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“Say Shh...,” by Atmosphere, is a hip-hop anti-anthem: Instead of going the traditional route and boasting about the mean streets where he grew up, MC Slug raps about how his home, Minneapolis, is a good place to raise your kids. Rather than rousing the crowd to say “Yeah!” he implores them to whisper, “If the playground is clear of stems and syringes, say, ‘Shh...’”

While the coastal rappers have been getting all the magazine covers, Slug (Sean Daley) and producer Ant (Anthony Davis) have been kicking around the independent hip-hop scene for more than 20 years and gathering a national following. Back in 1995, they cofounded Rhymesayers Entertainment, a record label that has grown as the rest of the record industry has circled the drain.

Through it all, Atmosphere’s signature sound has been decidedly positive. In “The Best Day,” over a classic-rock-style guitar progression, Slug raps about showing up at work in a bad mood, wanting to start a fire in the breakroom, but the chorus gives a bit of practical, sober advice: “Every day can’t be the best day/ Do what you can right now, don’t hesitate.” On “She’s Enough,” over delightfully dirty keyboards, Slug raps about how he’ll do anything for his woman. Notice that he doesn’t say it’s because she’s the hottest, just that “she’s enough.” The closest he comes to sounding mean-spirited on new disc The Family Sign is in one song where he refuses to take his kids to the zoo. He says it’s because he’s “a bad, bad daddy, and I’m nasty,” but then he reveals that it’s just because he’s too high to drive.

Past Event


  • Friday, May 6, 2011, 9 p.m.
  • House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Avenue, San Diego
  • $22.50
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