Release Date: May 6, 2014
Record label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap
Eight albums in and Minnesota's indie rap act Atmosphere are as angsty as ever, but on the great Southsiders, MC Slug and producer Ant fight hard against the dreck and depression of everyday life as they take a mature stance and muddle through it all with style and a sense of purpose. Think of a Macklemore without the Black Eyed Peas-sized pop moves and the brilliance of singsongy and snide tracks like "Bitter" ("Everything used to be so good then/Now it seems you're mad at my footprints") is at hand, while "Kanye West" lives up to its bold title with a combination of claustrophobia (Ant's production features a Yeezus-worthy, suffocating guitar crunch), a crooked chorus ("Put your hands in the air like you really do care"), and a new manifesto ("If we gonna struggle, I'm a gonna do it comfortably/And live life like I like to breathe"). Put a '40s-influenced beat under "Mrs.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. A reversion to type after the overly morose The Family Sign, Atmosphere have achieved a successful, if not entirely satisfying regeneration. On the surface Slug and Ant haven't allowed recent success to do much more than fund a rigorous touring and release schedule; Southsiders takes a happy step back from the age-obsessed personal crisis of their previous album, engaging once again with the more viperous subject matter Slug thrives on - failed relationships, deeply held principles of responsibility and trust, and alcohol.
On Southsiders, the Minneapolis duo of Slug (Sean Daley) and DJ Ant (Anthony Davis) are back with another batch of their catchy, emotional and brutally honest brand of indie rap. Lead single "Bitter" sees Slug kicking his own ass (whilst testing out his singing chops quite decently) over Ant's digitized-xylophone-flavoured backbeat, which sprinkles a little Cali-funk on their Midwest blues. Listen back through their impressive catalogue (Fun fact: Did you know they've been in the game longer than Bieber's been alive!?) and you'll notice a couple of trends: one that stands out the most is the fact that Slug has always been a very honest and relatable dude that listeners can easily identify with.
“I highly doubt that y’all think about sex / Anywhere near as often as I think about death.” This opening verse from the song “Fortunate” is epitomical Atmosphere. Their new release, Southsiders, is the Minneapolis duo’s eighth studio LP, and according to an accompanying press release, a ”shout-out to their native neighborhood.” References to friends and loved ones are commonplace, and the content is often personal. Ant continues to experiment with live-instrumentation, which began on their last release, 2011’s The Family Sign.
About 10 years ago, already well into a flourishing career, Sean Michael Daley decided to start moving the furniture around inside of his music. The bluster and self-evisceration of the early records Daley (aka Slug) made with producer Ant as Atmosphere suddenly bored him, so he set it aside and started penning compassionate character sketches while Ant warmed and loosened up their sound with live instruments. The results strayed from rap towards gently rambling spoken-word territory, but miraculously, the duo didn't lose their audience: 2008's resonant When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold sold the most of any Atmosphere release and marked an unlikely new chapter in an already-unlikely career.
Atmosphere was once an anomaly. The way Slug wore his heart on his sleeve was rare, and his words combined with Ant’s beats helped define the underground, independent hip-hop movement of an entire era. Rhymesayers catapulted Minneapolis from a tight-knit local scene to a nationally recognized breeding ground for hip-hop talent, and Atmosphere has always been at the helm.
Welcome back to the world of Atmosphere, the carefully-crafted, snug world that Slug and his producer-in-crime Ant have cultivated over 20 years in the game. Southsiders, the duo’s eighth official studio album—despite numerous EPs and a compilation or two that were expanded into album releases, it’s their eighth official full-length—is the latest installment in the discography of one of the most consistent underground artists that hip-hop has ever seen, and it follows the formula that they’ve maintained throughout their releases since 1997’s Overcast introduced them to the world outside their hometown of Minneapolis. Over the years, Slug has cultivated a rhyme pattern and lyrical storyline that he has added to and embellished, and the 15 tracks that make up Southsiders further his previously-established narrative of the young, confused kid who grows into a man and isn’t prepared for the reality that comes along with it.