Throughout the course of this site’s almost 10 year history — holy shit, 10 years! — I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the critically applauded and commercially successful Minneapolis, MN-based hip-hop act and JOVM mainstays Atmosphere. Formed over 20 years ago, thee Minneapolis-based JOVM mainstays have maintained a long-held reputation for pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop should sound like and concern itself with thematically — especially as its founding (and core) duo Slug and Ant have found themselves having adult responsibilities and concerns while the pair inch towards middle age.
Last year, Atmosphere closed out 2019 with the surprise release of their seventh and latest album Whenever. The album thematically finds the duo continuing to struggle with their mortality and frailties, while figuring out what it means to grow up and grow old gracefully both in life and within hip-hop. But the material also touches on the need to balance protecting your energy, soul and heart without glowering and bitter cynicism. Considering how love and life can break your heart, that’s more difficult than it sounds.
Whenever’s first single “Bde Maka Ska,” sonically continued in the vein of Mi Vida Local: centered around a bluesy and dusty production featuring twinkling keys, fuzzy wah wah pedaled guitar and a gospel choir-like backing vocal, the song’s narrator takes stock of his own life and decisions, while yearning for peace and serenity in a mad, mad, mad world. At its core, is the profound realization that in life, sometimes we have to stop pushing, stop forcing and stop fighting against the tide, and accept that the universe lets things happen (or not) at their own pace. “Lovely,” the album’s second single continued with the bluesy productions but paired with anxious and skittering percussion, looping blasts of bluesy guitar, big boom bap beats and Nikki Jean‘s soulful hook. Throughout Slug’s conflicted narrator speaks about feeling the swooning sense of hope of love while confronting his own insecurities, frailties and heard-earned (and rarely wanted) cynicism.“Love Each Other,” the album’s third single was centered around a soulful, J. Dilla-esque production featuring shimmering guitar, twinkling keys and boom-bap beats while Slug rhymes about love and its complications through the eyes of a conflicted and dysfunctional narrator, full of anxieties, self-loathing, self-doubt and uncertainty. His doubts are ironically emphasized through a confusing and uncertain affair in which love and lust are hopelessly intertwined — and throughout the song, the song’s narrator wonders if they even know or like each other. (If you’ve been there before the feelings of confusion, shame, uncertainty and discomfort the song evokes should feel familiar.)
Whenever‘s fourth and latest single “Dearly Beloved” finds the duo teaming up with Musab and Muja Messiah. The track opens with Slug slyly rhyming a love song while dropping references to Prince and to his hometown. Musab follows with a verse chock full of allusions and references to 80s pop songs and pop culture. Maja Messiah closes the song with a verse full of Prince references. The end result is a song that tackles love in a variety of ways from romantic love and longing, the love of your favorite artist’s work, the love of pop culture, the love of your hometown — and all the things that influence you and make you who you are.
Directed by BLOOD $MOKE BODY, the recently released video stars Ant, Slug, Musab and Maja Messiah. The video begins with Ant, as a sunglasses wearing chauffeur, picking up his second passenger Slug on a cold and snowy Minnesota day. Once Slug gets into the limousine, the video turns in a psychedelic and mind-bending affair, as we follow them to a surreal, Dada-esque house party, where we meet Muja Messiah.
Atmosphere is currently on a North American tour with The Lioness and Nikki Jean. Check out the tour dates below.
“The Wherever Tour – North America” Dates:
February 14 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Union Event Center
February 15 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory Concert House
February 16 – Missoula, MT – The Wilma
February 18 – Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory Concert House
February 19 – Eugene, OR – McDonald Theatre
February 21 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theater (w/ added special guests Blimes and Gab)
February 22 – Seattle, WA – Showbox Sodo (w/ added special guests Blimes and Gab)
February 23 – Vancouver, BC – The Commodore Ballroom
February 25 – Calgary, AB – MacEwan Hall
February 26 – Saskatoon, SK – Coors Event Centre