If you’re reading my site and you don’t know who Atmosphere is, I can’t tell you, really.   This year, they’ve released what they’re calling a “double EP” of new jamz: To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy: The Atmosphere EPs.  Why is this an EP?  I dunno.  Sounds like an album to me.  And a damn good one.

When rappers start acting their age, their fan base usually abandons them.  Sometimes they call off completely (see: Jay-Z), but other times they just get older and can’t find a new audience (KRS-One, e.g.) or run out of new things to say (Snoop).   I’m sure “real” hip hop heads will change channels when they hear Slug rapping about being a father, the perils of unsafe sex, working a 9 to 5, and the war in Iraq.  But that would be a damn shame.  Because there’s a new kind of depth here.  No, it’s not all the gritty, cynical street stories you’ve come to expect from this versatile, clear-spoken and crisp lyricist (although there are some of these, too)–but give it a chance.

Ant is still one of the best producers in the biz, and this time they’re working with live instrumentation.  There’s some familar cuts here (the optimistic piano-bounce of The Best Day, e.g.), but the beats are fresher than what I’ve heard Ant drop on his most recent project. The music is more optimistic–cleaner.  And so are Slug’s lyrics.  He’s known for a more-is-more style, cramming as much content as possible in every bar and verse–Slug’s more laid back here.

It’s as if they know they’ve got 12 years in the game, and they got nothing to prove anymore.

Buy: Fifth Element, iTunes & Amazon

Taste: The Loser Wins
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