Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Atmosphere: The Family Sign

As hip-hop is revitalized by an influx of youthful aggressors, Atmosphere has started getting interesting again just as the anger fades from its music. The shift began with 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, as Slug’s undeniable gift for pathos evolved into a sympathetic, storytelling everyman stance. That shift has solidified on The Family Sign, the sixth full-length from the Minneapolis crew. Listening to piano-heavy downers like “The Last To Stay” or “Your Name Here,” it’s easy to picture Slug at the ivories, wearing a tux and sipping bourbon as he raps about, respectively, abusive relationships and his growing ennui, for instance, toward groupies. The best songs are like these—sad, minimal, and instrument-driven. Near the end of the record, there’s the taut, pretty “Something So,” a heartfelt look back at that rarest of careers that’s allowed the artist to discover humility along the way. “They tell me that / I’m not qualified to lend my voice / To something so beautiful,” Slug delicately croons. Whoever “they” are, he should stop listening.


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