Words and photos by Michael Silver
Hip-hop luminaries and Midwest veterans of the game, Atmosphere, made their way out West to San Diego, Calif. this past week. The dynamic duo consisting of (MC) Slug and (DJ) Ant hailing from Minneapolis brought a cool and calm demeanor to the Observatory North Park stage, on a shockingly cold winter night.
Before they hit the road, fans were pleasantly surprised in December when the group quietly dropped their 7th studio album, Whenever.
Now in the midst of “The Wherever North American Tour” spanning nationwide, the rap ensemble put together a diverse 90-minute setlist with new cuts, old jams, and a bit of everything in between.
The show began with a new single “Bde Maka Ska,” the name also being the largest lake in Minneapolis. A melodic guitar groove bounced through the speakers as the sold-out crowd began to vibe along. Known for his sultry lyricism and delivery, Slug brought energy to the stage and rapped about the daily struggles of life.
“The Loser Wins” and “Shoulda Known” followed, giving a glimpse of their deep discography and how they seamlessly zig zagged between projects all night.
Settling in with the laidback Southern California crowd, Atmosphere played back-to-back classics with “Onemosphere” and “F’@k You Lucy,” both coming from God Loves Ugly. The pioneering emo rap album was released in 2002, putting their name and the Rhymesayers record label on the proverbial map.
Later in the night, production guru Ant dropped the needle on “Carry Me Home.” Part of their Sad Clown Bad Spring mixtape series, the Gil Scott-Heron sampled track offers the 70’s soul and jazz esthetic we have come to love. Slug’s storytelling abilities mixed with Ant’s deep dive sonic arrangements allow the hip-hop group to stand out like no other.
Another new song, “Postal Lady” was featured midway through the evening. It tells a tale of Slug’s infatuation with a new mail delivery employee in his neighborhood.
Something also worth noting for this tour: Atmosphere hand selected their opening acts, all being female artists. The Lioness, Nikki Jean, and DJ Keezy offered unique set ups and styles earlier in the night. Jean would later come out to perform on “Lovely,” giving another taste of her sticky vocals.
With the stage lights going dark, a red spotlight illuminated the master of ceremonies. A simple guitar chord would play as “Virgo” began. Slug took us on a ride of living on the road and struggling to balance family life. The conviction in his voice made it emotional and profound.
Taking it back to 1997, “Gods Bathroom Floor” provided a glimpse of what life was like during the group’s adolescence. Drug use and depression, common themes found throughout Slug’s lyrics, backed by Ant’s keyboard and horn section beats had fans in a trance.
As the evening winded down, the group took a brief intermission. For the encore, Minnesota’s finest brought another gem out to play. “Always Coming Back Home to You” began as the crowd got hyped once more. From their commercial smash album Seven’s Travels, the song brings audiences on a journey through their eyes. Cold winter months, mischief, and family drama. “Took a right on Lyndale I’m getting near. But then the road became empty and the people disappeared,” Slug raps.
On this chilly night, a pair of middle America hip-hop heads brought us back to simpler times. When the music kept you sane and provided an escape, wherever that place may be.
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