Albums, Videos

Atmosphere | The Family Sign

0 Comments 09 | May | 2011

Sean Daley has been rapping under the moniker “Slug” for over two decades.  Joined by Rhymesayer’s prevalent DJ/producer/beat-maker extraordinaire Anthony Davis (aka. “Ant”), the duo has authored an anthology packed tight with angry women playing hostess to Slug’s sloppy, drunken antics and an even tighter fan base hanging on every lyric.  Consistently drawing content from sexual exploitation, terrible personal relationships, and the greater Minneapolis area, Atmosphere has forged its reputation and painted it gold.

Having waited since 2008 for the last official LP, the release of The Family Sign in April 2011 allowed followers to breathe in some fresh Atmosphere.  But something is different this time around.  I’m not sure if global warming has thawed Slug’s heart, but something in his life has definitely shifted.  As the title suggests, the album has signs of family life all over it, but none of them suggest a smooth ride.  Exhibit A:  the autobiographical video for “Just for Show” (see above) paints a picture of life as an outcast in the family, be it dog, child, or in this case “dogg.”

Along with the move towards family-centric lyrics, the group brings more downplayed backing to the tracks.  In lieu of Ant’s signature bombastic beats, the record is heavily influenced by piano, organ and acoustic guitars.  These sober, and at times somber, tones carry an air of humility absent from previous works.  On multiple occasions Slug even sings!? Albeit brief, he forgoes auto-tune and does his best to bare his soul outside the confines of spoken word delivery.  “She’s Enough” exposes the previously unseen side of Slug, casting light on a committed character actually willing give up his personal freedoms to care for a partner.  Listing off all of the tasks he’s willing to undertake for his lover, it’s a reminder that everyone grows up eventually*.

*except for Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, and Richard Simmons.

It’s easy to forget that Atmosphere has been around (officially) since 1997’s Overcast! With 38 years under his belt, Slug is reaching for Beastie Boy status!  As is the case with any artist that has been in the game for this long, Slug was bound to evolve from the days of Lucy Ford, marked by profanity and abuse, into a more responsible creature.

Fortunately, he hasn’t completely lost his sense of humor.  “Your Name Here” is a clever lounge-act commentary on the fill-in-the-blank conversations that happen by the millions every day.  God knows how many of these exchanges Daley has participated in, but you can bet he feigns interest like a pro.  This is the precise reason I would likely pass up the opportunity swap pleasantries on the off-chance I ever have a Slug sighting.  At least I won’t make the mistake of getting wasted at a show and calling him a “sellout.”  That’s already been done and this was the result.

While the whole of the album is worth adding to Atmosphere’s extensive catalog it’s not without its low points.  In particular the chorus of “Bad, Bad, Daddy” plays like nails on a chalkboard.  Slug’s naughty baby talk makes me want to vomit…something he would know a thing or two about.

Uplifting but brief, “My Notes” closes the album in stark contrast to the tears, pain, and disdain that stain the post-intro track “The Last to Say.”  “Notes” is like nothing I have ever heard on an Atmosphere album; nothing I would have ever asked for; completely unexpected and absolutely brilliant.

Will fans originally wooed by God Loves Ugly relate to this album?  It’s not as if the album is completely unrecognizable.  It’s still Slug and he remains an exceptional storyteller (or better said, an exceptional “rhymesayer”) slanging raps with familiar themes of:  walls, birds, wings, flight, and shoes.  It probably just depends on whether the listener has been there for all the steps along the way.  The transition has been in the works, but with The Family Sign, it feels like Sean has arrived at a distinct point in life, one at which he’s invested in, and actually believes in the importance of what else, Family.

Band Website | iTunes | Amazon


What is the best Atmosphere album?
If you were a Rhymesayer, what would your MC name be?  (I’m MC Slim Pickens)
Over/Under:  will Slug be performing at age 45?

Mix Playlist | April 2011
Mix Playlist | March 2008
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