Atmosphere (music group)

Atmosphere (music group)

Atmosphere at Warehouse Live in Houston, TX in 2006
Background information
Origin Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Genres Alternative hip hop, indie hip hop
Years active 1989 – present
Labels Rhymesayers/Warner, Epitaph, Fat Beats
Associated acts Sab the Artist, Murs, P.O.S, Eyedea & Abilities, Blueprint, Living Legends, Aesop Rock, Brother Ali, Sage Francis, Grieves, MF Doom, Evidence, Mac Lethal, Doomtree, Felt
Website Atmosphere at MySpace
Past members

Atmosphere is an American hip hop group from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The group is composed of rapper Slug (Sean Daley) and DJ/Producer Ant (Anthony Davis). Atmosphere has been a driving force in Twin Cities hip hop and Independent Hip-hop for over 20 years.[citation needed]



The two members of the group are Sean Daley, who raps under the name "Slug", and Anthony Davis, who produces the music for Atmosphere under the name "Ant". With the exception of a few tracks on the album Lucy Ford, Ant has produced every Atmosphere record. Former member and co-founder Spawn (Derek Turner, now going by the name "Rek The Heavyweight") left the group after the release of the group's first album Overcast!. Mr. Dibbs, a DJ associated with the group, toured with Atmosphere prior to their You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having tour, at which point Ant began touring.



In high school, Sean Daley met soon-to-be close friend Brent Sayers. The two took the names Slug and Siddiq/Stress, respectively, as rapper names. They initially performed under the name "Mental Subjects", before changing the name to "A Rhythmic Culture", and finally settling on "Urban Atmosphere". Originally, Spawn performed as the rapper, with Slug acting as DJ. Eventually Spawn convinced Slug to start rapping as well. Through rapper Musab (then known as Beyond), Slug was introduced to producer Ant after they went to his house to record a track. Slug saw an opportunity in working with Ant and convinced Spawn to record further with him. They soon started recording songs with Ant, learning how to structure songs properly and practicing vocal delivery.[1] Eventually the group dropped the "Urban" from their name, going by just "Atmosphere".

Atmosphere, as a group, joined with other rappers Musab, Phull Surkle, Black Hole, and The Abstract Pack to form a collective known as Headshots. This group later evolved into the label Rhymesayers. Over time, a series of cassettes were released under the "Headshots" name and garnered some local acclaim; enough so that even as early as 1996, Slug, Stress and Musab were making national appearances such as on NPR's All Things Considered.[2] The start of Rhymesayers as a record label came when Siddiq, fed up with their treatment at a number of local studios, decided to buy his own.[3]

Overcast! (1997)

Spawn left the group right as their first album Overcast! was released, citing a "lack of desire to continue in a pursuit that seemed so insurmountable" (he had also planned to move to Houston, TX with his wife, Avril Karam).[1] The release of Overcast! allowed audiences outside of the Twin Cities to be introduced to Atmosphere, mostly with the airplay that the single "Scapegoat" received on college radio stations. Meanwhile, Slug honed his live performance skills at Minneapolis clubs such as First Avenue and 7th Street Entry. 1998 saw the recording of two albums by underground rap supergroups. The first, The Dynospectrum, involved Atmosphere as well as Beyond (Musab), Swift (of Phull Surkle) and I Self Divine. The second, Deep Puddle Dynamics, was an effort put forth by Oakland, CA-based underground rap label Anticon, and featured Slug, Sole, Alias and Doseone rapping over beats by Jel.

Ford and Lucy Ford (2000-2001)

Now touring nationally on a more regular basis (the twenty-one date Ford One Tour brought them to the East Coast for the first time),[4] Slug was able to quit his job at a record store, as well as a second job working overnight shifts at a department store. The year 2000 also saw the opening of the Rhymesayers-owned record store The Fifth Element in Minneapolis. In 2001, the two EPs, Ford and Lucy, were combined and released as an LP titled Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs. Originally intended as a tour-only release, it sold so well that it was later released as an official LP (making it the only Atmosphere album featuring producers other than Ant).[5] Atmosphere returned to the road in 2001 with three separate tours straddling North America and Europe.[4] With Lucy Ford, Atmosphere also finally achieved national distribution through independent distributor Fat Beats.

God Loves Ugly (2002)

Atmosphere planned to release their second studio album God Loves Ugly on June 11, 2002, but experienced delays in editing. The record featured more straightforward, almost battle-centric, lyrics from Slug. The record was distributed nationally again through Fat Beats and would go on to sell over 130,000 copies.[4] The album generated two singles: "Modern Man's Hustle" and "GodLovesUgly". Atmosphere toured extensively in support of this record, going as far as Europe and Japan, playing sixty shows in seventy-one days.[4] The success of the album and subsequent tours got the attention of major labels Interscope, Sony and Warner Brothers. However, for the time, Atmosphere decided to stay independent.

Seven's Travels (2003)

Atmosphere's third full-length studio album, Seven's Travels, was released on September 23 through Rhymesayers and punk label Epitaph. It contained two singles, "Trying To Find A Balance" and "National Disgrace", both of which had music videos that received airplay on MTV2 and other stations, garnering Atmosphere more attention and success than previous releases. The album had one guest appearance from label mate Brother Ali and was entirely produced by Ant. Several songs on Seven's Travels contain lyrics pertaining to relationship problems, alcohol, and depression.

The album cover for Seven's Travels was interpreted by some as an homage to The Beatles' White Album. However, that was not the case; the original planned cover depicted a nude woman lying in snow. However, during a tour to support the release of the album, a young girl was raped at a show in Albuquerque. Because of this the album cover was changed shortly before the albums release.

You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having (2005)

Released in 2005, Atmosphere's fourth album You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having was a departure from the sound of the previous two albums. Though production were once again handled entirely by Ant, the sound and lyrical content of the album was featured a more "raw" style than Godlovesugly and Seven's Travels. Reviews were generally positive, with Stylust saying "The result may be, in a manner of speaking, the most consistent Atmosphere album to date."[6] The opening track "The Arrival" appeared on EA Sports' Fight Night Round 3.

The Seasons EP's and Strictly Leakage (2007-2008)

To hold fans over while Slug and Ant put the finishing touches on their upcoming LP When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, Atmosphere released four EPs as continuations of the "Sad Clown Bad Dub" series. These were Sad Clown Bad Summer 9, Sad Clown Bad Fall 10, Sad Clown Bad Winter 11, and Sad Clown Bad Spring 12. The EPs were popular in the Minneapolis area due many references to local ares, such as songs titled after streets in the area ("66th street", "Lyndale Avenue"). The song "Sunshine", from the Bad Summer EP, was released as a single. Despite not having a music video or any promotion, the song later became popular among the band's core fan base, eventually becoming a staple in live shows.

After the EPs, the group also released the free album Strictly Leakage in late 2007.

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (2008)

In 2008 Atmosphere released When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, their first official album release after Seven's Travels. The release marked a departure from the past production style of previous album, with producer Ant incorporating live instrumentation[7] into the music (rather than relying solely on samples and drum machines). The lyrical content of the songs shifted as well, with Slug writing more songs featuring fictional stories and anecdotes from the viewpoints of other people (as opposed to from his own point of view, as previously).[8]

Leak at Will (2009)

Between the release of When Life Gives You Lemons and To All My Friends, Atmosphere released another free EP in 2009 called Leak At Will, featuring seven original tracks.[9] Similar to Strictly Leakage, the EP was intended to tide over fans until the release of their next album.

To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy: The Atmosphere EP's (2010)

A combination of EPs, the album To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy: The Atmosphere EP's was released in September 2010. The album shot up to #2 on iTunes top 10 album downloads during the week of September 11, 2010.[10][11] The album was favourably reviewed, with some reviews comparing it to the Lucy Ford LP.

The Family Sign (2011)

After 2010’s double EP, Atmosphere returned with their first full-length album in three years.[12] The Family Sign was released in 2011, and is Atmosphere's sixth studio album. Continuing the trend of recent albums, The Family Sign features more instrumentation, and is also the first album to feature actual band members. Keyboardist Erick Anderson and guitarist Nate Collis, part of the touring band for Atmosphere (who perform live renditions of songs that are normally sampler/drum machine produced), were brought in to help record the album, leading to a much different sound than previous album.[12]


Slug credits most of group's success to large amount of touring the group does. In the early days of the group, they once drove from Minneapolis to Dallas to play a show for $250.[7]

During 2005's 8 nights in a row at the legendary 7th St. Entry, the "Big Day Out" in Australia and the '@ it again' tour, Atmosphere was accompanied by a live band, featuring Nate Collis on guitar, Brett Johnson on bass, Erick Anderson on keyboards and Patrick Armitage on drums. Patrick (Drums) was replaced in late 05' by Brian McLeod for the "Pour Me Another" tour. The live setup brought a jazzy, more improvisational feel to Atmosphere's sound. Slug has said he wanted to play with a live band to add more of a challenge to playing live. Atmosphere has been playing with a live band since at least 2001, and this can be heard on Sad Clown Bad Dub III.

As of the Paint Your City Gold series of "release parties" in support of When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, the live band has been re-rostered with Ant laying down the percussion as DJ, Nate Collis on guitar and back up vocals, Erick Anderson on keyboards and synths & Mankwe Ndosi as the 'human samples.'

In Spring 2009, Atmosphere embarked on the "When God Gives You Ugly" tour to celebrate the re-release of 2002's God Loves Ugly (which had been out of print) as well as their latest studio LP When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Slug & Ant were accompanied by Attracted To Gods, P.O.S, Brother Ali, as well as Eyedea & Abilities during the tour.

During Summer 2010, Atmosphere announced their plans for another tour titled the "To All My Friends" tour. It would be accompanied by special guests: Blueprint, Grieves & Budo and DJ Rare Groove.[11]

Lyrical content

A prominent theme in Slug's lyrics is his allegorical usage of women, especially in his earlier work. A notable use of women by Slug is in the song "Woman with the Tattooed Hands", which Slug has said is "a metaphor for that same old shit that everybody has already made songs about. Just trying to find your place within a belief and faith as well as people that you want to have sex with.".[13] Further uses come in the form of the song "Abusing of the Rib" from Headshots: SE7EN: it has been said that the "lover" that Slug speaks of is actually an allegory for hip-hop. The tour-only release Sad Clown Bad Dub II saw Slug use a great degree of both symbolism and metaphor with notable references to nature and relationships throughout each song, culminating heavily in the album's penultimate track "The River".

A character whom Slug refers to as "Lucy", who has been purported to be a symbolisation of a range of different entities, is the most notable of these allegories. In earlier Atmosphere songs, it is believed that Slug used Lucy as a means of writing about ex-girlfriends. Lucy became so prominent that Atmosphere's 2001 album bore her name, Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs, with the record itself concentrating fairly heavily on women and relationships, in songs such as "Don't Ever Fucking Question That" and "Mama Had A Baby And His Head Popped Off". The song "Fuck You Lucy" from God Loves Ugly has been said to deal with Slug's dependency on alcohol. Slug himself has since said of Lucy that he originally believed "her" to be a representation of the dichotomy between himself and women. He acknowledges now that Lucy became a demonization ("Lucy Ford" being a play on words for Lucifer) of himself and his dependency on alcohol, drugs, sex and validation.[14]

Slug raps in a very introspective style, as seen on the song "Little Man", in which he confronts the complaints that people have about him by looking at his relationship with his father and son.[15] This introspective style has become less prevalent as of Atmosphere's 2008 album When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold in which Slug navigates through other people's lives.[15] When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold has been noted to be more of a dark album than previous efforts. Slug maintains the allegorical stance from previous records in songs such as "Your Glasshouse" which deals with his emotions towards the war in Iraq using the guise of a person waking up from a hangover.

Slug also dislikes some of the songs that he wrote before and does not perform them live, such as "Vampires" from 2002 album God Loves Ugly.[16] Daley has stated: "[...] when I did get my phase of trying to figure myself out, there was a lot of tug-of-war inside of me between wanting to hate a particular woman and then feeling guilty about that. And there’s certain songs that I won’t perform anymore, because the game of tug-of-war is over and I know where I’m at.[17] Furthermore, Slug has criticised Atmosphere's debut album Overcast! saying: "It's obvious that I’m trying so fucking hard on Overcast and you can see through it and tell it's not a person it's more of an attempt at trying to fill the niche, it was like I was trying to prove to myself that I was a rapper." [15]


Slug has also released three albums with Murs from the West Coast hip hop group Living Legends. The idea for Felt: A Tribute to Christina Ricci, their first album as a duo, came about while on tour.[18] The two decided to see if they could garner some extra media attention for Ricci by dedicating their album to her, although according to Slug, Ricci has never responded to this or contacted the band.[19] This debut studio album was produced by The Grouch from Living Legends.

Their second collaboration, Felt, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet, produced by Ant, was released in 2005.

Their third Felt album was announced on the duo's MySpace page, leaking the track "Protagonists" from the album and announcing the title ("A Tribute to Rosie Perez"), the release date (11.17.09) and the producer, Aesop Rock.

Slug has also been featured on albums by C-Rayz Walz, CunninLynguists, Brother Ali, Eyedea & Abilities, Evidence, Aesop Rock, Unknown Prophets, KRS-One, Oddjobs, Vakill, DoseOne, Jel, P.O.S., X-Ecutioners, Kanser, Blueprint, Heiruspecs, Jean Grae, Parallel Thought, Static & Nat Ill, DJ Vadim, Booka B, El-P, DOOM, Roosevelt Franklin, Grayskul, Minnesota indie rock band Lifter Puller, Cool-Aide (iCON the Mic King & Chum), Anomaly, AKA Jason Heinrichs and several Living Legends albums as well as Living Legends solo projects such as The CMA.

Studio Discography


See also


  1. ^ a b Can't You Imagine Atmosphere Having Fun? MVRemix Urban Interviews Slug of Atmosphere. November, 2005
  2. ^ Rhyme out of joint City Pages. July 5, 2000.
  3. ^ One Nation Invisible City Pages. August 18, 2004.
  4. ^ a b c d [1], Music Emissions Atmosphere Bio
  5. ^ [2], The Fifth Element of Hip-Hop - Synthesis
  6. ^ "Atmosphere - You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having - Review". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  7. ^ a b [3], HipHopDX Interview with Atmosphere. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  8. ^ Khanna, Vish."Atmosphere’s Lemon Aid", Exclaim!, May 2008.
  9. ^ "Free Atmosphere Ep "Leak At Will" - Myspace-Blog | Van Atmosphere". 2004-11-05. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  10. ^ “”. "Atmosphere - To All My Friends". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  11. ^ a b "Rhymesayers Entertainment :: Atmosphere". 2010-09-07. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ Posted by MVRemix. "Slug (Atmosphere) Interview | MVRemix Urban". Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  14. ^ Sarah Marie Pittman (2009-02-24). "Atmosphere’s Slug Gets Real About Lucy Ford | Pollstar - The Concert Hotwire". Pollstar. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  15. ^ a b c "Interview: Slug of Atmosphere". 2008-10-20. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  16. ^ Gillespie, Blake. "Minneapolis is Rhymesayers | Longtail". Impose Magazine. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  17. ^ "Atmosphere: More than a Feeling". XLR8R. 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  18. ^ "Felt". Rhymesayers Entertainment. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  19. ^ Wiley, M. (2003-10-10). "IGN Interview, Page 3". IGN. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 

External links

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