Artist Spotlight: Atmosphere
Atmosphere have just released their sixth album, or eighth if you count the Lucy Ford EPs and Headshots: Se7en. They've virtually defined the oft-abused "emo rap" tag, and they are synonymous with Minneapolis hip-hop. Yet after 15 years, the duo struggles to get respect from the MRM (mainstream rap media) and trolls whose definition of rap boils down to how much weight you pushed and how capable of sex and violence you appear to be.
Slug and A.N.T. probably prefer it that way. Their Rhymesayers imprint may have aligned with WMG for distribution services, but they continue to chart their own independent-minded path. They formed a backing band and stopped incorporating samples, no matter how much longtime fans complained. With the new Southsiders, they could have cashed in on the fact that they were such an obvious influence on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' The Heist, with Macklemore adopting the same navel-gazing, introspective tone as Slug. Instead, the 40-something rapper continues to write about girls and tell loopy stories in a slightly depressed yet sympathetic voice. Even the crowd-rocking single "Kanye West" seems more like an in-joke than a half-hearted bid at MTV2's video rotation. This playlist surveys one of hip-hop's great iconoclasts.