Atmosphere - Southsiders

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4.30

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"Southsiders" is solid through and through, but it doesn't easily separate itself from Atmosphere's previous works.

“I highly doubt that y’all think about sex / Anywhere near as often as I think about death.” This opening verse from the song “Fortunate” is epitomical Atmosphere. Their new release, Southsiders, is the Minneapolis duo’s eighth studio LP, and according to an accompanying press release, a ”shout-out to their native neighborhood.” References to friends and loved ones are commonplace, and the content is often personal. Ant continues to experiment with live-instrumentation, which began on their last release, 2011’s The Family Sign. And Slug is still Slug—frequenting the thought-provoking rhyme schemes he’s mastered over the years.

A concept album of sorts, Southsiders contains recurring samples of a train car making stops along its southside root, most likely in Minneapolis. These interludes enable for the listener to experience riding public transit while under the guise of Slug himself: philosophizing about life’s struggles with each stop along the way.

Slug has always been partial to the introspective lyrics. He often internalizes his thoughts, but this time around he increasingly speaks directly to his subjects. On “Arthur’s Song” he postulates, “Stick with the fool like shit to the wool / Gotta get some tools to try to fix these jewels / ‘Cause we don’t need to hear you sing / About how you spent your time as king, being mad at everything / And even when we haven’t seen the sun for days / I keep squinting like it’s shining right up in my face / Everyone’s a critic of the minutes I waste / Got me waiting in a line, got me running in place.” This beautiful sequence is a stream of consciousness, as he fades out of straight talk with a friend, into more powerful self-introversion. If history has taught us anything, it’s that Slug is a master orator with an innate ability to never mince his words. 

That very ability to articulate, however, is not without its flaws. For all of the great moments on Southsiders, there are times where a seeming lack of interest, effort, or a combination of the two are noticeable. In particular, “The World Might End Tonight” and “We Ain’t Gonna Die Today” showcase Slug speaking deliberately, but maybe too simply, and the beats lack the necessary zing. In these instances, the tracks come across more as filler material than anything else. The sharp contrast between these songs and the more lyrically top-notch ones (“Fortunate,” “January on Lake Street”) is frustrating for fans seeking cohesiveness.

Lyrical mishaps notwithstanding, the production on Southsiders may very well represent some of Ant’s best work. He utilizes an array of samples and live instruments to elevate standard Hip Hop beat-making into something creatively his own. He hits all ends of the spectrum, with Blues piano (“Arthur’s Song”), bumping drums and synths (“Bitter”) and awesome sample-based beats (“Mrs. Interpret”). On “Mrs. Interpret,” he intertwines a light piano melody with an endearing female French vocal hook. More often than not, if the lyrics are lagging, Ant keeps the track on par.

Southsiders is a solid album. The production is consistent and there are moments of enlightenment from Slug. But due to Atmosphere’s already extensive catalog, it doesn’t easily separate itself from previous works. That’s not to say it pales in comparison. Rather, it is a unique effort and another notable notch in the group’s belt. The positives outweigh the negatives in most every regard. Ultimately, it will be up to the fans to decide where Southsiders ranks within Atmosphere’s album pecking order.

RELATED: Atmosphere "Southsiders" Release Date, Cover Art, Tracklist & Album Stream

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60 Comments

  • Nate

    Slug has been killing it since day one. Love how he embraces his family life and still makes music to match it.

  • Anonymous

    Slugs flow and voice are pretty shit.

  • MGF

    This is their best release since "You Can't Imagine". I agree that this isn't Slug's best lyrical showing but its still better than most of the stuff that gets 4+ stars. Hell, if they would have just dropped two weak songs from the tracklist, this wouldn't even be debated. Ant's production is amazing. For those who don't understand "Kanye West". Go google Slug's recent interview with NPR. He talks about it at length. I think it will at least make you appreciate the song even if you don't like. "Let Me Know That You Know..." is the most underrated track on this album. "Get a taste of your soul when you hold breath / We act like we got a whole lot of road left " Music to live by.

  • Anonymous

    Loving Ant on this album, but I'm just not feeling Slug. 3/5 just for the beats & production.

  • Jay Hale

    2014's Album of the Year. The entire LP is ON POINT from Production to Lyricism and Subject matter. An instant classic.

    • Anonymous

      Disagree, everything is on point except Slug, he has, if not already, officially fallen the fuck off. He rhymes so elementary now, I hate to see that happen to an MC I use to love listening too so much.

  • @Essence_the_illlest

    I'm obsessed with this LP. I can't stop playing it from top to bottom, front to back it's amazing. Everything about this album is fine tuned from the production to subject matter and lyricism. 5 Mic's. @Essence_the_illlest : Instagram.

  • pawan

    3.5? You are crazy this is a 4.5. Amazing production, great rhymes, with the exception of kanye west every song was heartfelt, clever with dope rhymes. Aoty so far

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like The Family Sign part 2, which is ok but it has nothing on Lemons, You Can't Imagine..., God Loves Ugly etc.

  • Anonymous

    Ant's live instrumental production is a bit bland compared to his sampling stuff

  • Donald

    Sort of a mix between their lemons cd and family sign, which is a good thing. E bonus tracks are really good too. I Think the review on Hype-Ctrl had it right: http://hype-ctrl.com/atmospheres-southsiders-review-2/

  • tim

    very accurate review. ant takes his production to a new level, and is constantly innovating. slug gives us the usual routine: introspective and awesome, mandating the re-listen to get more out of it. when he begins to slip, the beat is always inventive enough (but not to the point of overdoing it) to keep me involved. while it's so nice to be able to recognize their old sound in the background of these songs, it's equally soothing to notice the new take the duo has on this album. that said, it's hard to pick anything too special out, as atmosphere has a countless amount of hits, but this will fit along fantastically in my collection. four hours on the road tomorrow, going to get some solid listening in!

  • Chris

    Brilliant. Slug is king.

  • Jay

    I've only heard the singles and they're both horrible, the chorus in bitter is among the most simple I've ever heard and the other is some sorta shout out to kanye of all people, this is really sophomoric bullshit compared to their earlier stuff but he's getting older

    • Anonymous

      Max, it's definitely a shout-out. I don't have a problem with it either, as it's used in good context to the song. Perhaps someone just as outspoken but with a better head on his shoulders "Lupe Fiasco" would be a better shout-out but that doesn't roll of the tongue so well. The track honestly is pretty weak though, one of my least favorite on the album.

    • Max

      If you think Kanye West is a shout-out, you really need to actually LISTEN to the song.

  • Jake

    Dope album Refreshing. Conscious.

  • Ralph Rotten

    Very good release. Nice progression from Family Sign. Hip-Hop for intelligent adults who have things going on in their lives

    • Nick08

      Yo Dee, why don't you shut the fuck up and just let the artists develop.

    • Dee

      and family sign was a big step back from lemons and his previous work so where does it stack up compared to Lucy Ford and his better shit or are you even aware of that stuff?

  • Anonymous

    Dope album! Slug put his heart into these rhymes! Y'all should give it a listen.

  • JohnnyBlaze

    just bought the album...waiting for my herb to be delivered then i'm going to chill, spark a blunt with the lights off and free my mind until the last song ends. Ill be back to let you know what i felt about it.

  • Your mom

    This album is amazing. Slug opens up about so much, eyedea, his wife, his kids, he poured His heart into these rhymes. And the beats from Ant are so ill, I don't even know what to say. This album is sick in every way, shape and form. If u don't like it, die.

  • Sarah

    My notes: He's changed... He's lost his voice.. He can't relate, This may be what you read when you try to find out about the new atmosphere album. But everything you read has nothing to do with the sounds and meaning of this album. Change... It's sometimes a good thing. Yeah I like hearing about the old Slug, drinking, partying and hangovers, but now to listen to a transition, a new Slug who can feel his family in lyrics and express his new addictions with the same beat. This is what you call innovation... Taking your same style and making something new with a new sound. Slug's album reveals a new atmosphere...one where lyrics may be written at a kitchen table, but still have the same enthusiasm and creativity as that young artist who was just another face on the bus, tapping his foot to the beat of the radio...

  • Rhinoceros

    Slug's more of a poet than a rapper. To rate this less than 5 stars shows that it's just over your head. If you only listen to rap to get hyped up this probably isn't for you. Ant was on point on every one of these beats, and Slug's style is aging like wine. 5 stars for sure. So glad this is finally out.

  • Polo Hova

    I just checked out the album. I wasn't impressed but I will say this they kind of saved they selves with the deluxe edition. I might have liked 2 songs on the album but I liked all the bonus tracks. Go figure so I give it a 3 on the strength of the bonus tracks.

  • theBavarianIlluminati

    Higher rating than Tech N9ne's latest? LMAO. This is my last visit to this website. HHDX FUCKIN' SUCKS.

    • P

      Tech's album wasn't even that good. Tech is a phenomenal rapper but he continuously puts out shit with corny hooks and shoddy production.

    • ungabungabunga

      Tech N9ne hasn't released a project worth noting since Killer, get over yourself. If bucket list collaboration filler tracks crammed onto one disc once or twice a year floats your boat, then I can understand your interest in Tech's latest work.

  • brownbaby_daddy

    if this is where they are headed, I'm excited for it. Get back to that darker angry shit.

  • imaginaryghost

    I was kinda down on Family Sign, that album damn near stopped half way through, it was so slow. I don't have anything against slower music (I loved When Life Gives You Lemons...) but FS took it over the top at times. It was kinda boring. This, however, is one hell of a rebound. Stoked to see Atmo back in force. Great album, I'd give it a solid 4.

    • Atomic6565

      You've given me some optimism for this album. I feel the exact same way about FS and WLGYL, and was afraid this one would lean more towards FS. I'll be listening to it this morning on the way to work.

  • HHDX punks!!

    Man HHDX yall some punks!! couldnt even keep atmosphere new cd on the main page for the day or even less then half the day!! fuck yall!! you'll put some weak ass "tyga round about posted a video that may have allegedly sneak dissed rapper lil durk" cuz that shit is hotter than atmosphere, GET YOUR PRIORITIES TOGETHER HHDX..IN THE MEANTIME EAT A FAT DICk!!!!

  • HiphopperJ

    Love this album! Good stuff!

  • sk3tch

    slug is one of the best, underrated cats in the game and this album is no different 7/5

  • pwneill

    Atmosphere does it again. 17 years after Slug and Ant made their first album, Overcast!, the duo is still a force to be reckoned with in the indie hip hop scene. Ant's evolution from hip-hop sampler to full fledged DJ and music savant has been incredible to watch and Slug's lyrics are always an excellent window into the artist's mind. While some of the tracks on the first half of the album lack the punch that your normal work from these two delivers, there's plenty to enjoy for any fan of atmosphere or hip hop.

  • Arthur

    Fine score and some good points, but c'mon, could it get any lazier than "recurring samples of a train car making stops along its southside root, most likely in Minneapolis". Most likely? Google that shit. Of course it is Minneapolis. South Minneapolis, precisely (Southsiders, anyone?).

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  • wow

    I am pleasantly surprised to atmosphere broadcasted on the main page of HHDX, shout out HHDX for that one. Atmosphere has done more for MN rap than any other artists, scholarships, concerts turning into festivals, signing and broadcasting local talent. I would like to see a Rhymesayers xm or fm radio station, seeing as MN does not even have a hiphop radio shame (a goddamn shame) havnt listened to the album yet, not a fan of the kanye west song, but i have absolute faiththe album will be on point!

    • ?

      The current is owned by rhymesayers??

    • ReelWorld

      They do have a radio station. It's called The Current. And they play anything and everything the DJs want to listen including interviews and live recordings with artists like Slug, Dessa, POS, you name it.

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  • Anonymous

    older Slug kinda looks like a chubby Johnny Depp.

  • Anonymous

    $97/hr pavivdv by Google, I am making a good salary from home $5500-$7000/week , which is amazing, under a year ago I was jobless in a horrible economy. I thank God every day I was blessed with these instructions and now it's my duty to pay it forward and share it with Everyone, Here is I started,,, ================================= >>>>>>> WWW.YELLWORK.COM =================================

  • adillyo

    After two albums experimenting with live instruments and kind of a weak single in bitter I had some worries but one listen completely changed that. This is some old school introspective slug over old school bangin ant beats. This one was for the heads and you can tell. The eyedea tribute alone is one of the best songs they've ever done.

  • paul

    i think the album is solid. Atmosphere has a banger in their hands.

  • Catherine

    You can't imagine how much fun were having is their best album in my opinion. But keep the new albums rolling even tho they aren't as good!

    • Anonymous

      God Loves Ugly has to be the best for me, but that one is very strong as well

    • Lou

      you can't imagine is their best album, lol get the fuck outta here, you faggots donno shit about hip hop. Lucy Ford is his best.

    • TaZzZ

      Wow I always thought I was the only person to put that one at the top, most ppl go with GodLovesUgly or his older stuff. This shit is fucking amazing, fuck you DX for even giving this the same rating as some of the other 3.5s, 3.5 is absolutely average on this site and this album is not that The songwriting is deep as fuck and the beats are fucking symphonies, so cohesive yet all so different. This may be a 3.5 in Atmosphere's catalog but in the overall hip hop landscape? Get the fuck outta here

    • Marcos Reyes Jackson

      Took the words right out my "mouf". Nothing comes close to You can't imagine...

  • Kevin

    Have been a huge fan of Slug & Ant's for the last decade... "Southsiders" sounds so much like Minneapolis hip-hop that I think in order to fully appreciate the album, you have to be a Southsider as well. The train samples will give anyone from our neck of the woods goosebumps. Cheers Slug & Ant, you've done it again!