Atmosphere - The Family Sign

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There's not nearly as much humor here as with Atmosphere's previous two releases. That doesn't make it any less of a quality addition to the group's catalogue.

Upon announcing their latest album, The Family Sign, Atmosphere revealed that this project would feature Slug “metaphorically touching on themes of fatherhood, loss, love, disappointment and jubilation[.]” It seems a natural progression, given intensely personal songs like Slug’s ode to his deceased father, “Yesterday,” in addition to previous detailed narratives in which the Minneapolis emcee replaced himself in favor of a fictional character. As such, The Family Sign stays true to its name, focusing heavily on interpersonal relationships and the gamut of emotions and complexities that inform them.

After a heavy, guitar-laden intro, Slug continues to lay serious claim to Hip Hop’s storytelling throne (all respect due to Slick Rick and Common pre-2007) on “The Last To Say,” a chilling and heartbreaking tale of spousal abuse:

“As far back as he cares to remember / He used to see the old man lose his temper / And momma’s pretty face’d catch it all / On a regular basis the nest would fall / But he was always safe from dad’s rage / Cuz momma’d sacrifice in his place / Two dozen years of the blood, sweat and tears / Avoiding the mirror, losing her hair for the fear / She never left him, stayed inside / He beat her ass up until the day that he died / In fact, the biggest beating was the day that he died / Cuz now it’s too late for her to make a new life / She gets to mourn for the touch of a punch / Won’t ever admit that she ain’t clutching at much / Someday she’ll die, it still won’t be done / The anger lives on through their son.”

Tales like these are far too often overlooked in Hip Hop, and rarely are they told in such a way that puts the listener right in the midst of the story. Ant helps set the scene as well, as the lamenting guitar and keys punctuate the morose subject matter. “Became” is another foray into storytelling, but this time it's much more abstract, allowing the listener to project their own impressions onto the subject matter. “Just For Show” is more lively—though by no means lighthearted—with organs and guitars carrying as much sarcasm as Slug’s delivery.

“She’s Enough” is one of The Family Sign's few missteps. Though it’s perhaps a relief to those yearning for a bit of levity on the project, the production and hook are both an absolute mess. Think of the song as “You” with awful execution. “Bad Bad Daddy” fits the album’s aesthetic much better, but also should have been left on the cutting room floor. Here, Sluggo assumes the role of a despicable father, but his delivery gets too “nyah-nyah,” even considering the subject matter.

The project quickly rebounds with “Who I’ll Never Be,” a touching ode to unrequited love. “Your Name Here” unmistakably serves as a sequel to “The Loser Wins,” which appeared on To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blood Holy. Whereas the latter was an angry conversation about learning when to cut ties with friends, the former takes place years later, where Slug runs into the aforementioned friend and has had time to cool off from the emotion of the situation.

The Family Sign is a heavy, moody album. There’s not nearly as much humor here as with Atmosphere’s previous two releases, but that doesn’t make it any less of a quality addition to the group’s catalogue. Slug and Ant are, once again, in near-perfect concert with regard to their vision for what the album should sound like, and what sort of thoughts and emotions it should convey and evoke. Further, it’s fascinating to see Slug settling completely into his role of narrator—one that will assuredly continue to inspire awe for albums to come.

Purchase The Family Sign by Atmosphere



  • cole

    In my opinion, two tracks stood out as having gem like qualities on this album "Millenium Dodo" and "I Don't Need Brighter Days".

  • Matt Segal

    i dont need brighter days, that track alone is worth a buy

  • Quin

    Although it is full of emotional words.. it somehow feels way more manufactured than anything else he has done. Still has it's ups (and it's downs), I'm just happy I have more Slug.

  • Laurel

    hell yeah atmosphere you did it again! my fav has gotta be "became" 8)

  • Oscar

    I hope to god this isn't Atmosphere's last release, I'm sure a lot of people enjoy this but to me it was a bummer and painful to listen to.

  • stereomanic

    Upon purchasing the 'family sign' album with the hand signal that resembles a bad hand gesture also known as ‘’the Fig’’, I quickly skimmed through the album; my first initial thoughts was that Atmosphere was taking a more mature approach reminiscent of when Life Gives You Lemons albeit a less than perfect second take. The first track sets the mood of the tone from the beginning till the end of the album. But this time around, the live instrumental feel of the band is more prominent than previous endeavors, pre-To All My Friends of course. Their latest effort for the most part is a mellow adult contemporary sound that coincides with Slug’s storytelling prowess shows a side of hip-hop that is mature; something that hip-hop is not known for. For the lesser part, there isn’t anything ground breaking about the lyricism of this album. It almost feels that Slug’s typical congested humorous wordplay doesn’t really rears its head in this album HOWEVER, the album makes up for that with amazing storytelling that captivates the listener’s imagination. Like the previous albums of late, this one may take time before you start to feel the album if you haven’t already. Personally, I had to sit down and listen to the album a couple of times to really feel it. If you like mature music and don’t mind low-key guitar riffs and mellow hip-hop songs then I suggest this album for you. I like the outcome but I do wish it could be a balance in the album like ‘’you don’t know how much fun we’re having” album Anyway, I believe as a band, they’re treading on something different from the rest. Thank god they didn’t go electro and/or autotune. I give it a 4/5 Notable songs that struck a chord with me: "my notes" and "the last to say" Click on the name if you want to know more of me or to hate me with better visuals. Or follow me on twitter by searching stereomanic

    • aaron

      what he said; you need to exclude yourself from us punk. no one needs to hear your over analytical BULLCRAP. He speaks for alot of us, not people like you who have no place commenting on such.

  • alison

    stop hatin. atmosphere is my favorite bands. not just because he raps about my home town a lot, milwaukee. also, i love that every albums different, the family sign is a slower than the others. if youre a true atmospherefan you would love it just as much as i do,bitches.

  • Guest Skywalker - Barton Block

  • Edward Swagga Rogowski

    From what i heard from the album, It fucking perfect. I GOT LOVE FOR SLUG

  • Anonymous

    3/10 in my opinion, I was very bored.

  • Heavy Dicky Thug

    Slug just doesn't come with it on this album, WTF happened to him??

  • Tunak Tun

    Awful, needs Improvement

  • Shlomi TalentDisplay Samya

    Can't stop listening to this album. Great work. Follow @TalentDisplay

  • Anonymous

    Not diggin this album at all, Slug, you need to try harder next time buddy!

  • Anonymous

    You are an idiot!! Get the fuck on with that BS.

  • Gucci Betta

    Gucci Mane 4 Eva

  • Joyce

    Wasn't feeling this at all. Not sure I like the direction Atmosphere are taking. Shame, really liked when life gives you lemons.

  • Sad Clown

    Atmosphere albums have always taken a few listens for it to sink in, and then I'm hooked! This album has been hard to get into though... I wonder if Ant's lack of sampling has anything to do with the larger exposure the music gets now, I'm sure sample clearance isnt cheap now days. What I really think this album is missing though, is a certified banger' like "Cats vans" or "shrapnel" There is just to many mellow songs on this new one, makes me wanna grab a pillow and take a nap...

  • Kimberley Blythe

    The Last to Say, is easily one of the best Atmosphere songs i've heard in a long time. Don't see how people can say this is one of there worst albums? Even the instrumentals are on point! Music with substance like this is what hip hop needs right now!

    • HiKu

      Ants beats are on point but Slug has really fallen off. I was not feeling this album at all & they seem to be degressing with each new project.

  • meow

    this got a higher rating than Oneirology? what a fucking joke. this is easily Atmosphere's worst album.

    • Butter

      I agree with you man & I HAVE give it a few good listens. The worst song on Oneirology is better than anything on this album. I love Atmosphere but I just don't care for this shit.

    • Mike Meraz

      This is easily one of their best albums. Listen to it a second time chief

    • Kyle Herrera

      you're probably one of those guys that took 10 minutes skimming through the disk, and went to the computer right after to write your review..

  • Matt Woolsey

    Great! As usual. I'm going to see them in Portland in May... can't wait. Check for touring info and support a great underground institution... Rhymesayers Entertainment.

  • Mike Meraz

    Probably Top 5 in Rap Groups of all time.. Great album 5/5 They don't sound like anyone else out there, never have.. I do miss the sampling a bit but at times I don't, dope beats, good music, Slug's a genius.

  • Damien Kearney

    not their best release and I suspect it will grow on me, love the story telling, but for me the beats lack something or maybe they are getting use to using more band members Slug is as always a incredible story teller and these skills still shine through. so for me 3 stars but I am sure it will grow on me

  • Patrik

    Atmosphere is as always the best within hiphop!

  • Chris G.

    Sad Clown Symphony!!

  • Anonymous

    Nice !!!!! Also Peep Common - The Game {Remix} Ft. Thousand on YouTube !!!!!

  • Derick

    Great review! We had quite similar responses.

  • pussyonmydick

    Fucking ridiculous how many female fans this guy has! Dude probably gets so much pussy after the shows his dick almost falls off. I wish he'd do a down south style track with a stutturing chorus "pussy on my diiieeck.. pu-pu-pussy on my diiieeeeck" that would be so cash LOL!



  • Eric

    Not nearly as good as any of his previous releases.

  • DJJJ

    If Bad Bad Daddy wasn't on this album I would love the whole thing all the way through. It did take about 10 listens for me to genuinely like this album though. It is definitely different. Your Name Here and Became are awesome songs. Who I'll never Be is amazing too. I like this better than any other rappers garbage that is being put out now a days. Thanks Slug and Ant. Another good album.

    • Kyle Herrera

      i think this is how most ppl feel, the last few albums, have been sooo much different from one another, it takes a few spins to require the taste. the first spin, i was like. eh.. it's good. no crazy good tracks though. the more you listen to it, you start liking certain songs, then eventually you love them all, and have a different favorite song from the albumn every day haha. Ant killed it once again with some sick beats! Millennium dodo- was my favorite as far as the beats. Became- was my favorite story. something So, and My Key" are waaaaay different than what is has ever done, and takes big risks doing songs so out so character. but they are amazing, and actually rank higher on the albumn for me.. it's only been a few days, but i CAN'T WAIT to see what's instore for the next albumn:)

  • ps

    Album is boring, I respect Slug a lot but that LP is far behind from his best work. 3/5 dont take me bad its still much better than Wayne or Wiz LPs ofcm but i expect much more

  • gdfgdfgdf

    Amazingly personal album.. My Notes shoulda been longer though. Weakest song has to be... Bad Bad Daddy

  • c42yadoor

    I'm sorry guys. This album blows. I love Atmosphere but this is just gratuitously gloomy, lyrically unimpressive, and the production is a disservice to the group when compared to prior albums. I'd give both nuts to have Ant sampling again, so that maybe these guys could begin sounding like they have a pair of their own again. Besides "Your Name Here," entirely unredeemable.

    • calibeatbox420

      COSIGN.....every damn word....Ive been a fan of these dudes for quite some time, but this is straight doo doo.....big disappointment. Since you gave Strictly Leakage away for free, we'll call this even! Does anyone know if these two new dudes are officially part of the group?

  • ricky bobby

    I'd give my left nut for Ant to go back into sampling. These last few albums have been a big letdown for me. That doesn't mean that they're not good. I support this group through whatever, and I expect lyrics to grow with age, but damn, I miss that Lucy Ford/God Loves Ugly/You Can't Imagine sound terribly.

    • Chris

      C4 and Rick Bobby, I agree to a cetain extent. You Can't Imagine's production was awesome and Slug was great, but I don't feel it was as great as Seven's Travels (My favorite so i hold bias). But i do welcome the change and although I haven't enjoyed this one as much on a first listen, I'm gonna let it grow on me and let the music and words simmer a bit, to see if I get a different feeling.

    • C4

      THANK YOU! They've never been better than '05, between You Can't Imagine... and Felt 2. Ant's production in that time was clearly the best of the career, which propelled Slug to seemingly grow as an MC. His wordplay was so masterful. The direction from God Loves Ugly to that point (including Lucy Ford and Seven's) showed artistic evolution. I feel like this guitar-heavy kick that Ant is on has only served to make Atmosphere regress, and be further pigeonholed into that "emo-rap" label that the detractors always point to. The production broods, the rhymes are slower and less poetically interesting. I'm disappointed in the direction they're going. It's like sad Norah Jones music with raps over it.

  • Helen Wu

    Honestly, Atmosphere has been making music for so long, you have to expect and welcome some change. I mean if all the albums sounded the same, I think I would get pretty bored. I'll admit there are a couple of songs I'm not crazy about (Bad Bad Daddy in particular), but I think songs like "Something So" and "The Last to Say" are indisputably amazing. I also feel like some elements of the old stuff is missing, but hey, they've gotta keep both us and themselves entertained.

  • daboss1221

    i pretty much agree with the review. slug continues his trend of making absolutely amazing music. put this on on a rainy day, spark something and enjoy the tales of sadness the emcee weaves with ease.

  • Taylor James Hatfield

    I already have given it 3 spins, today.

  • TaZ

    I respect the growth but nothing will ever do it for me like "You cant Imagine How much Fun we're Having"... Its beautiful from start to finish. Guess I gotta give this one more of a chance to recognize the genius

  • phil

    It's a really good album. I miss the old Atmosphere a little bit though. The last two albums have been almost all story raps. Before When Life Gives You Lemons Slug had more complex abstract rhymes in a lot of his songs. Now everything is strait forward stories. Still quality hip hop and the beats are tight.

    • joeblow

      cosign He's a prolific storyteller and he's got an amazing ability but storytelling rap becomes repetitive after you make numerous albums in that format

  • Taylor James Hatfield

    This album is one of the most personal albums I have EVER heard. Slug has shown in the past that him and his team can come with many different styles, sad, happy, hyped, and funny. This album shows off his stuggles as a child. I feel like its his way of forgiving the past. Amazing, absolutely amazing album. I recommend this to anyone who has lost a family member. 5 stars all day.

  • Rebecca Singer

    I don't like atmosphere. they're like hipster rap. which means it's gaysauce. all their songs are about shitty relationships, and slug raps so slow!!! eminem is so much better, cuz when eminem talks about his romantic relationships he kills the bitch in the end...

    • Chris

      Hahaha that was funny

    • $$mike

      listen rebecca obviously dont KNOW ATMOSPHERE if you say that slug raps slow..see overcast, godlovesugly...headshots...slugh as a killer flow...however eminem is a god when it comes to flow and delivery...slug is the most underrated rapper in the game...and you are a female and my dinner is not yet made

    • Anonymous

      10/10. Would read again.

    • Giovanni

      You are a terrible person for saying what you just said. eminem is a horrible rapper (NOW). Slug is LIGHTYEARS beyond that cartoon rapper. Go listen to some real shit.

    • Anonymous



      I'm not sure if those suppose to be a satirical statement but I'm laughing. How can y'all be so angry with this statement. If you listen to Atmosphere, its not the first time you have heard this argument.

    • Rebecca Gave My Dog Aids

      Bitch shut up, You obviously know nothing about hip hop; and how did you dumbass even get on this site. Seriouly, fuck off.

    • TaylorfromMN

      Why must you compare two artists? I bet you anything if you listened to three atmosphere albums you would question who is really better, him or eminem. I am a big fan of both, but eminem does NOT get as personal as slug. So what if he raps slow? Its still good. Not everyone has to rap fast, and if you really only like fast rap, then go check his earlier albums. smh at people judging before really knowing.

  • Anonymous

    I don't like it. Yes, lyrics and beats are good, but this sounds like a recored poetry jam or something like that. I miss the boom bap in their albums.

    • daboss1221

      I can agree with this to an extent, they're just setting a different mood with this and the last album. it's dope hip hop, just may not be for everybody.

  • rodney

    It's a good year for the Rhymesayers. This and Blueprint. I'm never too old for Hip Hop.

  • theComplex

    really can't wait to get this album.

  • TheCollegeRaps

    Sick album from Atmosphere as always...and actually To All My Friends is definitely worth pickin up as well!

  • Matthew Smith

    I like the album it's good that they've progressed in to a slightly different sound, but I think When Life Gives you lemons is still my fave Atmosphere album. Still good though :), 4 stars.

  • maiko

    just like any other album done= BRILLIANT.

  • Stephanie

    I agree that she's enough wasn't all that great but I am loving the whole album regardless!

  • stop-and-chat

    Good... pretty good... pret-tyyyy pret-tyyyy pret-tyyyyy pretty good

  • Sam Kosho

    Slug is such a story-teller :)

  • Ricardo

    THE SHIIIIIIIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Kevin

    The guys just keep making new hits. Slug tells a story like no other and that's why I have mad respect.

  • indierapgirl

    Atmosphere brought it, as usual!

  • Robin

    just what I needed. Thanks Fam, as always.

  • Brian Andrew Smith

    I just got this album today, but have yet to listen to it. But from the comments here i can surmise 2 things. Either this blog is full of stans or it is actually that good. I love atmosphere but i rarely see this many positive comments on any album review. For my own sake I hope this album is good.

    • daboss1221

      it's that good. only mediocre song is bad bad daddy, and even that has some funk to it.

    • $$mike

      huge atomsphere and slug fan...but this album will appeal to any music listener..its just well made...shes enough should have been left off it upsets the mood of the album slightly but i just skip it when i listen to it in the car...great album go support a masterpiece

    • agv323

      well am a big atmosphere fan but this fucken album sucks! like seriously i mean theres some decent songs but fuck theres songs like "bad bad daddy" fucken garbage!!..probably the worst album from atmosphere i heard

  • Anonymous

    WHy does the reviewer think the last Atmosphere album had humor on it? It was serious as hell. Can't wait to check out this one though.

    • Mike B

      Most people don't even know what their last cd was. Everyone compares it to Lemons, that shit was 3 years and 2 releases ago.

  • BEKAY 8

    Dope album!! Once again Ant n Slug makin that shit happen! Thanx y'all, much love!!

  • Kenneth Thomas

    Props to Slug.

  • Jake Barrett

    Best atmosphere album yet!

  • tyler durden

    Amazing artist!

  • Jason Lowe

    Long time Atmosphere fan here. Slug is one of my favorites and one of the best poets/songwriters today, imo. Just finished listening to The Family Sign all the way through. My first impressions isn't what I was expecting. Slug's content is very mature and surely shows signs of storytelling progression, but overall I feel a dullness encompassing this album. Ant has made better beats, and again, I feel things are sluggishly moving along. My previous statements aren't to suggest that I don't appreciate what's going on here and what is ultimately being accomplished. With many, if not all Atmosphere records, there's a theme here and that theme flows well. My final statement is this; this album requires more than one listen. You know, sit down, listen closely to the stories Slug is telling you and let Ant's production take your soul on a slow ride. If at first the journey seems boring, roll the windows down, open your eyes and absorb the scenery. On first play through, 3 out of 5. I'll be back.

    • Joe Fraley

      i feel you man, i listened to it once all the way thru, and then i put it in the car and went to the store and 3 songs played and it just fit in with everything around me. REAL LIFE HIP HOP SHIT... i say a strong 4 out of 5.

  • Symone

    The album is dopeeeee! I LOVE IT!!

  • Jameson

    Slug is a lyrical mastermind

  • David Iwane


  • Ashley

    i loved this album, it's been on repeat. i enjoyed all the songs, and it's great seeing slug's evolution from overcast days til now. i actually embrace the change. slug's lyrics are still one of a kind & same with ant's beats. gotta love atmosphere

  • Colby Hernandez

    this album is amazing!

  • JEN

    So far digging it. going in that direction Slug was intending. Evolving, pushing forward. Good for the dedicated listener.

  • Tcharo Vermeulen

    just a 10 letter word

  • John Pfeiffer

    Serious lyrics.

  • Desarae Biggins

    Love it so far!

  • RecSpecs

    MN is the most underhyped, underrated hip-hop scene in the USA. Much respect for living in all that snow!!!!

  • Derek

    I hear maturity and evolution on this record. It's fresh and it's good. Bands rarely continue to put out good material let alone get better with each release. 5 stars from this guy!

  • eric boiano

    the beats are tight

  • Adam Purdy

    Requires a bunch of listens and putting Atmospheres other albums outta your mind.

  • Tuomas

    One of the best rap albums I've heard in a long time!

  • Balloon

    Honestly I wasn't feeling this album, sorry.

  • The.Watcher

    I disagree - She's Enough is a great song, it's refreshing to hear Slug rapping about being happy. For me, the best songs are Became and Just for Show - both are fucking clever in their execution and at hiding the true subject matter. Overall, while I don't think this is better than Life Lemons, it's still a solid release.

  • Jack Merridew

    great album but not as good as the last two releases we are blessed with great music from atmosphere but also from heavy metal kings, swollen members and mack and malone

  • Charles Benévolo Singletary

    Wait....the lyrics quoted come from the second song. Not "The Key". Nonetheless, I'm listening to the album now and I'm definitely buying it 2morro. There's something about the sound created by Slug and Ant that isn't replicated elsewhere.

  • dtour

    certainly something a grown hip hop head can truly appreciate, the whole album falls in sad clown bad spring kinda vibe & isn't it ironic spring's soundtrack supposta 2 sound hopeful, but but both scbs & family sign wear this somber expression on em, not that its a bad thing, maybe thats the mpl spring vibe, i just hope i can have more lighthearted atmosphere 2 bump 2 under the sun, nevertheless its still solid, solid. track 14 my note is just 2 damn short, i swear i dont want tht joint 2 stop....gonna bump this album thru out spring summer autumn & winter.

  • BR

    This album is a natural progression from the previous releases and for me had more Blues type tone. As much as people hark on about the old 'ish being better than the new, Atmosphere are proof that dedication to improvement and pushing their ability is a direction that many Hip-Hop acts should seek to emulate.

  • defsoundz


  • mnnplsmayne

    cant wait to buy it. what ive heard so far is amazing.

  • Dan MPLS

    Sluggo's a genius

  • Leif R. Brostrom

    Definitely one of the top albums of 2011.

  • bret

    this album sounded fantastic when i had it playing on my complex latte run. love the guitars. very rich. slug is really in the zone here, sounding sadder in every verse. they are going to go gurt for this album live. spectacular sonic highs! this rap is refined, elegant, heartbreaking. i am so sad for slug he is tortured genius i hope he signs my boobs.