Hip-hop outfit and Rhymesayers label heads Atmosphere represent the Twin Cities with introspective rhymes, inventive storytelling, and classic production, building a devoted grassroots following with prolific output, collaborations, and consistent touring. They debuted as a trio on 1997's Overcast! before continuing into the 2000s as the core duo of rapper Slug and producer Ant. Steadily rising on the charts with each release, the pair hit a peak in 2008 with fifth full-length When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, which landed at number five upon release. 2014's Southsiders continued their success in the U.S., while marking Atmosphere's debut on the U.K. charts. In 2016, they issued their eighth album, Fishing Blues, their second to top the U.S. indie chart. As co-founders of Rhymesayers, they are also affiliated with a roster of like-minded hip-hop acts and curators of the annual Minneapolis music festival, Soundset.
Over the majority of the duo's career, Atmosphere centered around rapper Slug (born Sean Daley) and Ant (born Anthony Davis). As a teenager, Slug became entranced with hip-hop, graffiti, and breakdancing, forming the Rhymesayers label and collective (originally known as Headshots) with two high-school friends Siddiq Ali (Stress) and Derek Turner (Spawn). After some early gigs as Urban Atmosphere — where Slug DJ'ed behind Spawn's rhyming — the pair hooked up with producer Ant, as well as like-minded locals such as MC Musab, Mr. Gene Poole, and the Abstract Pack, forming an underground hip-hop clique dedicated to freestyling and clever lyricism. In 1997, Atmosphere released their debut album, Overcast!, which quickly became regarded as an underground hip-hop classic thanks to Slug's deeply personal, poetic musings, as well as Ant's bare-bones — but inventive — production.
Following Atmosphere's involvement with supergroup the Dynospectrum (who released a self-titled album on Rhymesayers in 1998) and Slug's participation in another supergroup, Anticon's Deep Puddle Dynamics (whose full-length The Taste of Rain...Why Kneel appeared in 1999), the next Atmosphere album was a 1999 cassette called Headshots: Se7en. The group also began a series of limited releases (often sold exclusively on tour) titled Sad Clown Bad Dub, beginning with an extremely scarce 1999 cassette. A year later, Atmosphere (then down to the duo of Slug and Ant) released the Ford One and Ford Two EPs, followed by the Lucy EP in 2001. Collected as the 2001 full-length Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs, the three EPs were built around the theme of Slug's complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriend, the lost love of his life. As Atmosphere's following increased beyond underground hip-hop circles, they toured consistently, both at home and overseas; while Ant usually didn't accompany the group on the road, Mr. Dibbs of the group 1200 Hobos often joined in behind the turntables while Slug was assisted on the mike by young rappers like the teenaged Eyedea. In June 2002, Atmosphere unleashed God Loves Ugly, an 18-track effort that returned to previous themes ("F*@k You Lucy"), but also contained the group's most pop-friendly single to date, "Modern Man's Hustle."