Words by Brett Uddenberg
Atmosphere celebrated the release of their 8th album, Southsiders, with a sold out show Tuesday night at the Highline Ballroom. The record marks a return to form for Slug and Ant following the lone mediocre LP of their career, 2011’s The Family Sign. The live instrumentation that served Atmosphere so well on the road briefly grew to overshadow Ant’s contributions in the studio, but they’ve thankfully reverted to an older formula on Southsiders. Veteran producer Ant’s signature keys and soulful samples are back in the mix, and Slug sounds right at home, riding the beat to familiar themes of love and death as well as newfound perspectives attained from being a father of three comfortable with his place in hip hop and life.
The surprise opening guests for the evening wound up being none other than SFR’s gruesome twosome, Sage Francis and B. Dolan, who also headline later this month at Le Poisson Rouge. The Epic Beard Men performed “You Can’t Win” and Sage tore through a blistering rendition of “Vonnegut Busy,” the lead single from his forthcoming LP, Copper Gone, as well as staples “Damage” and “The Best of Times.”
Following Sage and Dolan, Atmosphere and touring DJ Plain Ole Bill delivered a career spanning set culminating in a three-song encore from Southsiders. After performing the brilliant booze-soaked “Arthur’s Song,” Slug invited an eager audience member on stage to freestyle with him to close out the evening.
“I truly hold sorrow in my heart / For every heart that never got carved into the bark / I wish that everyone could leave a mark / But every part wasn’t meant to be a piece of art” – Slug (“Arthur’s Song”)
There was a familial vibe to the night, with a raucous sold out crowd rapping bar-for-bar with Slug and visibly losing their shit upon the beat drops to classics such as “Scapegoat” and “God’s Bathroom Floor.” After two decades in the game, few do it half as well as Atmosphere.