Intro: Where does hip-hop thrive? New York, L.A. and . Minneapolis? Believe it or not, Minnesota-based Rhymesayers Entertainment is quietly garnering attention with atypical rappers like Brother Ali.
Veteran hip-hop duo Atmosphere is made up of two of the label’s co-founders, MC Slug and Producer/DJ Ant. Their new album is “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold.”
Pros: Fittingly, the pair’s chemistry is golden. Slug’s flow is effortless and gripping as he tells slice of life stories about single mothers, hobos and prostitutes. For each unique story, Ant provides a unique sound. The heroin-centric “Shoulda Known” features a grimy synthesizer, while “In Her Music Box,” a song about a child, showcases – well – a music box.
Cons: Much like its title, “When Life Gives You Lemons .” is a bit too long for its own good and two or three underwhelming songs could have been dropped. Couple this with a lack of guest artists (Slug takes every verse and half-speaks-half-sings the choruses) and the album begins to be grating.
Definitive Track: “Yesterday” is comprised instrumentally of a simple beat and one very bluesy, barroom piano – and that’s it.
This gives your full attention to Slug’s rap: a captivating, self-effacing story about a man coming to terms with his father’s death. But the same two measures of piano can only go so far.
Conclusion: It makes sense that an unconventional location, Minneapolis, would produce unconventional hip-hop. With “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold”, Atmosphere continues to redefine – and restore hope for – the genre with a distinctive blend of earnest rapping and adventurous production.
Staff writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at email@example.com.