Minneapolis-based hip-hop duo Atmosphere brought its underground beats and rhymes to the Mcdonald Theater in Eugene on Tuesday night. During the sold-out show, which was part of the group’s “Mi Vida Local” tour, rapper Slug, along with DJ and producer Ant, performed a career-spanning setlist of deep cuts and fan favorites that stretched all the way back into the late ‘90s.
Rhymesayers labelmate deM atlaS — with his guitar-influenced alternative hip-hop sound — helped to open up the night, along with fellow Minneapolis artists The Lioness and DJ Keezy.
At 10 p.m., Atmosphere began its headlining performance. Slug — dressed in all black and a pair of Vans Old Skools — took center stage in front of a wide digital screen; Ant took his position in a large DJ booth in the back. Four LCD display panels lined the backdrop.
After a brief introduction, the duo began its set with “Jerome” and “Stopwatch,” two songs from its 2018 LP “Mi Vida Local.” The duo also worked in additional tracks throughout the setlist from their latest album, including “Virgo” and “Graffiti.”
But Atmosphere paid equal attention to the classics. The title track from 2002’s “GodLovesUgly” and “Yesterday” from the group’s biggest critical success, “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold,” caused the audience in the balcony to stand up and rap along.
Up on stage, Slug looked noticeably older than his portrait on the cover of “GodLovesUgly.” It’s been over fifteen years since that album’s release, but Slug seemed fully aware of his age. Looking around the venue in Eugene, he said he saw “a room of fucking old people.” But that wasn’t a bad thing: “We’re fucking old too,” he said.
Slug was right; most of the people at the show seemed to be over the age of 30 — people who had probably first listened to Atmosphere’s music when they were in high school or college. During his introduction, Slug also said it was likely some people in audience knew nothing about Atmosphere and that they were dragged to the show by their girlfriends. The audience met this with enthusiastic screams, confirming some suspicion.
But this was all in jest. In a break between songs, Slug said he genuinely enjoyed playing for older audiences; he knew they were appreciative of the “old shit.” The group performed “The Abusing of the Rib” from the 1999 album “Headshots: Se7en,” which originally received only a cassette tape release. Other early deep cuts such as “God’s Bathroom Floor” and “Guns and Cigarettes” highlighted the group’s jazzy sound, rooted in ‘90s hip-hop influences.
Atmosphere finished off the night with a three-song encore, beginning with “Always Coming Back Home To You.” The Lioness and deM atlaS came back out on stage for a performance of “Drown,” on which they both contributed guest verses. Both artists stuck around on stage for the closer: a dynamic performance of the hit “Trying To Find A Balance.”
The song showcased Slug at his most aggressive and Ant backed up the energy, providing highly technical record scratches from the DJ booth during the song’s final drop.
In Atmosphere’s two decade career, the group’s music has remained mostly in the hip-hop underground, but the energy on Tuesday night would have fooled anyone. Slug engaged with the crowd like a hip-hop star, reveling in the community he has built over the years with his music.
“I love your sense of humor,” he said to the audience in between the last few songs. “It makes me feel at home.”