Since the late 90s, Atmosphere has been one of the most dominant duos in all of hip hop. Composed of 48-year-old rapper Slug and 50-year-old producer Ant, the Minnesota based group is credited for creating the now extremely popular emo-rap due to their early classics God Loves Ugly and Overcast!. After working with Murs on their August released Felt 4 U, the duo is already back with their brand new album, The Day Before Halloween. With one of the most impactful legacies and consistent discographies in underground hip hop’s history, will Atmosphere be able to keep their resume flawless with their newest offering?
With a name alluding to the unofficial chaotic holiday known as mischief night, Slug plays to this season’s uncertainty. Filled with weird one-liners and cries for help, the 48-year-old MC’s mental sanity is still unresolved after decades of lyrical therapy. It’s this pessimistic view that makes the tracks “The Future Is Disgusting” and “The New People” feel like textbook insanity. At the pinnacle of this is “Blotter Acid Reflux Syndrome”, which is a dark metaphoric analysis of Slug’s past, present, and future. While most of the veteran rapper’s ideas resonate pretty well, his corny bars on “Where the Road Forks” and cringy hook on “She Loves My Not” are some of the lowest musical points of his career. Fortunately, psychedelic trips like “Sleep Apnea” and “Stardust” drown these flaws out as the Minnesota rapper’s distorted vocals are enough to captivate the listener. The pinnacle of Slug’s solid lyricism is seen on “Party Crashers” as he charges up his flow for a three and half minute lyrical spurt about living in the moment. While his performance is nothing out of the ordinary, Slug continues his streak of being one of the most consistent rappers of all time.
Behind the boards, the tripped-out production from Ant brings this experience full circle. Eerie chords, memorizing synthesizers, and intoxicating drum patterns are all it takes to glorify the already instated themes of torture and tremor. The gloomy “She Loves Me Not”, polarizing “The Future Is Disgusting”, and spooky “Blotter Acid Reflux Syndrome” all use this formula to create different mediums. While some moments can stick together, “Party Crashers” certainly doesn’t as its brushed snare drum gives it some alternative rock vibes. Another standout was “Sleep Apnea”, as its glamorous base is distorted and tortured to match the turmoil in Slug’s voice. After all these years, creating a compelling soundtrack is something many can’t do, but for Ant, his ideas just seem to keep flowing seamlessly.
While The Day Before Halloween isn’t amongst the top tier albums in their catalog, it is a solid project that captures the ambiance of what makes Atmosphere so special. Even though Slug and Ant don’t go in any particular new direction, they expand on the skills that they have undeniably mastered. Going forward, I don’t know if Atmosphere has another genre-defying classic under their belt, but even with releases like these, Slug and Ant are only growing their case for best rapper/producer duo of all time.
- Great songwriting about depression/mental health
- Gleamy production creates a spooky feel
- Short and to the point
- Slug and Ant strengthen their legacies
- Lack of new ideas
- Corny lyricism
- Instrumentals play it too safe at times
Written By: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator, owner and founder of Fantastic Hip Hop