Monday, August 25, 2014
Atmosphere – “Pour Me Another” from You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having (2005 Rhymesayers Entertainment)


Oh, Atmosphere. I have such a love/hate relationship with Atmosphere, generally coming down on the far side of the opinion that they’re fairly overrated. That’s not a thing you can really say in Minneapolis, and I may yet catch some flak for saying it from California.

In a DJ/MC duo situation, the personality most prominent is always going to be that of the MC, and that’s unfortunate, because Slug is so problematic. At times he’s incredibly vulnerable, which I have always found compelling — really, I think he was at the vanguard of rappers who were willing to poke holes in the usual bluster and braggadocio. The rest of the time, though, he just comes off as, well, a creep. The worst part is that he seems to recognize his creepish, chemically dependent, womanizing tendencies, and is vulnerable about them, but self awareness about one’s faults absent any real action is pretty gross, especially when made fodder for entertainment. Eventually this thing will shuffle me over to one of Tim Kasher’s projects, and I’ll be retreading the same gripe.

In the meantime, though, what really carries things, especially on this song, is Ant’s production. He has a knack for finding soul and gospel piano hooks to sample and build beats around, featuring Laura Lee’s “We’ve Come Too Far to Walk Away” here. I suppose that if Minneapolis hip-hop has a sound, this is it, as Ant has produced many a song in this vein for both Atmosphere and Brother Ali, arguably the town’s best-known entities.

Lyrically, this is a song about getting fucked up both in love and at the bar. Slug is so transparent about the endurance of this theme that he reaches back five years to reference a better song from the Ford Two EP:

Bottles and pints, and shots and cans
Couches and floors, and drunk best friends
Models and whores, and tattooed hands
Cities and secrets and cats and vans

Atmosphere is a group that could have moved on from Minneapolis indie rap label Rhymesayers Entertainment years ago, but has consistently rejected offers from major labels in favor of keeping things in the local community. That’s a big deal, and I have a ton of respect for it. I remain conflicted about the group as a whole, to the point where I don’t even know how I’m supposed to feel when I hear Slug repping “the whole Southside” as the title track to their newest album makes its way to KCRW’s playlist and the greater Los Angeles public radio listening public. Is this the guy we want representing us to the world?

I don’t know. I really don’t.