Photo by Dan MonickNot since Ladybug, Doodlebug and Butterfly (members of the Digable Planets) have the tiny creatures of the earth been such a dominant force in independent hip-hop. Now Atmosphere's Slug and Ant (with DJ Mr. Dibbs, who is actually more of a presence in the band than Ant on tour) are lifting up hip-hop heads throughout the U.S. Especially thrilling to kids less immersed in rap (Atmosphere leans more toward “funny” and “chill” and “high school” than “scary” and “aggressive” and “school of life”) and fans who are sick of mainstream fronting and indie self-aggrandizement, the group is charging through the ranks after a decade or so of prep work.
Slug (a.k.a. Seven) is a Midwestern kid with a black dad and a white mom who somewhat resembles an early, pre-fat (read: Pixies reunion tour) Joey Santiago. He's not really a pretty boy, but Slug does have a smoldering-ashes smirk happening, one that's featured in a just-woke-up perversion of form on the cover of the 2002 Atmosphere release, God Loves Ugly.The needless self-deprecation would be funny if he didn't have two things: lyrics devoted to one girl who sliced open his chest and spat into his heart and a legendary predilection for groupie love. His sometimes whiny histrionics knock Atmosphere's balance askew—just when a good beat is bumping under some finely tuned lyrics, Slug whips out some Poor Me/I'm a Loser/Feel Me, Baby rhymes.
Ant, on the other hand, is likely not conducting such a packed-to-the-gills ho train—he rocks erroneous facial hair and a similar tattoo schema to that of Epitaph label mate Jacob Bannon of Converge. And as it turns out, he's the real star on the newest Atmosphere album, You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having—his production tactics are mind-bogglingly complicated and expansive and, coupled with even a skinny doob, inspire fully formed visions of the future of hip-hop.
ATMOSPHERE, P.O.S. AND BLUEPRINT AT VAULT 350, 350 PINE AVE., LONG BEACH, (888) 80-VAULT. SUN., 8 P.M. $25. ALL AGES.