To all my friends: buy this record
A mere 20 years after hip hop began in the 1970s, Sean Daley (Slug) and Anthony Davis (DJ/producer Ant) would embark on a career as Atmosphere that would change the face of independent hip hop forever. Now, with a new double EP to accompany their live tour, they may have just done it all again.
Throughout six studio albums and multiple EPs, Slug’s self obsessed, misogynist, detailed, yet poetic lyrics have become the band’s signature style while Ant has been happy staying in the background as producer and DJ creating subtle yet perfect beats. Though there have been a couple interchanging members through the history and live act, these two are the heart of Atmosphere.
“Lucy Ford” (a play on the name Lucifer) dealt with Slug’s addiction to alcohol and how it came between him and his relationships using Lucy as a elaborate metaphor. “God Loves Ugly” did much of the same yet also managed to create some of the finest hits of the decade.
However, their 2008 effort, “When Life Gives You Lemons…,” saw Slug departing from songs about Slug and focusing more on character creations. He continues that pattern for multiple songs on “Friends” and has truly improved the style.
This double EP is long enough to be a full length album yet it doesn’t have the flow and song connection that their other albums do. Out of these 12 new tracks, there are several already classic Atmosphere songs, some daring yet rewarding tracks, and a couple weak ones.
The most noticeable difference is Ant’s production; he has strayed away from sampling and slow piano hooks and is geared towards an instrument that should evidently be used much more in Atmosphere: the guitar. On six of the tracks here, it’s the most prominent instrument making Slug’s raps feel more organic.
On “Freefallin’” Slug ponders the everyday man’s job and the struggles one faces with it over a guitar sounding like a softer “Sublime.” On “Hope,” the EP’s shortest track, Slug deals with an ex-something (friend, boss, girlfriend) and wishes them sarcastic hope for the days coming.
The excellent track “Commodities” has a riff reminiscent of the White Stripes and is one of the stronger tracks here that shows a lyrically Angry slug. Both the tracks “Scalp” and “Until The Nipple’s Gone” are fine tracks standing on their own; however, once looking at their history, it becomes evident that these tracks have been done before.
“The Best Day”, one of the best Atmosphere tracks I’ve heard in years, is vintage Atmosphere that has a piano hook reminiscent of “Yesterday.” Slug rapping “every day can’t be the best day/ Do what you can right now, don’t hesitate/ That’s why we try to make love and get paid,” takes a subject, positivity for the day to day life, that could have easily been cliché-ridden and he turns it into pure poetry.
The EP’s other already classic song, “To All My Friends,” is a perfect closer that has Slug reflecting his life and his childhood dreams and shows why this man is one of the most successful rappers in the world.
Many have called Atmosphere mainstream sellouts, many say people around here only listen to them because they love hearing local music, many have called Slug an emo hiding in a rap outfit; however, Atmosphere has done nothing to deserve such negative press. They simply put honest effort into every release and try to connect with listeners with each track and are extremely successful here with some fantastic new tracks.