After leaving a slew of lunch tabs on the expense accounts of major label reps, Atmosphere promptly dashed their prospective hopes (GASFACE) and instead inked a deal with the rock based imprint Epitaph. While the move surprised some, there’s no disputing that Seven’s Travels is Atmosphere’s most-important record to date, as it finds the group and more specifically, Slug, ready to trade in the underground grind for a piss in the mainstream.
While Atmosphere’s “Lucy” series epitomized dysfunctional relationships, in the same vein that Eminem did with “Kim,” Slug’s latest batch of therapeutic odes are tamer but just as effective. On “Reflections” Slug laments “gonna build a family just to watch someone to destroy it.” And though Slug has fun playing with the dichotomy of what makes men and woman tick, for every barricade (“Gotta Lotta Walls”) that’s put up, under the lid there’s a yearning which suggests Slug’s similarly searching for and avoiding the very same thing—-love and acceptance. This becomes evident on “Always Coming Back Home To You” where Ant’s subtle drums and acoustic guitar riffs provide the minimal backdrop for Slug to concisely weave together four different scenario’s into a messy Tarantino ending and “Bird Sings The Caged I Know” where Slug rattles the metaphorical relationship cage “well I’ll shake her from her branch/tear apart her nest/break her skinny legs and fry her eggs up for breakfast.” But perhaps Slug’s narrative abilities are most palpable on “Lift Her Pull Her” as in a five-minute span he brings a doomed young couple to life; which is further punctuated by Sara Lindsay’s emotive and haunting chorus “you don’t know me/you just love me.”
And though Slug’s topic-matter and verbiage requires an attentive ear, he does not get bogged down in it, as there is also some lighter fare. With the playful “National Disgrace” Ant dabbles in Hickhop and gets busy with the bass with the pimp-strutting of “In My Continental”. Likewise, Brother Ali storms thru for the LP’s only notable guest-appearance on the hazy “Cats Van Bags” and asserts “the revolution will not have distribution.”
Though Seven’s Travels is Atmosphere’s most complete LP; it’s a beefy collection that could have benefited from some quality control. Clocking in at a robust 20-tracks, loose change like “Los Angeles,” “Liquor Lyles Cool July”, “Shoes”, and the now mundane voicemail skit “Suicidegirls” are strictly filler material.
While Slug has a poetic sense and knows how to weave a narrative, he’s beginning to refine his writing style. Previously, Slug leaned more towards the Aesop Rock school of emceeing, but he’s no longer attempting to blatantly go over our heads, or litter his essays with overly complex schemes and riddles. And even though Slug’s M.O. is inertly analytical, his newfound efficiency helps generate material that is more inclusive and user-friendly.
Though Slug’s modern man hustle used to revolve around hip-hop and comic books, with “Balance” he waxes about how his life has changed “now all my friends are famous” and smugly flips a middle finger to his detractors “Atmosphere finally made a good record/yeah right/that shit almost sounds convincing.” With Seven’s Travel’s the duo is fully immersed in the best of both worlds, as they not only get to reap the benefits of their coverguy status (Urb Magazine) but can back it up, with yes a good record…
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