Atmosphere, "You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having"
(Four out of five Ram Heads)
It is hip-hop that won't stop, because it is punk rock that can't be stopped.
Atmosphere returns for their first studio release since 2002's "God Loves Ugly" with the honest and zealously titled "You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having." And if you can't imagine how much fun Atmosphere is having, well, then check out these hip-hop heroes slash villains of the indie scene.
2005 marks the eighth year of emcee Slug and producer/DJ Ant working together. In 1997, the hip-hop world began to follow the likes of Talib Kweli and Mos Def's "Blackstar" underground/raw beat work when Atmosphere popped up out of Minneapolis, Minn. They can be given credit for helping to catalyze a movement of powerful underground music. "You Can't Imagine…" is Atmosphere's 5th studio release and their best album to date.
Slug's rhymes have more relevance to old school rap when Run DMC and Easy E were the biggest things. He rhymes quickly and short of breath, but manages to have a storyboard-style and a powerful message in every one of the album's tracks. Slug shows emotional defenselessness and with his unbridled ego, the self-contradiction falls nothing short of being intentional. In his career, Slug has continuously admitted to failure but also boasts his success. Furthermore, he shows exactly how much fun he has been having under punk-rock label Epitaph.
Ant's DJ work has also climbed back to old school: the continuous use of soulful piano riffs, psychedelic organs and classic rock vibes have given this album a distinctive sound with each song sound relevant to the next.
On the power-charged "Get Fly," Slug plainly comments on politics: "I can't fight your war until I am finished with mine." The song, "Smart Went Crazy" channels the classic rock energy through a bluesy guitar riff and Slug recalls his origins when he says, "Minnesota missile/never sold coke and I never had to hold a pistol/civil and simple."
"Musical Chairs" has some gospel-singer elements over a catchy, high-note piano riff. "Say Hey There" endures a creeping organ over hammered and happy piano chords and the song swims through a Kanye West-sounding beat.
"Bam" hits you in the face, but it needs more cowbells over the heavy bass. "Hockey Hair" is a timely hip-hop jam to parallel the return of the NHL and it ploys that distorted, high-pitched, "Alvin and the Chipmunks" vocals that artists like Kanye and Common helped to pioneer.
"That Night" has a terrific soul-vibe and the use of a ride cymbal is a great benefit to the song's beat. Although the song has a soulful sound, the lyrics are a retrospective lament on a young girl that suffered a tremendous loss at one of Atmosphere's past shows.
Be sure to pick this album up if you're a fan of underground hip-hop, its movement and of course if you're an Atmosphere fan. Also catch Atmosphere when they hit the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver Nov. 10.
Nicholas LoFaro is a senior English writing major.