Atmosphere - Southsiders New Album Review

Empty Lighthouse is a reader-supported site. This article may contain affiliate links to Amazon and other sites. We earn a commission on purchases made through these links.

During the late 90s, independent hip hop had quite a scene. Eminem's rise to prominence, combined with the growth of the internet hit at a perfect time when people were still supporting the sale of CDs.

Dozens of websites like Hip Hop Site and Sandbox Automatic popped up, all competing against each other for "coolest promo items" like autographed posters, mix CDs, t-shirts.

Independent hip hop labels like Rawkus and Definitive Jux were actually competing with major labels like Def Jam and Tommy Boy. One of the groups that benefited from the indie hip hop boom was Minneapolis' Atmosphere.

Their 1998 debut album "Overcast" featured the young group of rappers throwing their collective hat in the ring. While the rhymes were certainly not as clever as Eminem's, the beats certainly not as catchy as Dr.

Dre's, their punky grit meant that they were definitely a group to watch.

Starting their own label Rhymesayers (which has now gone on to launch more than a dozen successful acts) allowed them to not worry about fitting their sound to appeal to a mass audience.

After the debut album, they cut back the group to only feature one MC (Slug) and one producer (Ant).

This meant that Slug could finally create the emo-rap that was always in his head. Relationship woes ("woes" is putting it lightly) suddenly populated his rhymes.

Atmosphere would then release emo-rap classics like "The Lucy Ford EPs" and "God Loves Ugly" all perfectly timed to take advantage of the aforementioned independent hip hop boom.

However, as the music industry collapsed with the advent of file-sharing, this "Boom" suddenly halted, with many labels calling it quits and most of the hip hop websites following suit.

Fast forward a full decade and Atmosphere is releasing their new album "Southsiders". Where Slug was once a wise-cracking, lovelorn MC, he now is a happy family man and that certainly comes across throughout the record.

Ant's productions still have an originality about them, but they all follow a certain mid-tempo safeness that rarely catches your attention.

The total sellout moment, "Mrs. Interpret" finds Slug slinging some truly cringe-worthy come-ons, but the catchy guitar samples actually leave the longest lasting impression on the album.

Throw in the publicity grab of naming one of your songs "Kanye West" which features the lame chorus of "Throw your hands in the air like you really do care," and it all feels like Atmosphere has hit a wall, creatively. The lone flash of true emotion comes with "Flicker" a touching ode to fallen rapper friend Eyedea who passed away a few years back.

The album could benefit by featuring more moments like these. While I will always root for Atmosphere, it seems like this might be a low point for them. I give it 2 and 1/2 Empty Lighthouses out of 5.

For more on Atmosphere: