Atmosphere’s MC Slug is frequently referred to as “the emo rapper,” and on the group’s new Seven’s Travels (Rhymesayers) he comes off as more than self-absorbed enough to claim the title. His rhymes are inconsistent strings of sensitive-guy self-critique, half-disguised grandiosity, and flat-out navel-gazing. In “Reflections” Slug portrays his sexual conquests as the inevitable but insufficient perks of touring life, but his claimed interest in a more substantial interaction is belied by his contempt: “I’ll give you conversation just to see if you can hold ’em / I play so dumb because I know some of these star-struck small-talk art fucks is no fun.” “Gotta Lotta Walls” is an unflattering third-person self-portrait in which he castigates himself for not being reflective enough: “Tap his foot to the rhythm of original sin / Throw his balls to the wind trying to mow down these pins / He’ll keep swinging from the hair above his chin / Till he finds his soul in the 50-cent bin.” Ant, the other half of Atmosphere, handles the production in the studio but doesn’t tour; here he seems to be phoning in the standard if steady hard grooves of underground hip-hop. He sounds far more inspired on Shadows on the Sun, by fellow Minneapolitan and labelmate Brother Ali, where he lays out a soul-drenched landscape for the gruff-voiced MC to fly over, from the deep funk hooks of “Prince Charming” to the bebop riffing beneath “Blah Blah Blah.” Ali isn’t afraid of a little introspection, but he doesn’t wallow in it–in “Picket Fence,” a look back at leaving his dysfunctional family at age 17 and his rough road since, he cops to a sense of loss without sounding like he’s looking for pity. At the Metro the bill is Atmosphere, Micronots, Brother Ali, and Oddjobs; at the Abbey Pub it’s Atmosphere, Micronots, Brother Ali, BK One, Deejaybird, and Oddjobs. Wednesday, December 3, 5:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. Thursday, December 4, 8:30 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Monick.