The underground hip-hop community has many shining stars, and for the last decade Atmosphere has been a front runner in the scene. MC Slug and producer Ant have consistently provided hard hitting hip-hop for their fans, and their new album, “The Family Sign,” is no exception.
The album differs greatly from its 2008 predecessor “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That S— Gold”, which was filled with dark but realistic cuts, dealing with the issues of average lower-middle class Americans, such as poverty, addiction, and even homelessness.
As an album, “The Family Sign” is more random in the overall feel of the music. Some of the tracks fit in with Atmosphere’s signature darkness, while others are drastically more upbeat and lighthearted; but the topics usually stick to conflicts and issues within families.
One thing that has not changed is MC Slug’s unparalleled lyrical ability. In “The Last To Say” the MC narrates a haunting tale of an abusive marriage and its effects on the wife and son involved, over a quiet, solemn guitar line: “She gets to mourn for the touch of a punch/Won’t ever admit that she ain’t clutchin’ it much/Someday she’ll die, it still won’t be done/The anger lives on through their son.”
While the whole album stands as proof of Slug’s storytelling skills, Ant’s production on the project isn’t overshadowed by any means. “The Family Sign” is the first Atmosphere album written with input from the group’s touring band, which includes guitarist Nate Collins. Collins’ presence is notable on tracks like “Just For Show,” which also deals with a difficult relationship, but the reggae-inspired
and organ-heavy chorus make the track upbeat and danceable, regardless of subject matter.
In his trademark deep voiced, upbeat delivery style, Slug promises: “Alright already, now you make this headache pound/ I ain’t trying to mess around, you ain’t allowed to get me down/It’s no sweat at all, nah, I won’t stress about/ Anything projected out of your passive aggressive mouth.”
Atmosphere has and always will be one of the most respected groups in hip-hop and have yet to put out a piece of work that was considered bad by any means. On “The Family Sign” they took some risks with a slight change of direction, but in this case, the risk paid off with another excellent album in a career full of them.