Sean Daley, of Minneapolis-based hip-hop group Atmosphere, is no stranger to overcoming adversity.
Breaking into the national hip-hop scene is not exactly easy when you’re growing up in a midsize Midwestern city. But Daley attributes his success to his strong work ethic.
“There may be a time when cats get a little frustrated because it seems like there are no opportunities,” Daley said. “Then you realize these are the cards you’ve been dealt, and you’ve got to figure out how to play them.”
Though Atmosphere’s 2011 album, “The Family Sign,” debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard Top 200, Daley, who is better known by his rapper name Slug, said he does not let the success go to his head.
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“It feels like biting into a York Peppermint Pattie while waterskiing butt naked,” Daley said. “Ten years ago, I would have let it go to my ego. I don’t let it get to my head anymore.”
Despite chart performances, Daley said the band finds its true validation in how it is able to connect with fans. To do this, the band is touring extensively, including a stop at Wichita’s Cotillion on Sunday.
“It allows audiences to see us and see what we stand for,” Daley said. “Everything becomes more tangible. We know what kind of effect we’re having on them.”
As he has matured, Daley, 39, has let his sound evolve from “token emcee” songs to tracks about family, friends and societal issues. He said he has also stopped drinking “like a fish.”
“I’ve lost too many things I’ve loved,” Daley said. “At some point, you have to draw a line.”
Daley said the band is working on a new album with more fun raps, akin to the Beastie Boys. He said he is glad to be able to express himself and just be himself without having to put up a facade.
“It’s a very free place to be as an artist,” Daley said. “I’ve realized that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. That’s where I can say I’ve made a career out of it.”
Daley’s career has taken him to Wichita “a handful of times,” including a previous show at the Cotillion in 2009. He said it feels comfortable to him.
“I feel bad that it took us three years to come back,” Daley said. “Since I’m from Minneapolis, it’s very similar. Wichita just has more airplane manufacturers, and Minneapolis has more car manufacturers.”
Daley said that in the end, it is not about what city you come from, but how your lyrics can touch people from all over.
“You are in Wichita; you are in Little Rock; you are in Duluth — you’ve just got to embrace that,” Daley said. “As soon as you do that, you find it’s not about the records you sell or the Twitter followers you get. It’s about the people you can touch with your music.”