I remember commuting to a soul-eating server job in Minneapolis I had post-college graduation. It was one of those faux fancy steak-and-seafood joints where businessmen come for lunch in business suits to talk business and inhale their food without looking at it. Servers might as well have been robots for the amount of eye contact exchanged.
The year was 2008 and Atmosphere had just released When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Atmosphere calls the Twin Cities home so local radio stations had the album on heavy rotation. Driving back and forth to work, the album’s hit single “You” was my “Eye of the Tiger,” my pump up song before putting on the apron. I could relate to the lyrics: “They still treat you like a piece of meat. Huh. / Outrageous, each day this clock tick tock and you still a waitress / Trying to pay them student loans / And the lights and the phone and the food and the home.”
And that’s what Atmosphere has brought to their clever, catchy indie brand of hip hop; the group mixes relatable, quotidian struggles and triumphs with ethical conundrums. From embarrassing hangovers (“Sunshine”) and shitty coworkers (“The Best Day”) to the good and evil in all of us (“The Woman with the Tattooed Hands). It’s hip hop groups like Atmosphere, which formed in 1989, that paved the way for artists like Macklemore, Aesop Rock and Brother Ali (also Minneapolis-based).
Atmosphere hasn’t released an album since 2011’s The Family Sign, but word is they are releasing a new studio album later this year; regardless, they have plenty of material to sing along to with six full-length albums and more EPs. Joining Atmosphere for a night under the stars are reggae fusion band Slightly Stoopid and rappers The Grouch and Eligh for the Kickin’ Up Dust summer tour.
The Kickin’ Up Dust show starts at 6:30 pm Wednesday, July 24, at Cuthbert Amphitheater; $37.50 adv, $42.50 door.