Placed on the map just about halfway into Hip Hop’s four decade run, Atlanta’s popular sound has drastically evolved since its infancy. In modern times, extended affiliate Iggy Azalea has taken over the world with her much maligned pop-rap tightrope walking, while Young Thug is the source of much debate: you’re either open to tagging along for his bizarre journey or resentful of his existence. Meanwhile, Sugar Tongue Slim is a gifted Southwest ATL native who mostly exists in a vacuum of creative purgatory. Borrowing his nom-de-plume from pimp culture, his charisma and finesse is a throwback to when the South was more regarded for having something to say.
As a member of the The Roots’ offshoot Money Making Jam Boys crew, STS has earned the esteemed privilege of rhyming alongside Black Thought, yet he remains a best kept secret of sorts. His latest shot at glory comes by way of an album with the limitlessly creative RJD2, known to some for working with relatively obscure underground legends Aceyalone and Blueprint, and others as the artist behind the theme to television hit “Mad Men”. Merging their worlds into one, STS x RJD2 represents a new direction distinct from anything either party has attempted before.
STS masterfully walks the thin between expanding his reach and staying true to himself, evidenced by “Doin It Right” which draws comparison to the feel good energy projected by Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment. Accentuated by live horns, this opener’s concerted effort towards mass appeal is a respectable process replicated throughout the album. Using flow as the dominant instrument on “Trunk Of My Computer”, the intricate structure of STS’ life philosophies would make Andre Benjamin proud as he says:
“When you’re broke, and your boat barely floats / Up the river, don’t you quiver, don’t you shiver, don’t you shake / Rivers lead to greater things in life like oceans, and to lakes”.
The triumphant “Hold On, Here It Go” is autobiographical look at STS attempting to find his place. Taking inspiration from a number of sources, here he mentions Gil-Scott Heron and Langston Hughes, heroes rarely honored by this generation. Using his poetic gift for the purpose of introspection, he notes “I’m from Atlanta like Chik-fil-A’s and hootie hoo’s / Hell, I was brought up on booty shake and (Goodie Mob’s) Soul Food / and I was taught to let bass quake in old schools.” So as to not exclude outsiders from grasping his message, STS references his generation’s arguable greatest orator, as the hook borrows the opening lines of Jay-Z’s deep cut “Some People Hate”
Flaws come by way of “Fancy Car” and “Fuck With That,” low-grade rock mashups that don’t achieve much despite his STS putting his best foot forward behind the mic. Among the distinguishable strengths he puts to use is the ability to craft well-rounded songs that bring a balance between thought provoking ideas and fun. “Don’t Get Played” finds him willing to bare his soul while speaking on heartbreak, noting “I know that pain’s a part of life, you aint alive without it/What don’t kill you will make you stronger, aint gon die about it”. On the flipside, “420” is a soulful ballad to our culture’s most popular recreational pastime, while the radio ready “Cruisin’” fits in with the mainstream’s recent baby steps towards embracing funk.
STS has long had the technical skills handy to be recognized for his pen game, but with the help of beatmaker turned musician RJD2 (long renowned for straying from convention in his own right), he now teeters on the edge of a breakout moment. Regardless of the vocal twang the South can claim as a badge of honor, the mostly gimmick free musical fusion on STS x RDJ2 has an appeal. Overall, these clever, well-constructed songs and the meticulousness involved should help STS graduate from an underdog to a contender in due time.