Atmosphere - A Last Waltz for a Minnesota MC? -- by Alex Goldberg
On Friday, October 8th, Atmosphere with guests Blueprint and P.O.S. performed at the Opera House in Toronto. As the audience packs together, shoulder to shoulder, collectively cramped and waiting, until 10:35 pm as Slug casually walks onto stage. He stands around with his black hooded sweatshirt draped over his recently grown back hair from the remnants of a bizarre Mohawk.
He presents himself in a proto-prominent stature, resembling a musical icon, and the crowd is forced into a frenzy of enthusiastic adoration. There is something unusual about the general sentiment of the show, a sort of je ne sais quas aura of finality that floats above the crowd. The congregation is immediately whirled into a hip hop dervish in that Sluggo becomes the deity of this unspoken trance-like state. At the conclusion of “God Loves Ugly” Slug looks at the audience, catching his breathe he says, “Do you guys have faith? I’m doing the best I can.” Although the majority of the audience responds with the same robotic assertiveness that can be found in a military line up, I feel the crowd generally misses the point, and does not see the underlying message of Slug’s statement.
There is something disenchanting about him asking whether we, the audience still have faith. There is something pathetic about it all, a puppy dog plea to not get forgotten among the litter, and yet the entire audience seems completely blind or indifferent to Slug’s appeal.
During the show, Slug plays mostly old material that although is better than playing material from his latest album, consistently reinforces the possibility in my mind that perhaps this is the last time I’ll be seeing Atmosphere. The show felt like a conclusion instead of a march to the future which was emphasized by the looming stench of an ending rather than the refreshing scent of a step forward.
I was able to get Slug on the phone the following Monday, and my questions were focused on that uncomfortable feeling that began during the show. Is this the end of Atmosphere? How long will Slug continue? “That’s a good question” Slug responds. “I’m going to go forever; I don’t know how long I’m going to be MCing, but even me, myself, I don’t listen to music for adults. And, how long is a 17 year old going to identify with what I’m saying. And I’ll probably not be jumping up on stage when I’m 40, but I’ll keep trying and make music. I’m still pretty confident that I’ll be playing a role in putting out quality music for kids.” With the kids in mind, it’s important to take a look at who these kids are that Slug is making music for.