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Minneapolis is known for many things — pretty lakes, the Mall of America, lutefisk. But 17 years ago, hip-hop act Atmosphere transformed the city into something else entirely: a nexus from which underground rap spiraled-out to the masses. And thanks to the duo’s indefatigable touring habits, Top 20-charting albums, and their galvanizing artist-owned label Rhymesayers (MF Doom, Aesop Rock), they’re still pushing the boundaries of what indie rap can mean. It’s with that overachieving-underdog spirit that MC Sean “Slug” Daley and producer Anthony “Ant” Davis have named Atmosphere’s eighth studio album Southsiders (out May 6, 2014), a shout-out to their native neighborhood. Because, says Slug, “We have spent the majority of our career — God, we can call it a career! — repping the south side of Minneapolis pretty hard.” While Southsiders is a celebration of the group’s fortitude, it is also a deeply introspective, and sometimes conflicted, work. “It’s a natural progression from the last record, The Family Sign, which was about growing my family,” says Slug, now a father to three, who finds himself contemplating mortality. “I’m starting to think, ‘What is post–family man? What am I supposed to rap about now?’ I’m sticking to my roots, rapping about what I’m doing, what I think about. This record is — much like the other ones — a very detailed look at my life.” The album captures everything from a blazing, anthemic takedown in “Southsiders,” to the ebb-and-flow of loss in the sauntering “Arthur’s Song,” to emotional abandon in the rousing “Kanye West.” The latter — and its mantra, “put your hands in the air like you really do care” — is a high-five to the rapper whose emotional reactions are often misperceived as not caring. Say Slug, “I wanted to write a song about loving something so much that you submit to the moment." All told, Southsiders took about ten months to complete. During that time, “I spent a lot of time agonizing over every detail, every word,” Slug
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