I remember listening to Atmosphere’s “Your Glass House” for the first time. I was browsing through some music videos on YouTube as a real millennial kid when I came across it. It was angsty, it was dark and it was very different from other rap I had heard thus far. It drew me in.
It was my first encounter with the indie hip hop duo and I’ve loved them ever since. Atmosphere is a Minnesota based hip hop group existing out of rapper Slug (Sean Daley) and Producer Ant (Anthony Davis). The two have been releasing albums since 1997 and on the fifth of May their seventh album came out: Southsiders.
Although the musical direction has changed a bit through the years, the core of Atmosphere has remained the same. The group still raps about things they encounter in everyday life and tries to stay true to their roots. The music on this album does sound more mature though. It’s not as angsty as their 2008 album When life gives you lemons, You paint that shit gold and also seems lighter as the follow-up The Family Sign, which was more centered around Slug’s family (the album art is a picture of his kid’s little hand). Although family also plays a role on this album, the main subject here is death. Or as Slug raps in the song “Fortunate”: “I highly doubt that y’all think about sex, anywhere near as often as I think about death.”
While the lyrics explore the topic of death, the beats are mellower compared to previous albums. Maybe this is the reason why this album, although not bad, seems to lack something. That typical Atmosphere energy has been transformed into a laidback attitude. It’s more mature but it’s also less powerful. The lyrics aren’t bad, slug still delivers with lines as ”And all the life we wasted trying to make some bread, might’ve been better spend trying to raise the death” but Southsiders has some trouble delivering high quality throughout the entire album. While earlier albums had songs that made you go “oh, damn” by the time they were finished, this album only has a few really good songs. With “Bitter” and “Fortunate” being one of the lyrically better songs, songs like “Star Shaped Heart” just don’t reach the same level.
This is an album you can listen to if you want to chill out and want some nice tunes in the background. The lyrics aren’t too bad but the lyrics combined with the beats Ant produced, make the whole thing sound a bit bland. Unlike some of Atmosphere’s greatest albums Southsiders doesn’t really have the power to make you think your life over again and realise that while your life’s not perfect, you’re pretty content with it.