Atmosphere at First Avenue with Brother Ali and Dem Atlas



Being able to see Atmosphere perform live in Minneapolis is something that you just can’t put into words.

They have toured the world and have fans all over the damn place but, somehow, when they play Minneapolis, it doesn’t feel like you’re watching legends on stage. It feels more like you’re watching that kid that sat next to you in elementary school. Those friends of yours that, although you don’t get to see them often, every time you do it feels like you are just picking up where you left off.

Atmosphere is made up of Slug and Ant. Ant (Anthony Davis) seems to fade into the background but in the best way possible. Even though your eyes may not be on Ant, you know exactly what he’s doing back there on his computer and the turntables. Ant is the heartbeat and pulse of Atmosphere whereas Slug (Sean Daley) is the goofy frontman that has a personality that you just can’t help but fall in love with. He has a way of being in your face without being obnoxious. The rhymes he spits over Ant’s unique beats are not only relatable, but they are honest and raw.

Slug sings about things that Minnesotans can truly relate to. Hearing your part of town shouted out during one of their songs (Uptown stay strong!) is exciting. The amount of pride Minnesotans have for being from Minnesota is unreal. I may be a transplant from Iowa but I wear my Minnesota tattoo proudly. Slug and Ant are no different than we are when it comes to Minnesota pride and I think that’s what makes their hometown shows so special. Slug frequently acknowledges that Atmosphere wouldn’t be more than a ten letter word if it weren’t for us supporting him since day one. You can feel the sincerity in his voice and, if you’re not careful, the sincerity could be enough to move you to tears.

As moving, touching and amazing as Atmosphere’s nearly two hour set was, there was so much more to the night so let me move on to one of the most beautiful figures in the local hip-hop/ rap scene… Brother Ali.

You want to talk about a truly positive and influential person? Let’s talk about Brother Ali. The amount of respect I have for this man is unfathomable. I remember I met him one time when he performed at my college but all I could do was shake his hand. I couldn’t think of any words to say to him and I was just too enamored by him. He is the type of person that can walk into the darkest room and truly make it bright. He’s honest, has no shame, and, most importantly, he cares. I’ve seen him at rallies all over town for various events. He stands up for his community no matter what and speaks his mind. I’ve seen him at protests multiple times and he truly fights for social injustice. That just adds to his beauty as a human being. All of those things shine in his music and being able to see it performed live is enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up.

Brother Ali has one song that gets me every time, Forest Whitaker, and I was lucky enough to hear it live last night. This song has lyrics that hit me right in the feels and I couldn’t help but to start singing along to the words. The song is about being who you are and not giving a flying fuck what anyone has to say about it. He has lines in the song about his albinism and not being what the ladies want. It has lines about looking in the mirror and truly being more than happy with what you see because, the flaws are “God’s Fingerprints”. It’s funny, it’s true, it’s kinda dark, but it’s honest. It’s the type of song I listen to when I’m feeling down about myself and it’s the kind of song that can snap me out of the worst mood ever.

Last night’s show as a whole was amazing, but Brother Ali was definitely the highlight of the night for me. All of the artists that graced the stage were sincere, genuine, and fun but there’s just something about Ali. He could probably just get up on stage and stand in silence and I would still, somehow, be captivated by him.

Opening last night’s show was Dem Atlas, another local rapper. This kid has blown up over the past year or so and I was more than excited to see him. Unfortunately, the crowd didn’t seem to really care that he was on stage doing his thing and you could feel it affect Dem Atlas’ live show. I love his music, and usually his energy is high but something was just off last night. I look forward to seeing him again, hopefully sooner than later, with a crowd that actually gives a damn.

I stood there in my own little world as I listened to some of the best music the Twin Cities has to offer. I felt bad for the guy I met  up with at the show because I barely said five words to him. Being at a show that truly takes you away from the real world and puts in a place of pure bliss is impossible to put into words. It’s also exactly what got me hooked on live music.

I never thought I’d find myself so in love with a rap/ hip-hop scene, but here we are.

Line Up: