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Photo at McDonald Theater by Eric Woodall
Photo at McDonald Theater by Eric Woodall

Atmosphere, from the Twin Cities to the McDonald Theater on 3/6/2019 - Review

By C. FRANCIS O’LEARY // Though they didn’t stray away from playing songs about death or failure, Atmosphere's tone was one of acceptance; maybe in the past they’ve had a rough go of it, but they made it here tonight and that’s a cause for celebration.

Slug (Sean Daley) and Ant (Anthony Davis), the MC and DJ that constitute Atmosphere, have been performing together since 1996. This week, they brought the energy that has sustained them through almost two and a half decades of independent hip-hop and performed in front of a sold-out crowd at the McDonald Theater in Eugene as part of their Mi Vida Local tour.

The Minneapolis locals haven’t remained independent on accident. The year they met, they partnered with several other Twin Cities musicians to found Rhymesayers Entertainment, an indie hip-hop record label. Since then, Atmosphere has made a national name for itself through tireless touring and consistently improving their craft.

Atmosphere’s first release, Overcast!, was released nearly 22 years ago.  A lot has changed in hip-hop and in Ant and Slug’s lives. The creative control Rhymesayers has allowed Atmosphere to have over their music has led to the band addressing themes that aren’t too common in hip-hop. At times throughout their discography you can find songs about the struggle of the rap game, womanizing, and being the best in the city, yes, but there are others about feeling inadequate and the fear of mediocrity. Later still, more emotional songs were released: “Flicker” a song about the passing of friend and labelmate Eyedea, or “Next To You,” a song about keeping the fire alive with your wife when you’re raising three kids. Last October, Atmosphere released their ninth LP, Mi Vida Local.

The heart and introspection brought to recent albums is equally present in the newest release. Mi Vida Local can come across as being a very anxious album at times, with lines such as, “I might be the last generation of grandparents,” aided by the beats that have the tempo and mood of a drifter in a western’s theme song. The anxiety always comes across as being a well grounded assessments of the human condition. Slug’s hope and humor shine through just as often; the song Mijo is all about the joy of watching your children grow. Ant’s ability to set a mood with a beat is equally important in projecting the feeling of coming to know yourself better every day and enjoying your work while facing an uncertain future. Featured on the album are fellow Rhymesayers founding member Musab, The Dynospectrum, Cashinova, and The Lioness and deM atlaS, both of whom accompany Atmosphere on this tour.

As ticketholders trickled into the McDonald Theater, they were first treated to a set by DJ Keezy. Keezy then went on to DJ for The Lioness who, true to her name, brought an aggressive energy to the stage. Following The Lioness was deM atlaS, a veteran of a previous tour with Atmosphere in 2016. Opening with a cover of a metal song that had him springing across the stage doing jump kicks, deM pumped the crowd up with songs from his recently released, first EP.

By the time Atmosphere took to the stage, the crowd was packed, and everyone was ready to party. The work Atmosphere has put in touring the globe together multiple times showed in their precision and ease on stage. Those familiar with their song noticed adlibs and improvisations beyond the standard addition of the name of the town they’re playing in. Though they didn’t stray away from playing songs about death or failure, the tone was one of acceptance; maybe in the past they’ve had a rough go of it, but they made it here tonight and that’s a cause for celebration. Slug’s ease on stage translated to banter with the crowd, including jabs about how his fan base is aging with him. “I’m just glad there was enough child care for y’all to make it here tonight.” Over the nearly hour and a half they had the stage, Atmosphere performed songs from each of their EPs and most LPs, ensuring no one left without hearing their favorite, and, overall, providing a great show.

Those unfamiliar with Atmosphere can pick up any of their albums for a similar but distinct sound. They would be at home on a playlist among the likes of other Rhymesayers such as Aesop Rock or Brother Ali or fellow indie hip hop veteran and record label founder, Sage Francis. Lyrically, Slug’s wit compares to that of Childish Gambino, and Ant’s producing is as tight as El-P’s.

Atmosphere can be followed on social media at @atmosphere. Their album Mi Vida Local can be listened to on all streaming services or purchased wherever vinyl is sold.

Set list:



Shoulda Known

Say Hey There


Fuck You, Lucy/Pour Me Another

Kanye West

God Loves Ugly

The Abusing of the Rib



Modern Man’s Hustle

Guns and Cigarettes

The Best Day


The Waitress


Little Man


God’s Bathroom Floor

Love Life



Always Coming Back Home to You

Drown (feat. deM atlaS & The Lioness)

Trying to Find a Balance


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