Monday, May 26, 2008

Atmosphere / "When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold"

While listening to the latest album from Minneapolis hip-hop duo Atmosphere, I was left with one burning question: What the fuck, Ant? The production on this album falters in a way I have never seen from Atmosphere, or from any other album I've heard Ant produce. The usually eclectic and generally impressive producer seems content to phone this one in. The beats are simple and lack the movement, change, and intricacies of Ant's best work. They're, quite frankly, boring, although the guitar strings and vocal sampling on "Me" work beautifully.

Which is not to say "Lemons" is a bad album, it's just much more dependent on Slug's verses than it should be and can afford to be. Slug is an above-average, but inconsistent MC. Here, he delivers his usual storytelling about growing up, the darker side of street life, and vivid character explorations. However, he is still inconsistent, even within the same track. On "Dreamer" he opens with the eye-roll inducing line "she got a condition of the heart, a heart condition," but in the same song drops quote-worthy lyrics such as "she still dreams after she woke, tight hold on that hope. Sometimes it can seem so cold do what you gotta do to cope." Slug knows he has talent, which he does, but he also seems oblivious to his limitations. When he attempts to "sing" on refrains like that of "The Skinny" it's almost embarassing and nearly overshadows the song's mostly strong verses.

It's good to see Atmosphere continuing to put Minneapolis on the hip-hop map. "Lemons" opened at number five on the Billboard 200, marking the band's (and label Rhymesayer's) highest level ever reached on the chart. Problem is, an album like "God Loves Ugly" would be a more deserving way to break-through than this. I have a hard time recommending this album, because it's not the band's best or the label's best, or even close. If you're in the market for an Ant-produced album by a white Minneapolis rapper on Rhymesayers, you're much better off purchasing Brother Ali's "Shadows on the Sun," which showcases Ant at his pinnacle and features a much better MC than Slug. However, getting back to this album and its rating, I'll give Slug a 7.0 and Ant a 3.0 for their respective efforts. Average the two out, and we're left with a...

Rating: 5.0

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