Atmosphere – â€œWhen Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Goldâ€
Minneapolisâ€™s Atmosphere has been a mainstay of underground hip hop since Overcast! showed up in â€™97 – and later, with their major God Loves Ugly in 2002. Since the success of that major label release, Atmosphere has been on a roller coaster of cutting-edge lyricism and production, but also some major disappointments. The last 2 records, Seven’s Travels and You Can’t Imagine All the Fun We’re Having, just didn’t succeed in the same honest, self-aware form that the previous records thrived on. For Slug and Ant, 2008 is different. After their stunning free â€œfull lengthâ€ (and I use that loosely) Strictly Leakage the Minnesota duo have released their biggest step forward since the glory days of Slug howling, â€œFuck you, Lucy!â€
The duo’s new album, When Life Gives you Lemons… is a grimy piano and funk bathed ride through the bowels of drug abuse and womanizing (as well as some empathizing). Slug’s introspective lyrics work well backed with Ant’s new found love of old school funk and piano jams. Atmosphere seem to have regained their stride.
Where Strictly Leakage was a pavement cracking â€œfuck you, I rhyme betterâ€ look at the hip hop culture, â€œWhen Life Gives You Lemons…â€ brings Slugâ€™s insecurities and apparent fascination into the drug culture to the forefront.
With a very mellow start, â€œLike the Rest of Usâ€ and â€œPuppetsâ€ set the tone for the record. Beginning with Antâ€™s heavy piano backing, Slug beautifully weaves his way through the drug life making great use of every day occurrences playing into the human experience. The use of â€œshe showed me outside as she gave me a cigaretteâ€ regarding a conversation with an expectant mother which makes me remember the gold olâ€™ days of Slug reminiscing about the woman with the tattooed hands back on Lucy Ford.
The record then takes a sharp, but welcome turn to the slightly more aggressive â€œShoulda Knowâ€ marking the recordâ€™s halfway mark. Here Sluggo continues his exploration of drugs and Ant brings the heavily distorted bass line crunching along. The upward swing continues smoothly through the second half of the or the record peaking at â€œCanâ€™t Breakâ€ with El-P-like space beats. Slug goes back to the tried-and-true stories of growing up while living in a perpetual fucked up state. He lays down his best crack at an over-serious drawn out line of â€œI fear/and I want/ but I canâ€™t break awayâ€ but keeps the record moving at a solid pace. The record finally culminates with a pair of â€œupdatedâ€ Lucy Ford-esque tracks. Both are solid tracks but nothing to write home about although our narrator’s storytelling still cannot falter even spending more time on his tried and true exploration of a kid growing into hip hop on â€œIn Her Music Boxâ€.
Now with all of the pros, unfortunately the record does have its shortcomings. Although I have always enjoyed Slugâ€™s story-oriented emceeing, the subject matter has been visited before and probably will be visited again. It seems that some of his fascinations (drugs, women, and growing up) have yet to be fully explored. The continuation of his exploration of these matters seems to have lost some of itâ€™s freshness, but still works in this thawed from the freezer adventure. On a more positive note, Antâ€™s production has never been better. I have been skeptical of Ant since the sub-par effort on Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet, but his talents truly shine on this effort. The man whips his balls out for all to see on tracks like â€œGuaranteesâ€ and â€œYour Glass Houseâ€ showing off his talents using a Buck 65 guitar strum and a bass heavy synth pad. Seeing the step from the box of his patented bass and the movement style is welcome and very successful.
Atmosphere has crafted a great addition to their legendary catalogue and even with a few stumbling points in Slugâ€™s rhymes, the boys from the land of ice and snow have made one hell of a jump on 2008 and have resurrected Rhymesayers back into the upper echelon of the underground. 8.1/10
Atmosphere – Your Glass House(mp3)
-Joey Zittnan 5.5.08