TUNS / At­mos­phere


AS AT­MOS­PHERE RECORDED THEIR SEV­ENTH STU­DIO AL­BUM, Fish­ing Blues, the pair of Min­neapo­lis rap­pers didn’t use a glam­orous stu­dio or en­gage in any typ­i­cal rock star de­bauch­ery. There was, how­ever, plenty of star power to mark the oc­ca­sion. While At­mos­phere MC Slug sat with his lap­top on his liv­ing room couch, he could hear fel­low Min­nesota MC deM at­laS work­ing on his own al­bum in the guest room. Fel­low alt-rap hero Brother Ali, mean­while, was in the base­ment tin­ker­ing with his own LP while At­mos­phere pro­ducer Ant made his rounds be­tween all three, as the beat­smith for each of their sep­a­rate projects.

“We were in this rap in­cu­ba­tor,” Slug ex­plains. And al­though at­laS is only fea­tured on one new Fish­ing Blues track, “Next to You,” and Ali isn’t fea­tured at all, it was still fun for the trio to be work­ing on their sep­a­rate projects within spit­ting dis­tance of each other, as it were.

“I’d get Ali to lis­ten to what I was work­ing on, and feel a tinge of em­bar­rass­ment, then won­der ‘ Why do I feel weird about that? I should dig into that feel­ing even more,’” Slug says of the en­vi­ron­ment that al­lowed him to be vul­ner­a­ble and thrive out­side his com­fort zone.

Slug also had plenty of kin­ship with the artists that weren’t present for the ses­sions, but sent in their guest verses, in­clud­ing Ae­sop Rock, I.B.E. and the Grouch. But the al­bum’s most show-stop­ping fea­tures come from ec­cen­tric fan favourites DOOM and Kool Keith, both of whom ap­pear on “When the Lights Go Out.”

The omi­nous, plod­ding in­stru­men­tal that Ant crafted for the song re­minded Slug of At­mos­phere’s early, raw cuts from the ’90s. He gave his friend Ev­i­dence, of lauded hip-hop out­fit Di­lated Peo­ples, a pre­lim­i­nary lis­ten, which prompted Ev­i­dence to off hand­edly sug­gest that vet­eran MC Kool Keith would be an ideal fit. Af­ter Keith agreed, Ant said DOOM would be per­fect to up the ante of ec­cen­tric­ity.

It was an ex­hil­a­rat­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion for Slug. “Th­ese are the two dudes I grew up on,” he says. “When Daniel Du­mile be­came DOOM, it was the most ge­nius shit that ever hap­pened to rap. And Kool Keith has con­tin­ued to evolve and live ten lives in this art form. To be friends with them alone is val­i­dat­ing, but to get them both on a song to­gether felt like a real coup.”

It wasn’t just artis­tic con­nec­tions that have re­newed At­mos­phere’s en­thu­si­asm, but the per­sonal ones as well — this al­bum marks Ant’s re­turn from Cal­i­for­nia to Min­neapo­lis so the duo could work in per­son, which was not the case for their prior three al­bums. That kin­ship is also one of the rea­sons why the new al­bum is called Fish­ing Blues. “What we do for a liv­ing is sim­i­lar to fish­ing,” Slug ex­plains. “We do it for sus­te­nance, to pro­vide for our fam­i­lies, but it’s also be­come a re­cre­ational sport for us. It’s med­i­ta­tive, and cen­tres me and al­lows me to spend time with friends like Ant.”

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