Atmosphere to rock the House of Blues

Sean Ammerman



Playing with Blueprint, DJ Rare Groove, P.O.S. and Turbo Nemesis

Where? The House of Blues, Cleveland

When? Tuesday

Doors at 6:30 p.m., concert at 7:30 p.m.

How much? $17-$20

Atmosphere’s new album, You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having, will be released on Oct. 4.


There are some who say rap has devolved into stereotypes and un-originality.

With this in mind, Atmosphere has arrived to help resurrect the scene.

Focusing his efforts to strengthen hip-hop’s lyrical content, Slug and Ant, the duo who make up the core of Atmosphere, are emerging as premier artists from the rap underground.

“Mainstream rap is doing nothing but to teach you how to be a hustler, rapper or ball player,” said Slug, emcee for Atmosphere.

Such comments have generated criticism for the group, mostly from those who feel Atmosphere’s music is not hard-core enough. In spite of this, Slug is devoted to maintaining a positive influence on rap.

“If you write a song about a black shooting a black, you better not just be glorifying it,” he said. “The feelings are good, but what are you teaching a 12-year-old girl?”

Growing up in inner-city Minneapolis, Slug said rap taught him everything from religion to what books to read.

“As a kid I identified with rap,” he said. “It was only a matter of time before I got into it.”

Influenced by such rappers as KRS-One and Rakim, Slug was already trying his luck at talent shows and emcee battles while in high school.

Eventually, he formed a group with a couple of high school friends in the late ’90s. By 1998, the group, known as Atmosphere, made a name for itself with its debut album Overcast!, a work that was a breath of fresh air in an era dominated by gangster rap.

Mainstream success is not far off for Slug, due to steady touring and recording with Rhymesayers, the record label he co-owns. Still, he approaches this goal with hesitation.

“I don’t necessarily know if I want to be uber-famous,” he said. “Only if it happens naturally.”

Slug enjoys his life as an unknown celebrity and does not feel the urge to make regular appearances on MTV. However, he does admit to a desire to host one of its award shows.

“If they called me today and said, ‘You’re the host of the VMA’s,’ I’d say, ‘Yo, can I wear a storm trooper mask to it?’” he said.

Such an idea is not all that far-fetched for a guy with songs titled “If I Was Santa Claus,” “God Loves Ugly” and “Mamma Had a Baby and His Head Popped Off.”

Do not be fooled: Slug’s lyrics are also laced with a surprising amount of sensitivity, brought together by Ant’s catchy beats. The combination has been bridging the gap between rap and rock audiences.

“I’m like a doorway drug into hip-hop,” he said about his music.

Over the past two summers Atmosphere has expanded its horizons by playing to rock audiences at the Vans Warped Tour, an experience Slug said was remarkably successful.

“It got to the point where we were preaching to the choir,” he said. “And here is a natural way to steal fans.”

Slug admits to feeling out of place when he was set to take the main stage after screamo superstars, The Used. Although he was reluctant to go at first, in hindsight, it turned out to be an excellent learning experience for the group.

“I’ve slowly been learning how to entertain,” he said. “It made me feel good to rock (the crowd).”

Contact ALL correspondent Sean Ammerman at [email protected].