Atmosphere

Emerging as a rapper in the mid ’90s may have seemed like a difficult task if you weren’t from New York, Los Angeles, Houston, the Bay Area or Atlanta. But for Atmosphere -- who just released its The Family Sign album -- being from Minneapolis had several advantages.

For instance, Slug and Ant didn’t have to navigate through the politics of the major rap scenes, where they witnessed artists talking trash about their supposed allies and actively campaigning against them, albeit privately. As visitors, Slug and Ant were simply networking when they visited New York or Los Angeles, just representing their city and their music whenever they hit the road to market and promote their music. They didn’t have to worry about rivalries because as Minneapolis rap acts, Atmosphere was often the only rap act from that city other artists had ever met.

“It gave other artists the opportunity to really judge me for me and my music,” Slug says. “If you didn’t like me, it was probably because you thought that my music was wack or that I was the kind of personality that you didn’t jibe with. I didn’t have any of those situations where people just hated because I was friends with Aesop Rock or something. So at the end of the day, that was a help because it allowed me to network, I think, with a wider pool of people than even people from those scenes might have had the opportunity to network with.”

Midwest Blues

Of course, being from Minneapolis had its disadvantages, too. People were often skeptical of their legitimacy, didn’t know what the scene was like in Minnesota and, of course, didn’t even know where their city or state was.

But just because outsiders didn’t know about the Minneapolis rap scene doesn’t mean that there wasn’t one. Slug says Minneapolis had a vibrant rap culture that early crews such as the Micranots helped develop, which helped open doors for such artists as Atmosphere and Brother Ali, among others.

Slug never considered himself a big fish in a small pond, as was common perception of artists from other cities, because of the substantial rap scene in his city. Yet he acknowledges what his Rhymesayers crew has been able to do for his hometown.

“We kind of made people take notice of Minneapolis so now if you’re fly, if you’re dope, if your shit is good, people aren’t just going to laugh at you for being from Minneapolis anymore like they used to,” he says. “They’ll give you a second and if you’re dope, it’ll click. Whereas back then, just being like, ‘I’m from Minneapolis,’ people were like, ‘Where?’ It’s near Chicago is what we’d have to say, but it ain’t near Chicago. It’s seven hours by car from Chicago. But people didn’t get it.”

For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter: @SorenBaker

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