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SUNDAY

In college, my roommate and I had a small sign taped to the cheap, secondhand stereo system that we shared: “NO UNSIGNED ARTISTS.” In the mid-’90s, with major labels putting out quality hiphop, we had decided that there was no longer any need to endure hours of listening to bland underground music in the hopes of finding some undiscovered jewel. We were tired of visitors bearing hastily dubbed 90-minute Maxell tapes telling us, “Yo, yo, you gotta hear my cousin/aunt/brother-in-law/lil’ nephew kick this verse! I’m telling you—they nice, yo!” The ban worked: Our ears were spared the lyrical missteps of many misguided, mediocre MCs. I can’t help but wonder, however, if I might have heard the Minneapolis rap group Atmosphere before now without the moratorium. On its latest effort, God Loves Ugly, lead MC Slug (pictured) avoids the money-cars-hos trifecta and sticks to more grounded subject matter—like relationships gone bad and searching for happiness. The album’s wonderfully weird beats come courtesy of producer Ant, who uses an eclectic mix of sounds to flesh out Slug’s vocals—including a blues harmonica and a chorus of little kids taunting, “You’re so ugly!” The group has a major underground following, including throngs of women who no doubt go ga-ga for Slug’s baby face, but it appears the group has no desire to cross over—even if it means that its music will never get play in certain tape decks. Feel Slug penetrate, with Murs, Brother Ali, and the Educated Consumers, at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $12. (202) 667-7960. (Sarah Godfrey)