Atmosphere Connect With Their Fans At Album Release Show In NYC

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It’s been seventeen years since Minneapolis duo Atmosphere dropped their first full-length album, but even after all this time, Slug and Ant have been able to remix their tried and true formula for their latest album, Southsiders, which dropped this week on their Rhymesayers label. And there’s no better way to celebrate than with a nearly two hour, sold out headlining set at New York City’s Highline Ballroom, which is exactly what they did last night.

Throughout their entire career, Atmosphere has existed in that piece of underground real estate that means they’re untouched by the mainstream, but still maintain a rabidly loyal following, developing and thriving on that circuit for nearly two decades. And by rewarding their fans with quality album after quality EP after quality album, at this point in their careers they’re able to captivate an audience with an all-encompassing show that spans their catalog and has their fans rapping along to every word out of Slug’s mouth.

The night began with a custom drink—Slug Chug—being sold by the Highline, which caused us to walk in a few minutes late, but things got going quickly with “GodLovesUgly” and their new single “Kanye West,” which came out a month ago and already had fans singing along. Many shows pass through the Highline, and some artists that stop there have a much higher profile than Atmosphere does on a national stage, but many of those artists would kill for a following as vocal and expressive as Atmosphere’s. Slug himself stood alone in front of the DJ table, rocking left and right across the stage as Ant spun fan favorite after fan favorite—”She’s Enough” from The Family Sign, “Party For The Fight To Write” and “Between The Lines” from The Lucy Ford EPs, “Shoulda Known” from When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold—with the crowd right along with them.

“I appreciate that y’all here, that y’all let me be here,” Slug said at one point in between songs. “So on that note, let’s freak.” As the evening stretched on, he performed the first half of “The Woman With The Tattooed Hands,” another classic deep cut from the catalog, a capella, looking like every bartender at your favorite spot in Brooklyn who took a stage dive off the bar when things got a little crazy last weekend. The way the duo connects and really relates to its audience came through most clearly on the night’s closer—before the multiple “last song” calls that led them through another five tracks—which was Lemons‘ “Yesterday,” a song about overcoming and missing the protagonist’s father, who had passed away. It’s a particularly intimate song, with a simple piano line providing the backbone, and once Slug hit the song’s final line—”I thought I saw you yesterday/But I knew it wasn’t you, ’cause you passed away, dad”—the audience cheered for a full minute straight so loudly that he couldn’t get a word out until the furor died down. No matter how long it’s been, no matter how long they keep going, Atmosphere maintains the ability to connect with their fans, and that’s something that won’t be changing any time soon.

Previously: 15 Of The Greatest Rapper-Producer Duos Of All Time
20 Of The Best One-Rapper Albums In Hip-Hop History