Imagine how many cigarettes, beers, tour dates, international flights, all-night drives, backstage shenanigans, countless hours in a van, low-budget hotel rooms, notebooks filled with lyrics and endless hours of recording sessions have been consumed, experienced and sustained by Atmosphere over the course eight years?
Let’s count to eight.
Remember 1997, the year beginning the next phase of independent rap artists and a new era of imprint-based record labels with the major label exploitation; the dividing period of: Mos Def, Jay Z, Company Flow and 2 Pac. Our story begins at this time in Minneapolis, MN. Eight years ago, when Atmosphere released their debut album Overcast!, on the artist’s collectively owned Rhymesayers label. Slug, Ant, with then member Spawn, delivered the premier staple album defining Minnesota Hip Hop. It would introduce a small audience to Midwest rap, not music from New York or California, but Minneapolis, MN. Atmosphere, a group built on Hip Hop principles influenced from the pioneering years of rap music, but with their own personal, honest and original mid-western contribution.
A year had passed and Atmosphere’s song, Scapegoat, received national play on college radio and mix tape support in: Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Atmosphere was becoming discovered outside of the Twin Cities; the secret was out. During this time, both Slug and Ant were also involved in one of independent rap’s first underground super groups, The Dynospectrum (Slug, I Self Devine, Ant, Musab, Gene Poole), and had featured tracks on Industrial Warfare (volume six of the legendary Headshots four-track cassette series). For Atmosphere, 1998 was a year of collaborations (including recording Deep Puddle Dynamics) and a year well spent crafting their live performance at venues like First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry.
In 1999, a year that brought one of Prince’s songs back heavily on the airwaves and made Eminem a rap icon, Atmosphere created the final Headshots cassette, Headshots: SE7EN. The four-track recorded tape contained, Abusing The Rib- Atmosphere’s classic ode to Hip Hop. The fan base slightly expanded throughout the central time zone, with Atmosphere beginning to tour (with DJ Abilities and Eyedea) to: Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Texas.
Ford One and Ford Two, the vinyl singles released through Fat Beats, included such songs as, Party For The Fight To Write, Woman With The Tattooed Hands and Nothing But Sunshine. With these two pieces of wax, Atmosphere began to break down the regional Midwest barriers. It was in the year 2000, that Atmosphere increased their travels with the twenty-date Ford One Tour that brought them to the East coast for the first time. Without a solid distribution system, and remaining on the independent path with their co-owned Rhymesayers label, Atmosphere’s approach to bring their music to the people was decided- in a van, on the road, one show at a time selling the music hand to hand.
In the winter of 2001, the Ford EP’s were combined to create the second official Atmosphere album, Lucy Ford, the only Slug and Ant album with external production: El P, Jel, Moodswing 9. This was the year Atmosphere took to the road heavier than ever performing on three separate tours: Ford Two Tour, Who Killed The Robots Tour and Fill In The Blanks Tour (with Mr. Dibbs for the first time). Atmosphere had now performed throughout North America and Europe. The circle was developing steadily and album sales increased with endless time spent living in a van. It had been four years, but kids were starting to know the words to the songs.
The sixth year of Slug and Ant’s career produced, God Loves Ugly, the third Atmosphere album. God Loves Ugly, which was licensed through Fat Beats, would go on to sell over 130,000 copies in the U.S. Festivals in England, Denmark and Sweden, tours as far from home as Japan, sold out release parties coast to coast and their biggest tour to date (sixty shows in seventy-one days), Atmosphere finally had distribution to support their exhaustive touring schedule. This was 2002, a year that brought: Interscope, Sony, Warner Brothers and a slew of other major labels to the table offering anything and everything to Atmosphere. There’s a rule that states, it takes five years to become successful. For Slug and Ant, it was becoming a well-earned reality.
The year was now 2003, and Atmosphere released their third album in three years, making the conscious decision to remain independent by licensing the album through legendary punk label Epitaph. The album, Seven’s Travels would go on to sell over 150,000 copies in the U.S alone, putting Atmosphere at the top of the niche underground-independent rap genre. From all-night drives to play in front of only twenty- five people, to multiple sold outs shows at: First Ave. in Minneapolis, MN, The Fillmore in San Francisco, Chicago at The Metro, Irving Plaza in New York, Emos in Austin, TX, Seattle, WA at The Showbox and Los Angeles at Henry Fonda Theatre, Atmosphere has continued to grow, staying true to early indie, D.I.Y ethics and their original grass roots approachj.
The seventh year of Atmosphere’s career (2004) was once again spent on the road; a live television appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, an interview on the nationally syndicated radio program Love Line, a live performance at the Coachella music festival, European tour spanning across the continent, spot date performances throughout North America and Van’s Warped Tour for the second year in a row. When it was all said and done, there were well over two hundred tour dates performed for the Seven’s Travels album. This would be the first autumn Atmosphere would take off since 1999.
In January of 2005, Rhymesayers reissued Headshots: SE7EN on CD and vinyl, seven years after its original cassette-only release. Atmosphere celebrated this re-release with eight shows at the 7th Street Entry. In the eighth year of their career, Atmosphere sold out all eight shows in a row beating the original (five) sold out shows held by the Replacements in 1986. Just days after the Entry performances, Atmosphere toured with the Big Day Out festival in New Zealand and Australia. Starting March 1 in Madison, WI Slug hit the road in the U.S for their two-month tour that sold out forty-nine of the fifty-two shows. The summer months of 2005 were spent putting the final touches on the new Atmosphere album, You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having, Slug and Ant’s greatest recorded effort to date.
On this album, Atmosphere's Slug and Ant have upped their game yet again and brought their music back to where they drew their influences from in the first place. While the previous Atmosphere outings have carved them a niche of their own, this album is simultaneously a progression and a throwback. Slug's rhymes on this record have more in common with old LL Cool J and Run DMC than they do with some of Atmosphere's contemporaries to whom they are often compared. Ant's production on this record is by far his most complex and powerful work to date, creating a solid and cohesive overall album. Paying tribute to those that influence you, while evolving the art form at the same time is a difficult task, one in which Atmosphere pulls off without a hitch, without a hint of irony or a trace of insincerity.
How much fun has Atmosphere had over eight years time? Imagine all the cigarettes, beers, tour dates, international flights, all-night drives, backstage shenanigans, countless hours in a van, low-budget hotel rooms, notebooks filled with lyrics and endless hours of recording sessions to get here. Imagine hearing the album on October 4, 2005. Now the fun begins… you can only imagine…
Interview by hstisgod
Lurking just below the “artistic” world of one beat party anthems that rule our radio world, down below the ceiling of popularity is Atmosphere . Exploding in such a manner too vivid for words describe.
Meet Sean Daley aka Slug , lyricist for the underground hip hop formation known as Atmosphere. Equally as talented are Mr. Dibbs the turntablist, and producer Ant who round out the trio. Rhyme Sayers entertainment, an independent record company is their home away from the road. Over the last few years as the following has built for this genre, all the major record companies have been courting this Minnesota based act. Always sticking true to their independent roots, they have shunned and stunned most with their thanks, but no thanks attitude toward signing with a conglomerate. With loud drunk women in the background and an impending show to perform, Sean took the time to talk a little about their refusal to sign. “If I was just another guy putting out records on an indie label, I could probably still be frustrated with what’s going on. But I’m in a position to have a little more control over the direction I go. The next step is to take our label and make it the way that other labels don’t make it. So that cats are never frustrated with us, the way you could be frustrated with your major or your indie label.”
Brother Ali, Micranots and Soul Position are just a few artists that Rhyme Sayers Entertainment have been snatching up, making sure there are still some artists out there touring for reasons of passion. “That’s always been our goal, not to just provide an outlet to put our own shit out, but to help other cats get their shit out, and let them realize what they want to do. Without giving them the stress other labels might give them”. Interestingly enough the one listener who will least likely enjoy Atmosphere is your everyday commercial hip hop or rap listener. I asked Sean if he thought plastic would be a good description for this type of fan. “I don’t know, it’s a matter of taste. I wouldn’t say plastic, I’m not going to take anything away from what another rapper has to say, but its just more so depends on what mood you’re in. You get the same kid who likes Jay-Z and you feed him a bunch of mushrooms, and play my record for him, he might enjoy it. I have a better understanding of how and why people use their music. The majority of people use their music to feel better”.
With the rise of a new record ‘Sevens Travels’, Rhyme Sayers Entertainment has decided to split distribution with the punk flavored Epitaph Records. As we all know, with more fans usually comes a wave of betrayal felt by fans of old. Sean had some advice for those fans who might feel bitter about Atmosphere’s new found fan base. “I’d pretty much tell them to grow up, and don’t worry about it. If you found a cure to a disease would you only share it with your friends?” As the Bill Board 200 is filled to the brim with artist genre so vast and diverse you kind of wonder what these artists listen to themselves. Sean mentioned some of his latest favorites. “There’s this band from out here (N.Y.) called T.V. on the Radio that I’m really into right now, and they kind of sound like Bjork meets Peter Gabriel. Mars Volta, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, and Barry White“.
With the loss of 2 Pac, Kurdt Cobain, and all those hippie rockers from the drug decade known as the seventies, It’s never been more evident than now that music is missing a voice of realism. Settling for repetitive self empathetic love songs that belong to only one heart has become a full-time habit. Wit and entertainment is perhaps the most notable reasoning for Atmosphere's continued rise in the music industry. The backbone of this group has been the constant yearn to entertain their fans with normal everyday conscious thoughts and beats. But what’s the backbone and message of the music itself? “The revolution has to start personally. You cant save the world or even your block until you save yourself. Cats need to quit separating themselves from each other when they’re all kind of on the same team. Everybody that’s got a foot on their neck right now should look around at all the other people with feet on their neck, and realize well were on the same fuckin' page. We need to realize we’re all a bunch of like-minded motherfuckers trying to get the same shit. But how do you say that to a bunch of 16 year olds. You can't even tell a 16 year old to vote.”