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Sunday, June 24

Unlike today’s mainstream hip hop, Atmosphere’s music isn’t about the beat or the flow or the hook. It’s about the words. Not only do rapper Sean “Slug” Daley and producer Anthony “Ant” Davis avoid the typical trappings of mainstream hip hop, but they flip underground hip hop on its head too with minimal beats and pensive lyrics. In 1998 Atmosphere released their tightly produced, personal and poetic debut albumOvercast!. The record used mysteriously minimal beats, sampling songs from Stevie Wonder to Ludwig Van Beethoven in a style that acts like MF Doom and Immortal Technique would adopt later in the 2000s. Those beats helped to emphasize the allegorical and metaphorical lyrics of Slug, which laid the foundation for the group’s next seven albums, including their latestThe Family Sign. The Minneapolis, Minnesota based collective’s progression from Overcast! to The Family Sign is not exactly direct though. Where Overcast! is heavily vinyl based, The Family Sign is instrumentally based with forlorn guitar riffs and minimalist piano lines. Where Overcast! was more immediate in lyrical content, The Family Sign is vague and universal. The opening track “My Key” sets the tone for the rest of the album with an ethereal, Radiohead-like vibe. It takes a certain type of talent to reinvent a sound over a decade while still maintaining an instantly familiar tone, and that is exactly what Atmosphere has done. If you’re a hip hop fan in Buffalo, it would be a huge mistake to miss Atmosphere when they come to the Town Ballroom on Sunday (June 24). —cory perla

7pm. Town Ballroom, 681 Main St. (852-3900 / $20 advance, $24 day of show.

Below: “The Last to Say” by Atmosphere