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."
Army of the Pharaohs (most commonly abbreviated as AOTP or A.O.T.P.) is a hip hop super group originating from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, formed by Jedi Mind Tricks MC Vinnie Paz in 1998. The group has strong links to other underground groups such as; OuterSpace Snowgoons, La Coka Nostra, The Demigodz and Jedi Mind Tricks. It has changed several times ever since its formation.
Paz formed the outfit in the late 1990s with the original roster of Bahamadia, Chief Kamachi, Virtuoso, 7L & Esoteric, plus Jedi Mind Tricks' other members Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind and Jus Allah. The group first released the "Five Perfect Exertions" and "War Ensemble" 12" on Paz's short-lived Recordings in 1998, but then the underground supergroup remained silent for several years. After a couple of successful Jedi Mind Tricks albums and a new deal with Babygrande by 2003, Paz resurrected the crew, adding OuterSpace, Celph Titled, Reef the Lost Cauze, King Syze,Des Devious, and Apathy; however, Bahamadia, Virtuoso, and Jus Allah had defected from the group. Babygrande issued their "Tear It Down" 12" and first album, The Torture Papers, in 2006. The 2007 follow-up album, Ritual of Battle, saw JMT protégés Doap Nixon and Demoz joining the Pharaohs, as well as a return by Jus Allah.
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