Atmosphere’s emcee, is destined to prove he isn’t losing his edge in
his old age (all thirty-plus years of it). He’s grown a Mohawk
(alopecia areata caused his hair to fall out, and he said fuck it).
He’s smoking in front of signs that instruct him to do otherwise. He’s
even laid his ever-present, ever-puzzling lyrical muse, Lucy, to rest,
revealing in an URB magazine cover story that she runs a coffee shop in Minneapolis called Muddy Waters, which he implores everyone to boycott.
A Rhymesayers response to last year’s Epitaph dud, Seven’s Travels, and a follow-up to Slug’s out-of-character collaboration with Murs on Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet, a record that brimmed in braggadocio gangsta-funk, You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having
is an Atmosphere record that succeeds for all the wrong reasons. It’s
not until the third song, “Watch Out,” that Slug steps up lyrically.
The track contains lines of expected cleverness (“Slug. You can find me
in the A’s of your iPod”) and self-deprecation (“Just me, my beliefs
and my bad teeth”). But Slug’s lyrics are typically characterized by
killer one-liners, and it took me several listens before I found a
memorable lyrical gem on You Can’t Imagine. Rather, Ant’s production work overshadows any lyrical venom his emcee counterpart has to spit.
Solid as they’ve ever been, Ant’s beats are taking cues from the old-school throwbacks he dropped on Felt.
“Panic Attack” pulls heavily from the rise-to-action aggressiveness of
Public Enemy, with its ferocious drumbeat and layered vocal cuts on the
chorus. And “Hockey Hair” is pure 36 Chambers, even
with Slug alluding to Mr. Tical (“What the bloodclot?”). Such musical
prowess is rare for Atmosphere, but the emphasis seems to favor the
beat over Slug’s emotive outpourings on many of the tracks. The elusive
producer (who is now accompanying Slug on tour, rather than the group’s
go-to tour deejay, Mr. Dibbs) is putting out the best work of his
Chairs” and “Say Hey There” feel like the Atmosphere of the past. “Pour
Me Another,” in particular, finds Slug in his trademark lyrical flow
over Ant’s familiar laid-back production cadence. The track recalls the
emcee’s most cathartic moments, such as “Don’t Ever Fucking Question
That” and “The Woman With the Tattooed Hands.” But something’s missing:
His rhymes (except for those on “That Night” and “Little Man”) lack the
profound originality – the hunger, if you will – of what he was saying
when he first started rapping.
this point in his career, Slug seems fully aware of his own routine,
and he’s either embracing it with a cheeky self-confidence (read: he’s
getting boring) or he’s run out of interesting things to say but still
feels like he’s somehow controversial in his honesty. Or maybe it’s
just the Mohawk.
“Smart Went Crazy”: http://www.rhymesayers.com/assets/audio/atmosphere-smart.ram
Atmosphere on Rhymesayers’ Web site: http://www.rhymesayers.com/aDetail.php?aId=3&cT=Bio