Despite their upper Midwest origins, Atmosphere has risen to the forefront of the indie hip-hop scene. Minneapolis doesn’t necessarily mean that much to the rap industry and probably never will, but Atmosphere has at least given the city a mention.
From the land of ten thousand lakes Atmosphere has made their noise heard among the industry nurtured by nihilism. Sean Daley is the rapping frontman for the indie hip-hop group, where he goes by “Slug” as an M.C.
Daley’s signature voice is the final layer of Anthony Davis’ backing tracks. Davis, who goes by “Ant” on stage, provides a unique edge without sacrificing Daley’s obviously personal sound.
Behind a mike, Daley speaks from a universal perspective with feet solidly planted on the ground, generating a refined taste even if the topics aren’t what you would generally describe as refined. Personal and intimate, Atmosphere is at the top of the independent hip-hop scene.
Daley’s honesty has always separated him as a rapper. He has always had a message, but his point of view has changed over the past couple of decades. His music has recorded his struggle as a white rapper, his dependency issues, his need for acceptance and his personal image as a public figure and father.
Because of his honesty, Daley’s songs end up emotionally apparent and seem vulnerable from the outside. Atmosphere doesn’t make hit songs: they make moods conveyed mostly by lyrics.
Atmosphere only goes out on tour for a few months of the year because they’re searching to have a normal and ordinary family life. Thankfully, they will be making a stop in Aspen at Belly Up this Sunday, July 28.
Daley grew up listening to Run DMC, LL Cool J and Public Enemy. At this point in time, with seven albums out, Atmosphere has released more music than most of his heroes.
“I got into music much the same way as most kids probably did,” says Daley. “You find meaning and direction through art. Luckily, I found some of that through music.”
Daley has always wanted to combine a lot of meaning with his music. While what his songs are about has changed he has always wanted to provide a message of perseverance and “Hope. I don’t think that’s ever changed. The way we deliver it may change based on the times, or the surroundings. But music has always given me hope, and that’s what I want to give back.”
Daley tells stories about struggle. Regardless of what kind of struggle, he reveals compassionate tales of human pain and suffering. Many times he includes societal issues into his songs but he doesn’t want to lay out a blanket statement of what’s wrong with the world.
“Mostly, I think the people of the world need to find the beauty in having compassion and understanding for each other,” says Daley.
Atmosphere’s fans tend to be on the die-hard side, but Daley doesn’t feel pressure to release something that is mediocre just to have new material out there. The real pressure he feels is to keep it interesting for himself but he tries to stay away from comparing himself with others.
“I think the ebb and flow of music from the artist to the audience and back to the artist isn’t so much a pressure, as it is an exchange of love,” says Daley. “I don’t see it as a pressure or an expectation. It feels more like pride and love.”
Regardless of where they originated, Atmosphere has found its niche and it’s one that reverberates far beyond the borders of Minnesota. They put out a unique and powerful brand of hip-hop and if you don’t already have a ticket to Sunday night’s sold-out show: you better start looking because people have already been searching for weeks.
John Zelazny encourages you to keep your opinions to yourself. He appreciates your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org