Atmosphere drops The Family Sign returns to boulder for SoldOut Show

:: Atmosphere ::
:: Fox Theatre :: May 17 ::

By Matt Treon


Minneapolis indie-rap titans Atmosphere, in support of their first full-length album in three years, are bringing it to a soldout Fox Theatre.

Well out of their gestation years (it’s been over a decade since the Overcast! EP first hit the streets), the band undeniably maintains the frenzied following that helped launch them into almost immediate underground success.

With the music industry experiencing exponential changes in the last decade, and many bands struggling to change with the times, Atmosphere seems to have had unwavering success, even growing their fan base, consistently selling out shows and consistently selling records. And Atmosphere, stalwarts of the indie-rap world, have done so largely because of their willingness to tour almost relentlessly.

In a recent conversation with The Marquee Atmosphere frontman Sean “Slug” Daley talked about how the band once drove all the way from Minneapolis to Dallas, Texas to play a show for only $250.   “I have never regretted driving anywhere for a show. I don’t stop. Not sure what I would do if I did stop. Gardening maybe?,” Slug said.

The core of the group still consists of producer Anthony “Ant” Davis, known for his maven beat-building abilities, and the master storyteller Slug, (in)famous for his smartassedness, self-deprecating introspection, humor, and a lyrical delivery style that struts between breathless urgency and effortless raps. Slug’s rhymes often bounce between insightful observation and authentic old-school wordplay, and even occasional moments of straight-up shit-talking are laced with sharp emotional counterpoint.

Slug’s notable rapping abilities even earned him a shout-out in the highly acclaimed The Anthology of Rap (Yale University Press), co-edited by CU professor Adam Bradley, a scholar of African-American literature and a writer on black popular culture, and Andrew Du Bois, a specialist in twentieth-century American poetry. “It was quite the honor. As an artist, you can’t wish for much more than to be documented in history,” Slug said.

Even with such an induction into the canonical ranks of hip-hop, Atmosphere continues to push the boundaries of the genre. Whether by the very nature of marketing, or the categorizing needs of hip, PBR-wielding music aficionados, people have, from the get-go, attempted to box in Atmosphere with terms like experimental hip-hop, avant-garde rap, or even emo-rap. But the band has always managed to fight off the sutured confines of these portmanteau terms. (Even in his listening habits, Slug draws from a wide variety of sources.)

Atmosphere has been employing the full  band setup for a few years now, but this element — which sees Nate Collins on guitar and Erick Anderson on keyboards — has been pushed even more with their latest album, The Family Sign. “We change it up and do things different with every album,” said Slug. “With The Family Sign album, [the writing]was 100% collaborative.”

The Family Sign, released on Rhymesayers Entertainment (the independent hip-hop label based in Minneapolis, co-founded by Slug  and Ant), shows a looser music styling — textured with swaggering guitar riffs and expansive keyboards — than on past Atmosphere albums, and lyrical content that has Slug, known for giving as little of a fuck as possible, taking a new approach to his life and his rhymes — an approach that doesn’t leave much room for not giving a fuck. Ant also took a minimalistic approach to the beats on the new album, creating an almost uncomfortable intimacy between the listener and Slug’s nearly Kierkegaardian approach to self-analysis/self-questioning. The track “Millennium Dodo” starts out with a couplet where Slug states, “I only act like an asshole/ Why don’t ch’y’all stand back, let the man grow.” And it’s with this lack of his usual sardonic edge that Slug explores themes of growing up, not as a young male, but rather as a family man/father (hence the album’s title).

As a confessed compulsive notetaker, a signature element of Slug’s style that remains (even if not as prominent as usual) is his detail-rich narrative technique. Now permeating a world which is often adventurous because of its intense banality, with declarations of warm sympathy for working-class heroes/antiheroes — especially those raising kids — Slug’s lyrics serve as a study in a man confronting that which he’s not necessarily proud of about himself, and weighing the potential consequences that not changing might have on the people around him he loves.

In Slug’s case, this growth and experience is a two-sided coin: “With the position our band is in, and logistically, it’s easier to tour nowadays. I have a great team, and we get the job done right. But as a human who’s becoming more family focused, it is becoming more difficult. I miss my kids. I miss my wife. I miss my cats. I miss my yard.”

:: Atmosphere ::

:: Fox Theatre :: May 17 ::


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