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     Putting it down on the indy scene for almost ten years now, Minneapolis all-stars, Atmosphere deliver their umpteenth full-length release, finding the crew taking a back-to-basics approach. Trading the usual self-depreciating, lo-fi “emo-rap”, producer Ant and emcee Slug instead deliver hard-hitting production and 80′s emcee battle rap swagger, with a touch of “edutainment”. Fresh off the release of Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet with Murs, Slug and Ant are in top form, delivering perhaps their greatest, most consistent full-length release yet. 

     What makes this album such a pleasure to listen to is Ant’s almost Bomb Squad-esque style of production, which takes a “cut and paste” approach to sewing the entire LP together, as if it were one long piece of music. Slug kicks the door down with “The Arrival”, spattering humorous, poignant braggadocio over a familiar loop, and shortly thereafter continues on “Watch Out”, a classic battle rap that finds Slug letting loose on wack emcees, over a collage of heavy funk drums and various other samples.  “Bam” is another abrasive throwback find Slug venting at various topics over more dirty drums. 

     But as longtime fans know, Slug isn’t limited to just these types of songs, as this LP finds him delving into his personal life, not to mention attacking several serious topics as well. “Panic Attack” is a Requiem For A Dream-esque narrative that explores America’s drug addiction, from pain pills to street narcotics.  The theme of addiction is explored again on “Pour Me Another”, finding Slug at Cheers wallowing in his sorrows to his “addiction of you” (most likely aimed at “a” or “the” female in his life). This elusive woman seems to be the topic of more the one song, as the misery is again explored on the somber “Say Hey There”, which finds Slug and Ant bringing the best out in one another. Slug gets deeply personal on “Little Man”, which finds him doing the “One Love” thing, penning letters to his son and (assumingly) his father. The album’s most important song, “That Night”, unfortunately proves that tragedy inspires fine art, as Slug recounts the tragic, true tale of a girl that was raped and murdered at an Atmosphere show in Albuquerque. 

     While Slug has pretty much always been on point as an emcee, it’s taken years for people to realize this (“hating on me is so 2002″). However, with Ant’s production stepped up a notch on this release, Atmosphere begins to live up to the hype that’s followed them thus far throughout their career. Slug delivers an even balance of politics, heart, soul, intelligence, and good ol’ fashioned rap attitude, while Ant’s beats combine layers of dusty grooves, obscure rap samples, and the occasional live instrument. Pour me another!

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