I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded and commercially successful Minneapolis, MN-based hip-hop act and JOVM mainstays Atmosphere over the course of this site’s nine-plus year history. Formed over 20 years ago, the Minneapolis-based JOVM mainstays have a long-held reputation for pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop should sound like and concern itself with thematically — especially as its founding duo Slug and Ant have inched towards middle age with adult responsibilities and concerns.
Last year’s Mi Vida Local thematically found the pair grappling with their own mortality — and the anxiety and fear of one’s powerlessness in a mad and dangerous world. The duo’s seventh and latest album Whenever was suddenly released last week, and the album thematically finds the duo continuing to struggle with their morality and frailties, figuring out what it means to grow up and grow old gracefully within hip-hop, the need to balance protecting your energies and soul without glowering and bitter cynicism.
“Bde Maka Ska,” the first single off Whenever sonically continues in the vein of Mi Vida Local with the track being centered around a bluesy and dusty production featuring twinkling keys, fuzzy, wah wah pedaled guitar, a gospel choir-like backing vocal — with its narrator taking stock of his own life and decisions, while yearning for peace and serenity in a mad, mad, mad world. But at its core is the profound realization that in life sometime we have to let go and stop pushing, and accept that the universe will let things happen at its own pace.
“Lovely,” Whenever‘s second and latest single pairs an anxious and skittering percussion with a dusty and bluesy production with arpeggiated synths and organs, looping blasts of bluesy guitar and big boom bap beats and Nikki Jean‘s soulful hook while Slug rhymes about stumbling upon a profound love but while feeling the swooning sense of hope it brings, his narrator also confronts his own insecurities, frailties — but also hard-earned (and rarely wanted) cynicism of life experience.
The recently released video for “Lovely” continues the duo’s ongoing collaboration with director and filmmaker Tomas Askamit. And much like its immediate predecessor, the video is cinematically and symbolic: we see a coffin floating into a church, Slug being fitted for a black suit, heartbroken and grieving friends and family at a funeral, Nikki Jean dressed in white as a fellow mourner. The video ends with a grave being dug and Nikki Jean throwing a handful of dirt over the coffin. Ultimately, the video is a commentary on life, death, loss and grief.
“The Wherever Tour – North America” Dates:
January 13 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
January 14 – Chicago, IL – Metro
January 15 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Music Hall
January 17 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall
January 18 – Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre
January 20 – South Burlington, VT – Higher Ground Ballroom
January 21 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
January 23 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
January 24 – Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
January 25 – New Haven, CT – College Street Music Hall
January 27 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
January 28 – Asheville, TN – The Orange Peel
January 29 – Nashville, TN – The Cowan
January 31 – Austin, TX – Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater
February 1 – Oklahoma City, OK – Tower Theatre
February 4 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
February 5 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park
February 8 – Los Angeles, CA – The Novo
February 9 – Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst
February 11 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom
February 12 – Reno, NV – Cargo Concert Hall at Whitney Peak Hotel
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