A couple of years back while interviewing Slug the topic of his retirement from rapping came up. Hip Hop is often regarded as a young man’s game, aging emcees still gripping the mic is still relatively new territory. Slug was adamant he would never write for teenagers as he nears 40, nor would he rap at them like a dad on wax.
Atmosphere's emcee stayed true to his words on When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, but with a caveat. His usual, intensely personal verses were largely exchanged for narratives about fictional characters. To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy - The Atmosphere EP’s isn’t the official follow up to Lemons, just a digital double EP to tide their fans over. That said, it certainly feels like one.
Slug has the rare gift of being able to hand down life lessons without you knowing he is doing it, and without ever sounding preachy. To All My Friends is packed with moments of wisdom. Be it “The Loser Wins,” which is all about learning the hard way how to choose your friends, or teenage pregnancy; “Katie went and got a baby in her stomach / She didn’t mean to, she was only fuckin.’” “The Best Day” is more of Slug's everyman wisdom, simply making the best of a bad day. A bad day here isn't the stash getting hit, but a day in the life of a nine-to-fiver, high school kid or family man; “Broken glass, computer crash / The car won’t start and the tires went flat / Dog got loose, brought back a dead cat / Daughter found it and had a panic attack / Plus you ain’t had sex in how long? / Afraid to admit that the fire’s all gone / The better half is talking about separate / You wish you could take it back to yesterday / You’re not alone, its hard as hell / But don’t waste no time feeling sorry for self / We’ll be right here with you, through your war / 'Cause you’re the one we make this music for.”
To All My Friends features a heavy dose of storytelling. Some of it is has Slug examining his past like “The Number None,” a light-hearted tale of the girl who would never let him round third base only to sleep with his best friend on their first date. “The Major Leagues” is certainly not lighthearted (but it is outstanding), Slug recalls a childhood friend he lost to the dark side. The Minneapolis emcee is just as entertaining when there is no truth or message behind his stories, “Scalp” is the latest example of that.
Of course there is also the matter of Ant’s production, which has progressed appropriately from where he took Lemons. Calling this Rock-Rap would be inaccurate, no one wearing an Affliction t-shirt will bump this in their customized 2000 Civic. There is an edge here though, like the project was conceived in a garage over butt-filled ashtrays, Jameson shots and beer chasers.
To All My Friends may be a hold over until Atmosphere’s next LP, and it may be a curiously packaged as a double EP, but that doesn’t change its quality. Like so many of the Sad Clown, Bad Dub releases out of the group's studio discography, this release may not get the attention, but it certainly deserves it. From you and your friends.