With a spot on the roster for the aptly named “Summertime” tour alongside Slightly Stoopid, Sublime with Rome, and The Movement, the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based hip-hop duo Atmosphere decided to fill some dates doing their own shows along the way with the cleverly titled DeTour. One of the DeTour stops was The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC.
LA-based rapper ZooDeville, and Minnesota-based DJ HEBL would join Atmosphere on the DeTour, but the Asheville date would see a special opening guest. Lupe Fiasco was in town for a show with Dirty Heads the following day. After bumping into Sean Daley, aka Slug from Atmosphere, on the street, Lupe asked to hop on the stage shortly after doors for an “early bird special” opener for the devoted fans who showed up early.
ZooDeville would take the stage next. Posted up center stage with just a mic stand, he would also act as his own DJ, walking over to a laptop on stage left to cue up his next beat. This was my first-time hearing ZooDeville, but I can see why he’s touring with Atmosphere. He has a smooth flow and thought-provoking lyrics that, while different, work well with the headlining act. About halfway through the set, ZooDeville brought out Asheville native and fellow NO FUN! music collective member Garret Gloom. Garret would inform the crowd that his mother, who was in attendance, had a birthday in three days, so of course, the crowd joined in on singing Happy Birthday to her. The intensity would ramp up as the duo kept the rhymes coming. Garret added some stage presence to the set and some volume, sometimes screaming the hooks as the duo danced around. If you’re a fan of Atmosphere ZooDeville will likely be up your alley.
Up next was a 30-minute DJ set from HEBL. The stage was backlit as HEBL took his place on the right side of the video wall-fronted DJ booth. While you never got that good of a look at the mad scientist in the booth, it was clear he was hard at work cooking up the beats. Driving rhythms and hard-pounding bass would serve to get the crowd moving. Given that Atmosphere is a DJ/rapper duo having both a rapper and a DJ open, the show was a nice touch.
Fans erupted as the Atmosphere took the stage. Ant settled into the left side of the DJ booth with HEBL on the other end. The video board in front of the DJ booth pops up with a message saying, "EVERYONE IS DOING A GOOD JOB,” while Slug has a little banter with the crowd. They keep the positive vibes going and kick off the evening with their latest single, “Okay,” off the May 2023 album So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously. Despite the album only being 3 months old, I could hear fans at the barricade behind me rapping along and killing each verse, a testament to how devoted the fanbase is. Long-time fans were also in for a treat since Atmosphere was sure to play some older, well-loved songs too. Tracks from as far back as 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold album, and 2002’s God Loves Ugly kept the crowd singing along.
As a duo for over a quarter century, Sean “Slug” Daley and Anthony “Ant” Davis have built a legion of devoted fans. I’m not sure you can still call Atmosphere “underground” hip hop, but the duo’s success is self-made. Like any group that’s been around as long as Atmosphere, their sound has certainly evolved, but the wordplay, use of allegories, and amazingly catchy beats remain constant. Slug’s ability to write relatable songs about life, love, stress, and setbacks while still being able to drop bombs on the listener keeps the fans coming back for more.