3 out of 5
Produced by: Stress
Being a Rhymesayers’ devotee, trusting in their catalogue and using their roster as a way to be introduced to new and older artists I can follow elsewhere, its been difficult to coming around to accept that I’m just not a big fan of Atmosphere’s style. Slug’s laid-back spit can be perfect in snippets; he’s a great cameo on a track. But on album, it’s rarer that I’ll vibe with a whole song. In part, it’s the lyrical content, which almost never strays from obsessions with weed and sex; not that these are rare topics for hip-hop, but Slug has made nearly an entire career about over-poeticizing them, and I can take only so many variations on that before rolling my eyes. These poetics then slam up – rather childishly, in my take – with more crass stuff; it’s a very backpacky type of writing that doesn’t intrigue me.
And Slug would seem to prefer DJs that give him a pretty minimalistic, soulful beat; Ant, for example, who can work wonders with other artists, but in Atmosphere, plays up to Slug’s love for repetition – the man will hit a chorus multiple, multiple, multiple times, to the point where whatever clever wordplay he’s stumbled on quickly becomes tiresome, and then there’s no extra oomph from the beat to change that up.
These elements are all there on one of the first tracks that started to give Atmosphere hype – God’s Bathroom Floor. A woozy read on addiction, the track undeniably has power when it gets going – this is where I can understand Slug’s use of repetition, especially on earlier tracks when it was a gateway to a more frenzied delivery – but is nonetheless still subject to spouting the same things again and again, and examining its subject matter with relatively small scope. Stress is the DJ, but the template of the group is much the same. Having never heard the original version of this, I can’t say how good the remastering of this version is – bear in mind that this was a song circulated first live, and then only on one of Atmopshere’s very first releases as an official track – but it does sound very modern, and lush, so I have to imagine they did a good job. However, it’s the B-side where even a doubter like me can understand why this would’ve been an exciting find: a liver version of the track has a ton of life and enthusiasm in the delivery, despite being captured decades after the fact. This tends to support something I’ve always wondered: whether or not the things that “work” for Atmopshere live just don’t translate well to my ears in studio.
Anyway, yes: this is notable for giving longtime listener’s a physical version of a track they might’ve had difficulty tracking down, and giving us, essentially, a then / now comparison of the delivery. However, at the same time, it is just two versions of the same song, and cost $13 bucks… So if you’re an Atmosphere fan, yes, sure, own it; if you’re a casual listener, I don’t know if it can be justified; and if you’re maybe not an Atmos follower, as I’m coming around to accepting, this song / single isn’t going to add anything new to your experience.