Hip hop has always been a young man’s game. And like many of our favorite emcees of the 90s, Sean “Slug” Daley and Anthony “Ant” Davis are in their late 30s or early 40s. As many rappers have been intimidated by their age, going through some form of a hip hop mid-life crisis, Atmosphere has embraced their age. The group’s 7th LP, The Family Sign is the most mature sounding album I’ve ever heard. Slug’s content is a departure from their last record, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold as Slug tells more personal narratives surrounding themes of family and severing ties with old friends.
Ant’s production comprises mostly of Nate Collis’ bluesy guitar riffs and Erick Anderson’s keys. Ultimately the production doesn’t initially grab the listener’s attention like many of the beats of Lemons. Even if at times the sound gets a little repetitious, the live instrumentation is an appropriate backdrop for the grown up content of much of the record. Especially on tracks like “The Last To Say,” Anderson’s piano chords with Collis’ wailing guitar is the perfect backdrop for Slug to tell an emotional story about a family torn apart by an abusive father.
Slug’s story telling has reached yet another apex, with abstract tales like “Became,” which can be interpreted in many ways. He also finds brilliance in the much less ambiguous “If You Can Save Me Now,” which is one of the album’s best tracks. With his vivid descriptions, the listener might miss the fact that he’s rapping from the perspective of a person who has just experienced being in a car accident.
The Family Sign is filled with many mid-tempo tracks, with only a few up-tempo cuts. “Ain’t Nobody” is one of the most up-beat songs, but it’s also one of the least interesting, along with “Bad Bad Dady,” which features Collis’ least interesting riff on the record. His playing is a lot more impressive on tracks like the somber “Who I’ll Never Be” and the epic-sounding, “I Don’t Need Brighter Days.”
While this certainly isn’t one of the group’s best efforts, it is still a very good release. On ”She’s Enough,” Slug raps about being happy in a relationship, which shows his growth as an artist and as a person. Slug gives his fans who want him to continue to write songs like “Fuck You Lucy” a subtle middle finger on lead single, “Just For Show.” As a 21 year-old, I can relate to those fans who miss the “old Atmosphere” because I relate more with the content on albums like Lucy Ford and God Loves Ugly . But I also appreciate the group’s ability to continue to evolve their sound, and stay relevant as they get older. There are some tracks on this record I don’t appreciate much now as a college student in my early 20s, but I can guarantee as I get older and more mature, I will find this album more relatable and more enjoyable.