The Vinyl Five:
Ant from Atmosphere

The Vinyl Five Concept Victrola's new monthly series features artists, authors, DJs, producers, athletes, and other cultural icons discussing their five essential albums on wax and beyond—an exploration of individuals' personal soundtracks and the music that inspires them.

Ant from

For the first installment of Victrola's "The Vinyl Five" interview series, we have DJ, crate digger, and producer extraordinaire Ant from the legendary indie hip-hop act Atmosphere.

Formed in 1996 in Minneapolis, the duo has remained one of the true vanguards of underground hip hop, consistently pushing their art and production forward with every album they create.

Last year's So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously once again confirmed their dedication to the craft of unapologetic beat poetry, pushing the familiar into the unfamiliar ever so slightly.

At the production helm since the beginning, Ant (Anthony Davis) has surgically sliced together loops to weave a musical tapestry for bandmate Slug to layer his hard-hitting lyrics over.

We caught up with Ant between tour dates to get the lowdown on five of his favorite records and to learn more about his musical history and inspirations.

Check Out So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously by Atmosphere

A Tribe Called Quest: People's Instinctive Travels 

When I first heard this album in 1990, I was 20 years old and making demos as a DJ, co-producing at best. After hearing this, and because I understood how it was made, it made me rethink everything. What the possibilities could be with sound, approach - styles of samples that I never thought of although they were right in front of my face. Maybe what stuck with me most are the song arrangements and sequencing. The way the interludes are placed with the song titles and crazy cut-offs has been very inspirational to this day.

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John Coltrane: A Love Supreme

This is one of those records that hit me differently at different times of my life. A true masterpiece. This is one of my main go-to's when having dinner guests. Plus, this era of jazz (50s-60s) is my favorite to listen to.

Also, the label it is on, Impulse, is some of the best all-around sounding records to me, along with Bluenote stuff.

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Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly

When I was digging around in the Victrola record store, I thought I'd try and pick something modern. Kendrick Lamar is one of my favorite artists. All of his records are as good as it gets. To Pimp A Butterfly, though, I didn't see coming. I've had a dozen parts of the first song in my head since it first came out. I guess it's like eight years old now, so there goes picking something "modern." 

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Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon - Live At Wembley Empire Pool, London 1974

Speaking of modern, this new release of a live performance of "Darkside Of The Moon" was originally recorded 50 years ago and is just great. Whether you have heard this record a thousand times or are hearing it for the first time, there is just something special here. I, for the most part, do not enjoy live records, but this one is the exception. It is just as good as the studio record but a pinch different, enough for new life and some pleasant changes. I may have sat down and listened to it at least three times straight through, which is very unusual for me at this point in my life. I highly recommend it.

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Prince: Purple Rain

How can you add any more praise to this record that hasn't already been given a million times? What I can say is that when this came out when I was 14, I was trying to find my identity through music. I was into a more aggressive style of music because, obviously, at that age, I was an excellent actor - pretending to be cool and tough. This record had me thinking in a different way subconsciously. It made vulnerable artistic expression seem stronger and more real, broadening the way that I saw things at the time. Having songs like "When Doves Cry" and "Beautiful Ones" on heavy repeat will change your perspective, I guess.

I would even add that at age 14 in 1984, of course, I wanted to be like Prince. I even had the nerve to buy one of those blouse shirts that he wore... I unfortunately did not have the guts to wear it to school. I ended up trying to be like Morris Day instead. 

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The Other Stuff:

Do you organize your records, and how?

I do organize them, but in a very specific way that is only functional for me. I have been buying records since 1983 (without ever being side tracked by the ridiculous CD revolution) and inherited my Dads record collection; plus my occupation as a hip hop DJ/producer that still uses vinyl, my collection has become huge. With that, I organize in genres, specific eras, and by record labels. In my basement, I have a wall dedicated to hip hop, two walls of soul and funk, and then a wall of jazz. There is a back room of rock and misc, a working area of things I have or will be sampling, and probably a closet worth of international and prog rock that I have been really into the last few years.

What was your first album, and how did you score it?

In 1983 or 84, I had a few records - mostly purchased by my mom. The first record I bought with my very own paper route money was Crash Crew (self-titled). Like most purchases of rap music back then, you would have to know it was something good by word of mouth or just take a chance on what you were buying. I took a chance on this one, or more of an educated guess; it was on the Sugar Hill record label, and that was enough motivation. I actually didn't like it that much at the time; it didn't fit my expectations (there were only five songs, and one was instrumental), but I love it now. That same day, I also got Kraftwerk's Computer World, and that was something I knew well, it was a few years old by then, but I finally got my own copy. Oh, and I think I bought these at a chain record store called Music Land.

Is there any specific person, place, or moment that minted your love for music?

That started at home and came from my dad. He collected records - mostly soul, funk, then later he got into jazz. He also had dreams of being a radio disc jockey and would DJ parties here and there. I would take that torch from him, becoming a collector and eventually having a career in music.

Did you make mixtapes as a kid? How elaborate were they?

I did make all kinds of mixtapes as a kid. As I started DJing more in the eighties, I tried to make my mixtapes more like albums. I would try blends, pause tape style, and add scratches all over - attempting to make mega mix type recordings that actually didn't make much sense. I still have them. I would even try to make graffiti art on these tape covers; that was the norm for the time period, though.

What is the most important album in your collection? (what is the rarest, the strangest?)

For me that is almost impossible to say, but I guess the most important would have to be the EP Beyond Comparison by Beyond. It was the first record I produced and Rhymesayers' first record that was ever released on vinyl, not just tape. This was in 1996. With my love of records and of hip hop, I could not have been more proud.

I can't say if this one is super rare, but one of my all time favorite songs is The Jonzun Crew's "Pack-Jam." A few years ago I learned about the original version on Boston International Records, it has slightly different words, and a slightly different mix that I find super interesting. I am guessing when the Jonzun crew was picked up by the Tommy Boy record label they changed some words, and also the spelling of the title of the song for the re-release. Maybe to dodge lawsuits because of the Pac-Man arcade game that was so popular? Either way, I love stories like that, so I had to have it.

Why do you think people are going back to vinyl?

I believe people are getting back into it because you have a different kind of connection with music when you have something physical in your hand. It seems to make the music more meaningful and personal. There is an entire story in this piece of vinyl. Where you bought it and when, or maybe you had to search for it and it makes you appreciate it more. The artwork on them, showing them off to your friends... I don't know, records are just cool.

Listen in Hi-Res

As part of our Vinyl Five series, we ask our esteemed participants to play their thoughtfully picked records on a premium Victrola Hi-Res turntable while sharing their thoughts and feelings. Using either wireless aptX™ Adaptive Bluetooth connectivity or wired with a switchable preamp standard RCA outs, Hi-Res turntables provide vinyl listening in stunning clarity.

Learn More about the Hi-Res Series

Revolution GO Portable Record Player: Atmosphere Limited Edition

A match made in hip-hop heaven, the Atmosphere x Revolution GO collaboration comes during an important mark in music history: hip-hop’s 50th year. What better duo to take this step with than Atmosphere, who’ve been in the space for over half this time with the founding of independent record label Rhymesayers in 1995 before their first album “Overcast!” in 1997.

Rapper Slug and DJ/producer Ant take a bold, positive approach to family, brotherhood, purpose, and positivism, and have built a deep discography ranging from upbeat songs like “Best Day” to more serious ones like “Yesterday.” With a dozen studio albums and a focus on DJing and sampling  — and quality — Atmosphere makes for a perfect collaboration with the excellence- and purpose-driven brand Victrola.

Check out the Atmosphere Revolution GO