New Atmosphere Video Reveals Slug May Be Long-Lost Member of Soul Asylum

ezjd14s0.jpgYou can’t blame Atmosphere for wanting to try something new. The Minneapolis hip-hop duo (rapper Slug/producer Ant) had been running in place since 2002’s God Loves Ugly. It wasn’t that their last album, You Can’t Believe How Much Fun We’re Having was bad; it’s just that there are only so many ways to spin quasi-emo tales of groupies and ex-girlfriends over ’70s soul beats. Atmosphere has a new album coming out later this month called When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold; I would’ve liked to have listened to it, but piracy issues caused Atmosphere’s label, Rhymesayers, to refuse to send out gold-painted press copies. So in retaliation, I’m going to assume from the video for “Guarantee,” the album’s first single, that the next Atmosphere record will be entirely rap-rock.

Rap-rock, a genre long thought to have been buried along with Kid Rock’s midget, has made a resurgence of late; I suspect it all started last year with the emergence of the Shop Boyz, Lil Wayne, R. Kelly, and Chamillionaire letting the world know that they too could be compared to rock stars. Then this year came Why?’s Alopecia, the Jackie Robinson of rap-rock, the crucial moment that quantitatively proved what scientists had long believed: It is possible to give birth to a good rap-rock album. Unfortunately, judging from the “Guarantee” video, Slug seems to be the Larry Doby of neo-rap-rock.

“Guarantee” finds the Rhymesayers president looking like a cross between Winona Ryder’s ex-boyfriend and The Grungies. Unlike the rap-rock of the past, Slug goes unplugged, just an acoustic guitar and gloomy lyrics that seem to have been conceived at a Seattle coffeehouse’s open-mic night sometime in 1993. With some hard drums and some harmonica, or some otherwise odd instrumentation, I could definitely see this track breathing, but instead the song feels thin, spare, and anticlimactic. From a business perspective, the song is probably a brilliant move, as it further solidifies Slug’s stranglehold on the lucrative world of suicide girls and sorority sisters. But from an artistic perspective, while Slug remains a very good rapper, Atmopshere’s new direction is Durst.

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