhymesayers members, including DJ Abilities, Sab the Artist, Grieves and Budo and Blueprint.

Gregory Keltgen, better known as DJ Abilities, is well known in the Midwest for being one of the best battle DJs in the local scene. Along with working with the late Eyedea in Eyedea and Abilities Keltgen has made a name for himself as a talented DJ. Sab the Artist brings hip hop back to the age of just having fun. Originally starting off with the name Beyond Sab co-founded Rhymesayers Entertainment and has helped in making the label what it is today.

Grieves and Budo are a duo that pushes the boundaries of hip hop. Multi-instrumentalist Budo provides soulful horns, keys and guitar, while Grieves raps about the difficulties and joys of being on the road and back at home. Blueprint is a critically acclaimed rapper who has released his latest album Adventures in Counter-Culture. Blueprint manages to remain innovative, combining synths, keyboards, drum machines and his own unique rapping ability to create something that is fresh and enjoyable.

Atmosphere should be a name that everyone knows. Take a listen to songs such as “Say Hey There” or “Trying to Find a Balance,” and you will understand why Atmosphere is at the forefront of independent hip hop. Comprised of rapper Slug (Sean Daley) and DJ Ant (Anthony Davis), along with touring members Erick Anderson (keyboards) and Nate Collins (guitar), Atmosphere is a combination of Slug’s introspective rapping style and the soulful sounds of contributing band members.

Sab and his brother and DJ Ganzobean got the party started.  Charismatic, fun and enjoyable Sab had people moving along to his rhymes. Sampling Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks,” “Lookin’ at Girls” was a nice treat as Sab rapped about how he cannot stop looking at girls. Sab the Artist started off the night right with their good-natured rhymes and party-friendly beats.

In between sets was DJ Abilities, who combined samples from Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” Beastie Boy’s “Paul Revere” and the ever so famous “Bed Intruder” song. Fans were impressed by DJ Abilities’ turn tabling and mixing of fan-favorite samples.

Grieves and Budo immediately pulled everyone in as they started with “Bloody Poetry.” Producing soulful keyboard and trumpet sounds Budo was switching instruments every second while Grieves laid down his rhymes.

Following Grieves and Budo was Blueprint who kept the energy high. Playing songs off his latest album, Blueprint had the crowd going absolutely wild with synth-heavy songs such as “Automatic.” Add in a bass player and a DJ, and you have an even more enjoyable performance. Blueprint’s performance became even better as he strapped on a keytar and went into “So Alive.” Showing off his skills as a keytarist, Blueprint moved around while singing “so so alive” during the chorus. Smiling at the audience Blueprint began playing “Radio-Inactive” on the keyboards. “So thank God for every fan, every single listener,” rapped Blueprint as he pointed out to everyone in the audience, the crowd producing a loud scream that brought an even larger smile to Blueprint’s face.

Up next was the one and only Atmosphere who began the show with “Until the Nipples Gone.” Instantly everyone was jumping and clapping as Slug and the rest of the group immediately took control of the audience. “Hello Austin, Texas. It’s Atmosphere,” yelled Slug. Going into “Between the Lines,” Slug had everyone saying the chorus.

“I like when the lights are low, because I can’t see any of you. We are all the same,” said Slug as the group went into “Sunshine.” The group did not miss anything, and Slug’s rhymes and charisma only made this fan-favorite song that much more enjoyable.

Slug then threw another one at us; Anderson and Collins played some improvisational parts before laying down the groove to “Puppets.” “Cut those strings,” yelled Slug as he went into the first verse.

Keeping the energy up Anderson started playing the piano part for “God Loves Ugly,” and the crowd yelled. Ant was bobbing his head and really getting into it with one cigarette in mouth. “God loves ugly,” shouted the audience as Slug smiled. “Go to sleep my little time bomb,” yelled Slug as the lights dimmed and the crowd continued screaming.

“Y’all are too live for me. I’m actually intimidated now,” said Slug. With Ant and Anderson walking offstage, Slug and Collins went into “Guarantees.” “My shorty got caught smokin’ weed at a concert, Nicki Minaj is a mother effin’ monster,” rhymed Slug smoothly and without thought, making audience members laugh at his reference.

“Right now we are all a community. We are family. You came here tonight to take your mind off problems and have a good time. It’s a beautiful thing” said Slug as the group went into “Lovelife.”

Yelling “Atmosphere” and “Slug,” the group came back onstage and gave an encore that left the audience satisfied. Collins started off “Trying to Find a Balance” with the whole group following suit. “In the days of Kings and Queens, I was a jester,” sang Slug as everyone in the audience and the balcony replied with, “treat me like a God, oh they treat me like a leper,” during the chorus.

Ending their performance with “Yesterday,” Atmosphere could not have chosen a better song. Intimate, heart-felt and perfect, Slug’s delivery was just like how it is on the recording. Sending chills down my back Anderson’s piano part was right-on, its soulful, happy sound underneath Slug’s rhymes about missing his father. “I thought I saw you yesterday, but i knew it wasn’t you, cause you passed away, Dad,” rhymed Slug with so much conviction it could be felt.

From working at a record store and doing overnight shifts to support his son to playing sold-out venues, Slug’s experiences can be followed through his music. Knowing that he would not be where he is without the support of his fans, Slug makes sure that every one of his fans gets either a picture or a handshake. “Get ready to have fun tonight,” said Slug as fans entered Stubb’s, a smile on his face as he walked up to fans who wanted a hug, picture or both. This is what makes Atmosphere great.

Creating enjoyable music, giving their fans a good show and actually interacting with their fans is what made their performance much more intimate and entertaining. As Slug said, “we are all family.” The faces of teenagers and adults smiling as they exited Stubb’s shows that Atmosphere did not disappoint their “family” in Austin. Atmosphere is the life of the party, regardless of bad weather.

Press Releases

KRS-ONE & BUCKSHOT “Survival Skills” In Stores September 15th Album Features Mary J Blige, Atmosphere, Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli & More KRS-ONE Proclaims ROBOT as the official Death Of Auto-Tune Song

KRS-ONE & BUCKSHOT “Survival Skills” In Stores September 15th Album Features Mary J Blige, Atmosphere, Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli & More KRS-ONE Proclaims ROBOT as the official Death Of Auto-Tune Song

After making their indelible marks on the game luminaries KRS-One and Buckshot, arguably two of the games most prolific emcees, will link up to give fans a collaborative album entitled Survival Skills. The project will be released on Duck Down Records, September 15,th while the duo will be featured on The Rock The Bells tour this Summer.

With guests ranging from Mary J. Blige, Slug Of Atmosphere, K’NAAN, Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, Melanie Fiona, Naledge of Kidz In The Hall, Sean Price, Geo of Blue Scholars, Smif N Wessun and Rock of Heltah Skeltah, “Survival Skills” represents a diverse range of topics, all while maintaining a consistent sound. The album has production from Havoc of Mobb Deep, 9th Wonder, Black Milk, ILL MIND, Coptic, Moss, Nottz, Marco Polo, and KHRYSIS!

On the surface the album is a testament to the resiliency of two lyrical titans, but at its root Survival Skills is a blueprint for life. For instance on the infectious head-nodder “Robot,” which was released 6 weeks prior to Jay Z’s “The Death Of Auto Tune” track, and already available World Wide at Digital Retail Shops, such as iTunes, the duo speak-out against the recent overuse of the Auto-Tune vocal effect in urban music, but under the surface the message is much deeper. “I don’t want people to get the averaged clichéd version and thinking that we’re dissing people,’” Buckshot clarifies. “What we’re calling out here is the biters, the people that feel like because this guy sold X amount of records doing this, that I’m going to turn around and do it as well,” KRS says of the array of artists who have followed in the creative footsteps of Roger Troutman, Afrikka Bambatta, Teddy Riley and T-Pain. Despite its heavy message, sonically the track, produced by Mobb Deep’s Havoc, is as inviting as anything on the radio today. The video for “ROBOT,” directed by Todd Angkaswan, has been added into rotation at MTV & BET. The track has also been included in the sound track for Activision’s upcoming Tony Hawk skate game in stores this Fall.

Coincidently, ROBOT is not the first example of where Jay Z has released similar material and concepts from KRS-ONE & BUCKSHOT. In 2003, Buckshot’s group Black Moon recorded a song called “Stay Real,” which was, again, released 6 weeks prior to Jay Z’s “Public Service Announcement” track, that ironically contained the same sample as Black Moon’s “Stay Real.”

A couple years prior to this Jay Z released “THE BLUEPRINT,” which was the same title used by KRS-ONE in his classic album, Boogie Down Productions “Ghetto Music: The BLUEPRINT of Hip Hop.”

KRS-One and Buckshot are the epitome of rap longevity and relevancy. After making his 1987 debut with Boogie Down Productions on the seminal rap classic Criminal Minded, KRS-One instantly became an icon going on to release a gang of essential works including 1988’s By All Means Necessary and 1993’s Return of the Boom Bap. Similarly when Buckshot came into the game in 1993 with Enta Da Stage as Black Moon’s front man, fans instantly took notice.

And the party never stopped, KRS-One’s 2007 collaborative album with producer Marly Marl, (“Hip Hop Lives”) was critically acclaimed and his work on “Classic,” the Kanye West, Nas and Rakim featured track celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Nike’s Air Force 1 shoe, earned the Teacher a Grammy nod. Buckshot has continued to churn-out some of the game’s most progressive projects as well, most notably his 9th Wonder-produced albums Chemistry (2005) and The Formula (2008). Couple those with the licensing deals which have landed Buck’s music on networks like ESPN and The History Channel, as well as an episode of CSI Las Vegas and it’s clear to see why the Boot Camp general has remained one of the game’s most influential.

“Ever since 1993 we’ve been passing each other on tour or in the studio saying, one day we should tour together, or one day we should do a record together,” says KRS of the long-awaited union. “Well finally myself and Buckshot have the chance to collaborate on a straight up and down MC’in project.”

For all of their individual accomplishments, KRS-ONE and Buckshot remain fans of each other’s work; complementing each other’s strengthens. “That’s still KRS-One at the end of the day. I didn’t know how to rhyme back when I first started listening to Kris,” says Buck alluding to his partner’s dominant history. In turn, KRS gives all praises to the Black Moon front man. “I am the humble teacher on the track, Buckshot is clearly the man,” he says.

Still gritty tracks like “Clean Up,” featuring Rock of Heltah Skeltah and the politically minded “Running Away” featuring Immortal Technique, make Survival Skills a Hip-Hop fan’s dream, catering to those that love lyrics and the boom-bap. Equally as rich is the album’s Black Milk-produced track, “The Way I Live” featuring the Queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige. Together they create a triumphant anthem for all those on the grind trying to conquer their dreams. The song’s summery feel and soothing melodies make it an instant hit.

Throughout, both veterans sound as hungry and invigorated as any of their rap counterparts. “Projects like these are projects that motivate me,” KRS says. “The idea to work with another MC that has his own persona and style and do a real collaboration in the studio, that’s motivation. I already got 16 albums of my own,” he adds.

What KRS-One and Buckshot have created is an album that is socially responsible, lyrically sharp and sonically banging. Buckshot sums it up best, “Hip-Hop was started as an option to not killing each other. We were in the ghettos and we were real fucked up. We created Hip-Hop so we didn’t have to do that anymore.”

“The album is called Survival Skills, because that is what it takes.”

KRS-ONE & BUCKSHOT Upcoming Tour Dates:

Rock The Bells

KRS-ONE Hosting


Washington, DC – Sunday July 12th

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Boston, MA – Saturday July 18th

Comcast Center

New York, NY – Sunday July 19th

Jones Beach Theater

Vancouver, BC, CAN – Saturday August 1st

Deer Lake Park

Calgary, AB, CAN – Sunday August 2nd

Shaw Millennium Park

Denver, CO – Thursday August 6th

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Los Angeles, CA – Saturday August 8th

San Manuel Amphitheatre

San Francisco, CA – Sunday August 9th

Shoreline Amphitheatre

Myspace Album Release Show – New York, NY – Friday – 9/11

Press Releases



Rhymesayers Entertainment and Rose Presents bring you the second annual Soundset Festival: the official Midwest kick-off of the summer with over eight hours of the best independent Hip Hop music in one day. It all goes down at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN (rain or shine).

Date: Sunday, May 24, 2009 – Gates at 11:00AM CST
Canterbury Park – Shakopee, MN

In 2008, Rhymesayers and Rose Presents brought the first year of Soundset to an outdoor festival setting at the Metrodome parking lot in Minneapolis with over 14,000 people in attendance, including: two stages with over 40 artists performing, b-boy battles and live DJs throughout the day, live skateboard demos and a low rider car show.

Soundset 09, year two. Atmosphere, fresh off the success of When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Sh*t Gold, the recent reissue of God Loves Ugly and the 34-city When God Gives You Ugly Tour, come back home to Minnesota to headline Soundset 09. The Pharcyde will play the main stage with the full original line-up including: Imani, Bootie Brown, SlimKid3 and Fatlip. Having not played the Minneapolis area since Rhymesayers released the MM..Food album in 2004, the masked man, MF Doom returns for a rare one-time performance! Following the broad critical acclaim for his Undisputed Truth album and his latest EP The Truth Is Here, Brother Ali is set to deliver his raw emotion and political views to the main stage. Freeway, of Roc-A-Fella, and State Property, along with Seattle super producer Jake One, join forces to perform the classics and new material from their upcoming Rhymesayers album, The Stimulus Package. Sage
Francis and B. Dolan, co-creators of, are brothers in corporate crime fighting and indie-rap face smashing, will be appearing courtesy of Strange Famous Records. After touring the world, underground legend, revolutionary leader and accomplished battle champion, Immortal Technique brings his political intenseness to Minnesota this May. I’ll Sleep When You Are Dead was declared a four star album and “a symphony of hero-spinning Hip Hop” by AP; El P (a.k.a El Producto) from New York’s own Definitive Jux camp, along with Mr Dibbs & TMQ are confirmed for the main stage. Never Better was declared the “Best Hip Hop Album of 2009” by Alarm Magazine, Rhymesayers’ own, Doomtree member and local hero P.O.S returns for a second year in a row.

With options of a main stage, Fifth Element stage, DJ tent with a national b-boy/b-girl battle, slow & low custom car show and 3rd Lair skate demo, Soundset is guaranteed to bring the fun for the whole family!

Confirmed artists for Soundset 09 include: Atmosphere, The Pharcyde, MF
Doom, Brother Ali, Freeway & Jake One, Sage Francis with B. Dolan,
Immortal Technique, P.O.S, El P with Mr. Dibbs & TMQ, Eyedea & Abilities,
Abstract Rude + Aceyalone & Myka 9 = Haiku D’Etat with DJ Drez, Prince
Paul, Buck 65, Blueprint with DJ Rare Groove, DJ Numark, Heiruspecs,
Cunninlynguists, Blue Scholars, Sims of Doomtree, One Be Lo, I Self
Devine, Awol One, Mike Mictlan & Lazerbeak = Hand Over Fist of
Doomtree, Toki Wright, Grieves, Unknown Prophets, Lil Buddy Mclain,
Just.Live, Kristoff Krane, El Guante, Plain Ole Bill, BK One, King Otto, and
DJ Nikoless.

Tickets are on sale NOW to the general public through and Fifth Element. General admission tickets are $30 plus applicable fees (parking is included in ticket price), After Party and VIP options are also available.


Slug: The Underground Artist

Slug: The Underground Artist

By Henrick A. Karoliszyn

Slug of Atmosphere The Underground ArtistSlug of Atmosphere still doesn’t know what a hit record is. Following over a decade of rapping and underground success, the lyrical mastermind has yet to realize what sells and what doesn’t and he’s perfectly fine with that.

“I don’t listen to urban radio,” he says over the phone. “Me and Ant [Anthony Davis, the other half of Atmosphere] don’t pressure ourselves to make a hit song. We want to make records that are good. How to make a hit song – would I know how to? Maybe I don’t have that yet. I’m a career artist and for me, I’m okay. I can be myself. There’s no fake shit.”

In 1979, a 7-year-old Sean “Slug” Daley used to take car rides with his father in Minneapolis. This is where the eventual Atmosphere member began taking note of songs on the radio. “My dad would listen to Sugar Hill Gang and Earth, Wind and Fire,” he said. “I didn’t think that was rap for me. For me when Run-DMC came out I knew that wasn’t for my dad.”

Without sports picking his interest, Slug turned to hip hop early on after discovering jams from Ice Cube and Chuck D. He became a deejay at thirteen when he wasn’t seeing rappers like X-Clan perform and eventually became a battling MC. At the time, hip-hop was a new thrill he associated himself with. “It was a peer thing,” he said of the game. “And then girls started liking it.”

Of the “girls,” one may or not be the prominent “Lucy” featured in a slew of Atmosphere songs. The recurring designation seems thematic. She is the title of an EP called Lucy Ford and Slug mentions her on almost every Atmosphere album. Speculation has left some believing the name could mean anything from his on/off again girlfriend to his dog.

When asked about this Slug claimed the moniker was not even his original idea and was actually inspired by another rapper. “Common did it with “I Used to Love H.E.R.” and I thought: That’s the ultimate metaphor – rap as a girl.”

Slug felt this sort of allegory was influential due to the hip-hop age he was bred in. “I come from the rap era when artists were ready to attack consciousness,” he said. “I used [Lucy] to do that with governmental, social issues and the music industry.”

With six studio albums as part of Atmosphere, Slug doesn’t take aim at people getting his songs on the web though. “Honestly, half these kids wouldn’t know who I am if not for the Internet. Download my shit if you got it,” he said. He just thinks it will spoil the experience of Atmosphere live.

“I would like people to wait. When you hear a record playing for three months and then see a show it can sometimes falls flat. You hear the songs so many times it’s inevitable. I would rather people get the same feeling I had when I’d see Big Daddy Kane.” When it comes to his own performances, Slug often meets up with show-goers afterwards and he says they usually have a similar reaction.

“I think our fans like us because they know what they’re getting. I’m the same asshole in real life as I am on the album. They also say I’m the same down to earth dude,” he said. Talking about his career with rap cohort, Ant, Slug added they’ve always stayed true to who they are. “We’re blessed because we can be ourselves,” he said.

For their sixth studio album called When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold slated for April 22nd, the rap duo does that with a different sound. Slug said the group wanted to make a tamer record and that the first track of fifteen sets up that tone. “We wanted to make a quieter album, and that was one of the songs that sparked it off,” he said about “Like the Rest of Us.”

But one of the wildest parts of the song list emerges on “The Waitress” track. Says Slug: “Tom Waits beatboxes on it. I’m friends with his son. We’ve known each other for quite a while now, going on five or six years. And I finally asked him, I think literally, ‘Have I known you long enough now to ask if I can get in touch with your dad? Or is that offensive?’

So, I sent him the song and asked if he’d sing the chorus. He sent it back and totally avoided the chorus, but instead beatboxed on it. And it sounds good. It worked. We kept it subtle. I didn’t want to be exploitive. I wanted to make sure it made sense musically, and I think ultimately it really did.” As per the latest release and the future, Slug said that he just wants to remain true to his art. “Whatever hits me,” he said. “That’s the song I want to make.”

Original Article

Atmosphere Videos

Atmosphere – Guarantees video

Atmosphere – Guarantees video

From the forthcoming album “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold”

Directed By Bo Hakala.

“Guarantees” is a track by the hip-hop duo Atmosphere – that’s rapper Slug (Sean Daley) and producer Ant (Anthony Davis). The song’s from their album “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold,” which dropped back in 2008.

“Guarantees” is all about diving into deep thoughts. Slug’s lyrics get real personal, talking about self-doubt, personal growth, and the unpredictable twists life throws at you. You can expect his signature storytelling style and emotional delivery that Atmosphere’s known for. The song’s got this sort of mellow and reflective vibe that tackles the ups and downs we face on life’s journey.

Atmosphere Reviews

Atmosphere – A Last Waltz for a Minnesota MC?

On Friday, October 8th, Atmosphere with guests Blueprint and P.O.S. performed at the Opera House in Toronto. As the audience packs together, shoulder to shoulder, collectively cramped and waiting, until 10:35 pm as Slug casually walks onto stage. He stands around with his black hooded sweatshirt draped over his recently grown back hair from the remnants of a bizarre Mohawk.

He presents himself in a proto-prominent stature, resembling a musical icon, and the crowd is forced into a frenzy of Atmosphere - A Last Waltz for a Minnesota MC?enthusiastic adoration. There is something unusual about the general sentiment of the show, a sort of je ne sais quas aura of finality that floats above the crowd. The congregation is immediately whirled into a hip hop dervish in that Sluggo becomes the deity of this unspoken trance-like state. At the conclusion of “God Loves Ugly” Slug looks at the audience, catching his breathe he says, “Do you guys have faith? I’m doing the best I can.” Although the majority of the audience responds with the same robotic assertiveness that can be found in a military line up, I feel the crowd generally misses the point, and does not see the underlying message of Slug’s statement.

There is something disenchanting about him asking whether we, the audience still have faith. There is something pathetic about it all, a puppy dog plea to not get forgotten among the litter, and yet the entire audience seems completely blind or indifferent to Slug’s appeal.

During the show, Slug plays mostly old material that although is better than playing material from his latest album, consistently reinforces the possibility in my mind that perhaps this is the last time I’ll be seeing Atmosphere. The show felt like a conclusion instead of a march to the future which was emphasized by the looming stench of an ending rather than the refreshing scent of a step forward.

I was able to get Slug on the phone the following Monday, and my questions were focused on that uncomfortable feeling that began during the show. Is this the end of Atmosphere? How long will Slug continue? “That’s a good question” Slug responds. “I’m going to go forever; I don’t know how long I’m going to be MCing, but even me, myself, I don’t listen to music for adults. And, how long is a 17 year old going to identify with what I’m saying. And I’ll probably not be jumping up on stage when I’m 40, but I’ll keep trying and make music. I’m still pretty confident that I’ll be playing a role in putting out quality music for kids.” With the kids in mind, it’s important to take a look at who these kids are that Slug is making music for.

Atmosphere seems to have a fan base that is dramatically noticeable as a house divided. On the one side you have the loyal fans who have been there or who favor his work from Overcast EP (1997) through his work on God Loves Ugly, however, they are still loyal to Slug for his integrity, yet are pretty darn skeptical of his work post God Loves Ugly. They are specifically ashamed of the mistake of an album, Seven’s Travels, specifically watching Slug bounce around in a long white tee in his “Trying to find a balance” video on MTV. As of 2005, I would say, give or take, this comprises about 35 percent of Atmosphere’s fan base.

The second half of Atmosphere’s fan base are the newbies, the pop punk kids of Warped Tour and the angsty emo kids who are glad someone else is conflicted about girls as much as they are. This group is very fond of crying and writing poetry, (hard emo-core poetry, mind you) and they get a real release out of watching Slug bounce around in the “Trying to find a balance” video.

Now, by all means, do your own research, this is strictly a guess from the gut, but it feels as though probably his fan base of ten kids from Minnesota who were there in the beginning, way back in the good ol’ days of 1997, are probably working at the local Tasty Burger in Minneapolis or are currently signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment. It is pretty hard to imagine that his original fans comprise Atmosphere’s fan base as of 2005.

Due to my inquisitive nature I ask Slug how he sees his fan base grow or mature through the years. This is a fairly difficult question, because the Master of Ceremonies, generally, is removed from his audience. While the MC is on stage being praised, the fan, like, myself for instance, is surrounded by the shirtless 14 year old drunk kid, with a fresh shaved head, who has convinced himself that this is not a hip hop show, let‘s say in 2005, but rather a Pearl Jam show circa ‘94 and decides to mosh during the show. It’s all fun and games for the MC, who is not standing front row center with this pre-pubescent hoodlum, so probably does not take notice of him, in any larger sense then that really enthusiastic 14 year old who confesses his love while getting his girlfriend’s t-shirt signed.

So, Slug, how has your fan base changed, I wonder. “It’s grown, that’s the only noticeable change, and with growth comes the politics of the business. You’re going to have kids that are going to be like, ‘I only liked him when I only knew about him.’ That’s just the nature of art with growth. In the end does it really matter how many records I’ve made, or have I inspired people to go out and make a better record then me? Yea the fan base has changed, but I’ve figured out a way to justify this, do I want to say the same shit to the same 50 kids that already know? Or do I want to influence the more ignorant audience who will eventually finds out about Jean Grae or Mr. Lif? Epitaph did us a favor with good distribution, I was like, put me in Warped Tour in front of these fucking pop punk kids and show them what hip hop is about.

I can’t show them what KRS One taught me, but I can tell them about myself. What’s the point of preaching to the choir? Personally, I feel if more people listen to Aesop Rock, there will be less white hat frat boy date rapers. These people are saying some really important things that people need to listen to, why do people want to clench it?”

Slug makes a valid argument. Why should he keep preaching to the choir, the “same 50 kids” as he puts it? Maybe I’m just being nostalgic of his earlier works and bitter at the little kids at shows who just discovered Atmosphere. Maybe it’s a good thing that these new kids are getting exposed to something different, but do they appreciate his work on Overcast, or Lucy Ford EP? Is Slug even nostalgic about his work on Overcast or Lucy Ford?

“I remember when I was a kid, it wasn’t mainstream and underground, it was, what was your intent? I used to get angry at LL when he would keep making songs about girls, and I would be like, ‘why did you make that”? There’s so much hip hop now, as it is now and how it was in ’97. It’ll always be the same. You have young people defining what they hate and what they love. What you choose to be interested in and what you choose to define yourself on. You have a lot of people who do that with music. When you have kids that hate on the mainstream, tell me that Outkast sucks? Then you have kids that are like, ‘fuck Aesop Rock or fuck Slug, that’s fucking nerd rap, whatever, you’re defining who you are, this is youth culture. I hated on plenty of shit when I was a kid. When I listen to rap, I listen to mostly old rap, because that’s where I was when I was forging my identity.

[When Atmosphere was coming out with Overcast] We all experienced a rush of people embracing us, because of indie hip hop. It was bigger than me, or Slug, or Atmosphere. It has nothing to do with me being a dope MC or not. It was about the time. Lucy Ford was to speak to people more my age. “Nothing But Sunshine,” the writing was sick, the beat was so so. Billy Joel is a great songwriter. I’m not a great songwriter; I just said what I needed to at the time. I’ll never be the MC that Busta Rhymes is, but I’ve learned more of how to tell a story. I know I’m a way better writer now. I know Lucy Ford and Overcast was the shit, if I can get kids to smile at the show or think it’s fresh then I’m doing my job. Representing my city, I still follow boom bap, and I still rhyme. I was never one of those dudes that said I would quit rhyming.”

Perhaps my feelings at the show were a bit off. Maybe this isn’t the end of Atmosphere. It surely is the end of Atmosphere as we know it, given by the material on his latest album You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having. I guess I’m still hoping for the day when I can see Atmosphere and think, yes, they are an “up there lyrical unit that keeps the average MC confused like a eunuch.” Those will be happy days, but until then, I will have to remember his older works for what they were, and let the new kids have fun, although, I can’t imagine how much fun they’re having. Regardless of the change of fan base and the dramatic change of his material, one thing is for sure. Where are you living these days Slug? “Minneapolis, I’ll never leave.” I think that’s one thing I’m pretty sure will never change.

Atmosphere – A Last Waltz for a Minnesota MC?

Atmosphere Reviews

Atmosphere – Seven’s Travels review

A casual observer might note how easy it looks to achieve underground stardom in 2003. Download some beats, buy a $20 mic Atmosphere - Sevens Travels reviewto plug in your soundcard, and burn your first album a week later, Illmatic 2. But Atmosphere, the most universally popular group in this subgenre by some distance, achieved their success the hard way: constant recording, long tours, and collaborations from Anticon to Def Jux. Back in 1997 on “The Outernet” Slug outlined his approach, and whether he’s reached his destination yet or not, he and Atmosphere have amassed enough support and recognition to last a lifetime.

In their consistently excellent career, last year’s God Loves Ugly was a disappointing slip-up, a tepid retread of Lucy Ford that lapsed into self-parody. A slew of excellent songs since then (“My Songs,” “Edie Brikell,” “Summer Song,” “Shhh,”) and an outstanding production display from Ant on fellow Rhymesayer Brother Ali’s Shadows on The Sun will have restored expectations ahead of Seven’s Travels, the fourth and best Atmosphere full-length.

What’s different this time around? Well for a start, the beats are simply outstanding. For too long, Slug’s been known as an emcee who makes classic songs out of mediocre beats, but Ant has shown enough flashes of brilliance over the years to suggest that maybe Slug just wasn’t picking enough of the tight shit. On Seven’s Travels, however, Ant practically takes centre-stage, with a terrific, versatile line-up of beats that range from the sparsity of drum-filled “Shoes” to the strumming, whistling and swinging fun of “National Disgrace,” perhaps the album’s best song. Even the disarmingly El-Pish first single “Cats Van Bags” is a quick grower, a straightforward banger that Slug and Brother Ali tear apart. There isn’t anything close to a weak beat on here; it’s the first Atmosphere album you could legitimately listen to just for the production.

Of course, with a guy like Slug at the helm, that’s hardly a concern anyhow. After slumming his way through God Loves Ugly with a lazy, unengaging delivery, Slug rhymes on here with energy and passion unmatched in his career (as anyone who heard “Bird Sings Why The Caged I Know” on the Epitaph compilation can attest to). Tracks like “The Keys To Life vs. 15 Minutes Of Fame” (the song titles are by the worst thing on Seven’s Travels) and “In My Continental” benefit greatly from Slug’s extra fervor on the mic, while “Denvemolorado” and “Good Times (Sick Pimpin’)” have a sing-songy laid back delivery that, coupled with Ant’s exemplary beats, add a new dimension to Atmosphere’s sound. Like Ant’s beats, Slug’s vocals have never been thought terrible, but on Seven’s Travels they’re shown to be equal to anyone’s over a whole album.

Lyrically Slug is as witty and insightful as ever, although on “In My Continental” Slug concedes he’s taken a more modes straightforward approach to lyricism this time around (no longer does “every paragraph need translation attached to it”). But once again he proves he’s one of hip-hop’s finest songwriters, whether just venting on “Trying To Find A Balance,” clowning new emcees on the short but sweet “Apple,” or ruining some girl’s night on “Shoes.” And to the list of great Slug stories we can add “Gotta Lotta Walls,” a distant cousin of the last verse of “Between The Lines;” “Lift Her Pull Her,” a melancholic evokation of young love falling apart; and “Always Coming Back Home To You,” another contender for best song, where Slug proves himself a pretty lousy criminal.

Ultimately, Seven’s Travels does just about everything right (except perhaps “Suicidegirls,” but even that has it’s charms), where every previous Atmosphere album had at least one serous flaw. From a group with so many great songs, a brilliant album is hardly a surprise, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying. Great stuff.

Atmosphere – Seven’s Travels review

Atmosphere Reviews

Atmosphere – God Loves Ugly review

Atmosphere God Loves Ugly reviewI like Slug, you know. ‘Overcast!’ was a dope album, he was really cool on there, and the EP of the same name had some great tracks as well. I really liked the Deep Puddle Dynamics album, especially his verses on there, and the ‘Se7en’ tape was great also. ANT’s beats weren’t too great, but he was improving and Slug was worth listening to over anything. ‘Lucy Ford,’ aside from a few weak songs, kept the legacy alive. But ‘God Loves Ugly’ just doesn’t do anything for me, and is a big disappointment.

There’s nothing new here, basically. The much-acclaimed ‘Modern Mans Hustle’ is too bland to hate, but it’s hard to see its attraction. Okay, ANT’s found a new sound to imitate, but the beat’s still mediocre and the rhymes are doubly unremarkable. Worse, Slug on the mic seems to have lost all momentum, phoning in his dull rhymes from somewhere close to sleep. Sadly, this brand of emo-rap takes hold of the whole album, bogging down Slug’s considerable talents. ‘Lovelife’ gives us some shallow philosophy that matches the “trite cliché” tag Slug gives it, while ‘Hair’ and ‘A Song About A Friend’ are the requisite “extra songs about women” needed on any Slug project. And if you were worried there’d be no place for the random aphoristic wisdom of, say, “Running With Scissors,” then both the title song and ‘Shrapnel’ satisfy that urge.

It all feels contrived, basically, and formulaic as hell. There are a few nice lines scattered throughout (“From the cradle to the grave, the Pampers to the Depends”) but there’s so much whining and self-absorbed crap that it hardly seems worth trudging through. Nice samples crop up every now and then (“A Girl Named Hope,” for example) but they just loop to oblivion, or get lost around ANT’s dull drumwork. For the most part ‘God Loves Ugly’ contains the worst work that Slug and company have ever done.

There are some standouts here, but you feel they’d be less notable on a stronger album. ‘Fuck You Lucy’ isn’t too creative on the writing side, but Slug wakes up for this song and his impassioned delivery raises the material to generate some interest. ‘Saves The Day’ would fare better if it didn’t recall ‘If I Was Santa Claus,’ a far superior song. Yet the beat is better than ANT’s usual contributions, the lyrics seem to hit a little harder, and it’s the best song here. ‘One of a Kind’ features Slug remembering he used to be a rapper, and also raises itself above the prevalent mediocrity, while ‘Blamegame’ has a nice dub-beat and a likeable sing-song flow from Sluggo. But it’s too little too late.

There’s a lot of people who like ‘God Loves Ugly,’ and it’s certainly an album designed to make people like it, but it just doesn’t come together. There are no moments of inspiration on the LP, nothing that we’ve never heard before, and nothing to justify the reputation that Slug’s earlier releases earned. ‘God Love Ugly’ is simply the new Atmosphere album, never more or less.

Atmosphere – God Loves Ugly review