When Atmosphere announced their upcoming Fishing Blues, the veteran rap duo rolled out a long, winding Canada/U.S. tour to go along with it. This won’t come as a shock to longtime fans Slug and Ant, however, seeing as the Minneapolis pair built their careers on relentless touring.
“We’ve always tried to make Canada a priority. We’ve done a handful straight-up Canadian tours over the years, end-to-end, Victoria to Halifax,” MC Slug tells Exclaim!, adding that he relishes playing locales that other artists would call “flyovers,” be they north or south the border. “There’s an exchange appreciation — I appreciate the fact that I can go play in Regina and not fight to book a show like I do in crowded markets like L.A., and sell out a club date. And I think the people there appreciate that we came to play. At the end the day I love to rap, I love for people to hear what I have to say, so I’ll play anywhere.”
It’s a different mentality from most rappers, who, unlike Atmosphere, hail from urban epicentres. And the duo’s comparatively rustic sensibility not only extends to their touring, but also their muse for this album. They were posing for photos for the new LP’s cover art and liner notes by a serene lake when they came across a stack canoes. One those boats was emblazoned with the cheekily eccentric moniker “B.B. King’s Fishing Blues.”
“We realized we should use photos the canoes and change the name to Fishing Blues,” Slug explains, “because there’s, coincidentally, a bunch fishing references on the album.
“What we do for a living is similar to fishing — we do it for sustenance, to provide for our families, but it’s also become a recreational sport for us. It’s meditative, and centres me and allows me to spend time with friends like Ant.”
The new album’s title track is obviously immersed in watery metaphors, including Slug spitting: “Check the tackle / Box full beautiful / Look like shrapnel” over a funk instrumental that gurgles like a lake. But that subtle, down-home sentiment also extends to other songs like “Chasing New York,” where Slug recollects — over subtly jazzy piano and love tap drums — about being disappointed by big city gentrification.
He also extolls plenty placid lake, seasoned sailor’s reflections on tracks like on “Still Be Here,” on which he spits: “Hold your kids before they grow too big / Like a minute is forever when a memory’s a gift,” or on “Everything,” where he describes how his family will one day place him on a raft, push him out to sea and set him alight in a crematory blaze.
Amongst all that wizened lyricism, Slug also hasn’t forgotten the importance childish fun, especially on songs like “When the Lights Go Out,” where he trades verses with his heroes Kool Keith and DOOM, holding his own.
The MC says he’s happy that age has helped him mellow out, after years solemn releases like To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blade Holy.
“Southsiders, our last album, was the beginning me getting sarcastic again, figuring out how to enjoy myself again. But there are even more songs on Fishing Blues where I hope the listener will hear me smiling as I’m rapping.”
Find Atmosphere’s full North American tour itinerary below, and check out all Fishing Blues at the bottom the page via a 360 video, before the album ficially arrives on Friday (August 12) via Rhymesayers Entertainment.
08/13 Somerset, WI – Summer Set Music & Camping Festival
08/19 Wasaga Beach, ON – Center Gravity Festival
09/02 Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheater @
09/08 Winnipeg, MB – Garrick Centre #
09/09 Saskatoon, SK – O’Brian’s Event Centre #
09/10 Calgary, AB – One Love Music Festival
09/11 Edmonton, AB – Union Hall #
09/13 Victoria, BC – Sugar Nightclub *
09/14 Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom *
09/15 Seattle, WA – Showbox Sodo *
09/17 Portland, OR – Roseland Theater *
09/18 Bend, OR – Midtown Ballroom *
09/19 Oakland, CA – Fox Theater *
09/20 San Francisco, CA – The Masonic *
09/23 San Diego, CA – Observatory North Park *
09/24 Los Angeles, CA – The Shrine LA Outdoors %
09/26 Tempe, AZ – The Marquee *
09/28 Santa Fe, NM – Santa Fe Brewing Company *
09/30 Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex *
10/01 Boise, ID – Knitting Factory *
10/02 Missoula, MT – The Wilma *
10/03 Billings, MT – Babcock Theatre *
10/05 Fargo, ND – Fargo Civic Center *
10/06 Omaha, NE – Sokol Auditorium *
10/08 Nashville, TN – Municipal Auditorium ^
11/07 Montreal, QC – Fairmount Theatre *
11/09 Portland, ME – State Theatre *
11/10 Burlington, VT – Higher Ground *
11/11 New Haven, CT – Toad’s Place *
11/12 Philadelphia, PA – TLA *
11/14 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club *
11/15 New York, NY – Webster Hall *
11/17 Boston, MA – House Blues *
11/18 Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE *
11/19 Cleveland, OH – House Blues *
@ with Brother Ali, Lifter Puller, Lizzo, Plain Ole Bill, Last Word
* with Brother Ali, deM atlaS, Plain Ole Bill, Last Word
# with Brother Ali, Plain Ole Bill & Last Word
% with Dilated Peoples, Aesop Rock, Brother Ali, deM atlaS, Plain Ole Bill, Last Word