Atmosphere, with Brother Ali

What the hell is up with Minneapolis?

Just when you thought Prince, a bunch of rock bands and The Mary Tyler Moore Show were all the city had to give, it goes and transforms itself into the breeding ground for underground hip-hop's finest. And look no further for a dude to thank than this guy called Slug.

The front man MC of the hip-hop duo Atmosphere -- let's not forget beat man Ant -- has enjoyed a high profile ever since the 2002 release of God Loves Ugly. An independent release that sold like hotcakes (75,000 copies last year, without any major marketing), Ugly snatched up backpack audiences -- and a lot of college chicks -- thanks mostly to Slug's sturdy rhyming techniques and an occasionally ribald, usually tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. (To me, God Loves Ugly is an odd title -- the dude has enough rakish good looks to play a doctor on General Hospital.) The key to Slug's charm is that he paints himself as a multilayered horndog, a cat who actually reveals a romantic, philosophizing soul when he's not calling out for girls in the audience to give him some old-school, urban-legend-starting groupie love. His latest, Seven's Travels, traverses that same vein, as he ponders the future for his son in this cruel, cruel world while also puzzling over the best approach to getting in a gal's drawers. Hey, even the most introspective of men have to get their hoochie-hustle on sometimes.

This year also saw the full-length debut of Brother Ali, another Minneapolis albino alligator whose verbal skills are full of sharp snap. His Shadows on the Sun album shows off the crackling wit and hammering wordplay he exhibited when he opened up for his pal Slug on last year's joint tour. Since these brothers-in-'bows are now on the road, along with a few other of their Rhymesayers labelmates, consider this a caravan of lyrically addictive outcasts who are looking for a pound or a hug -- or a little something special in the tour bus bathroom after the show.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey