Hip-hop heroes still hyping Midwest underground

Atmosphere performs Sunday, Jan. 15 at the Granada.
Atmosphere performs Sunday, Jan. 15 at the Granada. BETH SARAVO

Minnesota-based duo Atmosphere has given voice to disaffected fans of underground hip-hop for 20 years. Creative beat-maker Anthony “Ant” Davis and acerbic rapper Sean “Slug” Daley are patron saints of outsiders and outcasts who appreciate hearing their concerns and grievances articulated in rhyme.

Beginning with the churlish statement of purpose “Overcast!” in 1997, Atmosphere became one of the funniest, smartest and most irascible acts in hip-hop history. In spite of the ruinous self-deprecation of tracks like “Trying to Find a Balance,” in which Slug sighs, “Atmosphere finally made a good record — yeah, right,” the duo has devised a string of classic songs.

“Yesterday,” a devastating hip-hop version of an O. Henry story, “Sunshine,” a tale about overcoming a crippling hangover, and the ode of self-actualization “God Loves Ugly” are among Atmosphere’s stirring anthems.

In addition to being a powerful lyricist, Slug is a savvy businessman. He co-founded Rhymesayers Entertainment in 1995, a seminal hip-hop label that has become the fashionable equivalent of Kansas City’s Strange Music empire.

Slug and Ant are rolling deep with a big crew of colleagues from the Twin Cities on their current tour. Profound rapper Brother Ali, fresh-faced upstart Dem Atlas and DJ duo Plain Ole Bill and Last Word are along for the ride.

Tickets to the Sunday performance at the Granada are $25 in advance at

Concert previews by Bill Brownlee, Special to Ink