The title of the new album by Minneapolis’ indie duo Atmosphere (rapper Slug and producer Ant) says it all as apparently Slug’s still having his ass handed to him by life; but this time around it looks like he may have a positive outlook on things. Maybe.
Known for their lengthy career (this is their sixth studio album) and strong underground following, Atmosphere have built their reputation on Ant’s innovative and funky West Coast-leaning production and Slug’s misery. The act has been credited with being one of the innovators of the “emo-rap” scene with Slug’s “everyman” lyrics touching on blue collar topics like girlfriend problems, paying bills, alcoholism and trying to find a job that pays a decent wage. Their refreshing take on hip-hop has allowed them to sow the seeds of a sub-genre of rap that is the “anti-bling” if you will. This is rap music for the aging hipster or hip-hop head in a midlife crisis (Slug himself is approaching his mid-thirties and has a teenage son) wondering if after all of those years of hard work there actually is any light at the end of the tunnel.
The lead single off of When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (Rhymesayers, 2008), “Guarantees” is a surprising twist for Atmosphere in terms of production but not in subject matter however. Over a spare guitar strum, Slug speaks on how hard life is when you’re trying to make ends meet on next to nothing “My better half is mad at making magic out of canned goods / My tax bracket’s got me questioning my manhood”. You wait for four minutes and thirty seconds for the beat to drop but it never does. It’s just Slug and a guitar making a statement so strong a beat wouldn’t do it any justice.
The depressing duo amp things up a bit with “Shoulda Known” where over a future-funk squelcher Slug spins a narrative of an addiction he has to woman who is more interested in her drug habit then her relationship with him. Slug admits to his own love addiction that he can’t shake on the chorus, “Shoulda known better not to *uck with you / Ain’t got nothing but too much to lose / Lost in the rush don’t know what to do / That drug got you / Like I want you”. It’s no surprise that Slug’s looking for love in all the wrong places, as this is a guy who has namedropped the infamous Suicide Girls (Google them!) as a vice.
Atmosphere yet again deliver a dose of reality served up with hot beats on their latest offering and prove that some pretty decent lemonade can be made with the lemons life hands you. However, I’m sure Slug would enjoy his spiked and with a cigarette.
By: Mark Bozzer