3 out of 5
Produced by: Ant, Jel
As co-founders of the Rhymesayers label, Slug and Ant – Atmosphere – have been responsible for introducing me to so much awesome hip-hop, as well as certainly expanding my appreciation of the genre in general. I started on Atmosphere with what’s probably my favorite album – Seven’s Travels – and for better or worse, I haven’t quite found that same mix of soulful beats and insightful lyrics as consistently replicated on other Atmos releases before or after. In fact, most of the other Atmosphere stuff I’ve give significant listens to tends to bore me to a certain degree: Slug’s confessional (and occasionally) juvenile rhymes never seem as clever as his playful or sniping tone implies, and Ant’s beats are very much variants on same-sounding loops with a dash of old-school vinyl crackle. On more recent outings, Slug struggles with finding a focus for his writing; on early outings – such as the 3-EP collection Lucy Ford – he’s enthused about the things that, I suppose, made him a known quantity: weed and women. I totally get how this would’ve built a great rep live, as the guy rarely repeats himself and has a very chilled, off-the-cuff flow while he says somewhat crass or dumb things that would likely make people in a crowd do crowd things like put their hands up and cheer. But minus the thrum of a group of people feeling that vibe, the recordings fall pretty flat most of the time. Sean – Slug – admittedly has a delightful sing-song delivery, and while Ant’s beats might not sound too distinctive to me, his production style in general has a very raw, live vibe that works well with Sean’s pitter-patter; an Atmosphere record is rarely a disruptive listen. But too many wandering narratives a la The Woman With the Tattooed Hands, in which weak “conclusions” are derived from just rattling off notebook entries, and one-note tracks like Don’t Ever Fucking Question That make non-disruptive into something that’s easily left to the background. Which is a shame, as we do get some of the Seven’s Travels inventiveness: If I Was Santa Claus is a bizarre word association joint, and several of the tracks on the first half (from the Lucy EP) – Between the Lines, It Goes – are slick as hell, landing on a rollicking vibe that instantly makes you bob your head.