3 out of 5
Produced by: Ant
Between co-running Rhymesayers, guesting on a billion albums, and his own output with Ant as Atmosphere, Slug – Sean Daley – is a busy dude. During his time in the music industry, he’s always been pretty prolific, but after establishing his somewhat slow-roll, narrative style, his range in Atmosphere became more and more predictable, and I admittedly stopped seeing him as a keystone in the Rhymesayers’ lineup, more as someone who’s sort of been grandfathered in. Which is horribly insulting, but it’s nonetheless my personal take: his writing and flow just don’t catch me off guard anymore. That said, I’ve also felt that Slug has always been energized when he’s teamed up with others, whether on an Atmosphere disc, or as Felt, when buddied up with Murs, so the announcement of a new Felt disc a decade after the last one! was actually pretty damn exciting. Murs’ lyrical spryness has remained sharp over the years, and though my cooled opinion on Atmosphere extends to Ant, recent efforts from the producer have shown him pushing out into more interesting digital realms, and thus having the slightly broader template of Felt to work with was also promising.
And for the most part, those points of interest remained checked off by ‘Felt 4 U:’ Slug still slips into lazy phrasings here and there, but trading off with Murs seems to keep him on his topical toes more often than not, and there’s bright and squeaky exuberance in his delivery. None of the tracks dive too particularly deep, meaning that neither MC drops any gob-smacking bars per se, but the flow is slick and enjoyable, and they sound like they’re engaged throughout. Ant’s production is, indeed, fantastic – it’s years of learnings making for a backbone of his classic soulfulness, but then sprinkled with interesting glitz throughout, such that every song feels like it has a distinctive feeling, and beat.
The only real problem is that I’m not sure if there was a need for this reunion. Music can be fun – it doesn’t always need to have a point beyond that – and Felt 4 U is that, with some light dabbling in social politics and commentary on being oneself, and aging in the game, but nothing on the album comes across as especially relevant to its 2020 release, or as driving the need for these two to team-up after so many years. There’s not some revitalized spark that feels like it ignited a recording session; rather, it comes across as a casual conversation that led to some equally casual writing, and made for 12 supremely enjoyable songs. Anything wrong with that? Nope, surely not. Though I think an indirect effect is that nothing sticks out much after you’ve spun the disc a few times, except maybe to encourage listening to your favorite Felt, Atmosphere, or Murs release right after.