It's hard to pass off bein' all hard when you're rapping from the Northwoods mean streets of Minneapolis. Indie hip-hop MC Slug and his crew in Atmosphere go the other direction, melding deep underground beats and growlin' free-style prowess with an occasionally wince-inspiring, self-effacing perspective on life, relationships and being broke as hell. With Atmosphere, the boasting's all about scathing lyrical abilities, work ethic, sensitivity and love a confident, refreshing approach that has drawn talented, like-minded MCs and DJs such as Eyedea, Ant, and costumed king MF Doom into the group's influential Rhymesayers collective (soon to include KC's Mac Lethal). Sure, Slug sometimes comes off a little like Lili Taylor's character in Say Anything, writing an obsessive amount of songs about his ex (including the three Lucy Ford EPs), but there's rare power in the emotion, and more than enough raw, no-bullshit talent coming from Slug and his crew to make up for any potential annoyance. Atmosphere is touring in support of its new album, You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having, but if you're looking for a better taste, try the 2002 lo-fi rhymefest God Loves Ugly.