Perhaps the most important thing I can tell you about the new Atmosphere album is that no Atmosphere fans wanted to review it. In a group of music critics and Atmosphere fans, the only guy they could find to review the album is a washed up RV salesman from Penticton, British Columbia. I'm not an Atmosphere fan; I'm not even from Minneapolis, so maybe I'll have a different idea of it. After all, a lot of Kanye West fans didn't like Yeezus because Yeezus doesn't sound anything like Late Registration.
Ant’s production on Southsiders is pretty great. Let's get that out of the way. It's obviously designed to showcase Slug's lyrical talents: none of the songs are overpowering, DJ Khaled summer anthems where it's like, whatever, Juicy J, you do you. This would be appropriate, I'm told, for 2002 Slug, because something about Napster agreed with his temperament, apparently.
Things fall apart when Slug starts rapping. My editor once pegged Slug as the second-best rapper of all time, and I can't see it. Between similes about things that are cold (popsicles, rivers*) and clarifying that while he loves you like a brother he isn't actually your brother, Slug brings a lot of things to the ninth-grade writing workshop that his classmates are already tired of. There are flashes of brilliance, I guess, but there's a lot of stuff to work through.
Sometimes it's poor writing, sometimes it's poor delivery, sometimes the ideas that form the backbone of this album just don't seem that well formed. On “Camera Thief” (among other songs), Slug expresses sentiments roughly on par with Eminem's later work. It's a hollow, middle-aged realization of responsibilities that go beyond liquor and fireworks. It's not interesting, it's certainly not unique, and it barely qualifies as insight.
I would never give this album a failing grade; it certainly satisfies the assignment, but people generally expect something special from Atmosphere and it falls well short of that. The production does a lot of the heavy lifting, and there are glimpses of what makes Slug Slug, but let's not act like this is an album we're going to be talking about after August.
“So high, I feel like a pilot”