The hip-hop group had a No. 5 album and late-night TV play, but its biggest feat was a local festival.
Atmosphere members Sean Daley "Slug", right, and Anthony Davis "Ant" smoke in thier tour bus Monday before the midnight release of thier record, "When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Sh*t Gold", at 5th Element Record Store in Minneapolis.
To put it bluntly: No Minnesota artist enjoyed more success in 2008 than rapper Slug and DJ/producer Ant, our Artists of the Year in 2002. Their album "When Life Gives You Lemons" debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard chart in April and went on to sell 150,000 copies (never mind how many more were illegally downloaded). They performed on Letterman, Conan and Jimmy Kimmel, in an era when late-night TV is crucial to music acts. The exclamation point to these accomplishments is they did it all via their hometown label, Rhymesayers.
But the crowning achievement of Atmosphere's 15-year career came over Memorial Day weekend, when it drew 12,000 fans to its inaugural Soundset festival. In a year when major touring acts couldn't half-fill arenas here, this was a feat that past Twin Cities bigwigs such as Soul Asylum or Semisonic probably couldn't have done.
Of course, commercial success isn't everything. "Lemons" also was an artistic triumph -- particularly for Slug, whose bad rep as an "emo" rapper flies out the window with mature, visionary singer/songwriterly songs such as "Guarantees" and "Me."