The critically acclaimed and underground Hip-Hop duo Atmosphere have been pumping out some of the most influential songs since the early 1990’s, but its 0n their sixth album, cleverly titled When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold that has earned them airtime on entertainment outlets such as MTV and MySpace and morphed the two into more than just another group none of your friends know of. Sean “Slug” Dailey’s introspective and personal rhymes flow aggressively and eloquently over Anthony “Ant” Davis’ production with combines elements of not only hip-hop, but also of the rock, electronica and pop realms. Together, the atmospheric duo deliver one of 2008’s best albums. And if you don’t think that the Rap genre is your cup of tea at all, take a listen to their electro-inspired first single “Shoulda Known” or turn on the ending half of “Glasshouse” (fast forward to about 3:17) and think again.
Lemons starts off with the sound of a toy box and introduces one of the most well put together piano based hip-hop beats. “Like The Rest Of Us” supplies an urban bass and thin snare that sends a relaxing groove as Slug raps about wanting to fly away and trying to stop running in place. “Puppets” ensures that while Slug is running in place, the album is not. However, it is Paint That Shit Gold‘s third track “The Skinny” which sends the album into a political and electronic influenced frenzy. It opens with industrial drums that sound like something off a Nine Inch Nails‘ record, as well as a suspicious synth that sets the mood for a song about a sexually abusive pimp who forces a girl to pleasure him orally and hints at prostitution.
“The Dreamer” stays true to alternative hip-hop influences, setting up an issue of teenage pregnancy and young love and moving right on into the album’s highlight and first single “Shoulda Known.” A tale of spur-of-the-moment sex and drugs, Slug raps over an extremely Electronica-inspired groove. Even if it has gotten praise and recognition, it would be unjust not to call this one of this years most under-appreciated singles.
“You” holds a special place in the hearts of waiters and waitresses across the universe as it narrates the tale of a restaurant worker forced to put on a plastic smile, only to remove it at the end of the night. The thing about When Life Gives you… is that it not only covers the topics of alcohol, drugs and sex, but also issues more people could relate to and could possibly face day to day. The track could easily be on a Nouveau Riche album if it were a bit more indie sounding. A fluttering/reverberated snare also provides something that isn’t normally heard in the urban world.
Although “Painting” is nice and offers a great guitar sound, “Glasshouse” is the album’s climax and most creative moment on the album. Slug’s introspective lyrics involving a panicked, upset and sick woman not realizing what house she is in after waking up after a night are extremely innovative and bring back an aspect of storytelling that has been lost in the hip-hop world for many years. Not only is the shocking story (with a great twist at the end that I absolutely will not spoil for you), but the dark-electro beat paints an image all on its own as it winds down and transforms into a lush, emotional and extremely creative semi-ambient masterpiece, reminiscent of pop-sounding trip-hop. It’s unlike anything ever I’ve heard in the urban world before.
“Yesterday,” has a beat that is a more light hearted version of Scarface‘s “My Block” and at times, could compare lyrically as well. However, while you may think that the artist is rhyming about an ex-girlfriend or friend, Slug revels at the end of the track a more emotional and deep person, which will also be kept secret. I seriously thought that this track was terrible until I heard the last few lines of the last verse. Once you hear that, this song will no longer sound like a sappy “I miss you, come back to me” song, but something that may cut deeper.
“Gurantees” has a strictly acoustic feel to it and “Me” could easily be used as a track to an R&B star but slow the album down a bit. “Wild Wild Horses” picks it up a little with horns and a beach like vibe but its “Can’t Break” that brings the album back to the electronic influences that us here at MuuMuse love.
“The Waitress” starts out with a mellow piano that sounds like something J-pop singer Shono Juli would pull out on one of her brilliant albums, but soon brings in the bass, the snare, and jazz-like instruments as a story of a homeless man is rhymed. “In Her Music Box” ends the album on a cute note and is a song about Slug’s daughter and is very Eminem like…only good.
All in all, this album needs to be something that makes it into every home across the universe this year because there is something for everyone on it. The easy listening fans, the jazz fans, the electronic fans, the pop fans, rock fans, and hip-hop freaks. Atmosphere get an A+ for crafting such a beautiful urban piece of art, and should definitely receive more recognition than they’ve got.
BONUS: The video for “Shoulda Known” is not only creative, but is also very homo-friendly, as its main subjects are two lesbians. Check it out!