My biggest problem with most Hip-Hop albums, the good ones especially, is the lack of standout tracks. Most are incredibly long (Ghostface, anyone") and only have two or three songs on them that I really, really dig. An example would be Deltron3030’s mega hyped self titled. I loved the production, lyrics and delivery and as a whole it was great. For some reason I just couldn’t find more than 3 songs on it that I really loved. A more relevant example would be Indie-Rap duo, Atmosphere’s 3rd release God Loves Ugly
. Atmosphere is arguably the most successful underground Hip-Hop group of the modern day. Beginning as a trio (Spawn, the DJ left after their debut) Atmosphere started out in 1994 in Rochester, Minnesota. With Slug (Sean Daley) on the microphone and Ant (Anthony Davis) producing, Atmosphere has released many albums on indie labels, each filled with their trademark brand of emotional lyricisms. After Spawn quit, God Loves Ugly was the duo’s first full release alone. And what a release it was.
Atmosphere has a fairly distinct sound. The production is very dry, not over produced at all. It isn’t out of the ordinary for beats to consist of solely bass, drums and piano. Electric guitars spice up the beats on occasion, no blistering solos or strummed chords though, just tastefully done licks here and there. The quality is slightly irritating and hard to explain; it doesn’t feature much reverb and doesn’t seem very thick. The beats, themselves aren’t terribly complex, but the work very well with Slug’s rapping, which by the way is fantastic. His delivery is quite good, he doesn’t spit very fast but you feel the strength of every word. He transcribes his emotions into the music perfectly, whether it be the depressed anger of Fuck You Lucy
or something quite different, Slug’s vocals are great.
I’m going to go on a slight tangent to describe the previously mentioned, Fu
ck You Lucy. It’s hard for me not to think of this song as one of the greatest rap songs I have ever listened to. The beat is just so perfectly lo-fi, A slick, clean guitar riff is looped over some fast paced piano and laid back drums with vocal samples are thrown in the mix on occasion. But of course, the most prominent feauture is Slug’s lyrics. In our very own forums someone cited the lyrics to this song as some of the best ever, and I agree completely. Slug’s lyrics are from the view point of a heartbroken guy, who takes spiteful shots at his ex-girlfriend and wishes he could stop loving her. Slug’s emotions paint an angry picture, but a beautiful one all the same, a standout track to say the least. I’ll end this paragraph with some of my favorite lyrics from that song:
Originally Posted by Fuck You Lucy
Most of this garbage I write that these people seem to like
Is about you and how I let you infect my life
And if they got to know you, I doubt that they would see it
They'd wonder what I showed you how you could leave it
A friend in Chicago said that I should stay persistent
If I stay around I'm bound to break resistance
Fuck you Lucy for defining my existence
Fuck you and your differences
Slug’s lyrics, as one may be able to tell are far from mainstream. There isn’t much talk about Hoes and Hustling, but then again Atmosphere isn’t exactly mainstream. Dubbed by many clueless magazines to be “Emo-Rap”, Atmosphere’s lyrics are just that, emotional. Slug bears his broken heart on his sleeve for all to see. His lyrics are poetic, heartfelt and angry. Much like The Streets (Of course the actual rapping doesn’t sound much like The Streets), Atmosphere rap about everyday things, like trying to look up girl’s skirts (A Song About a Friend) or having your heart broken (Lots of songs). While most of the record is about relationships (specifically with women), heartbreak and love, the song topics vary quite a lot from each other. Because of his emotion and poetic ability Slug is quickly becoming one of my favorite lyricists.
Another example of the greatness on God Loves Ugly is Saves The Day
. While I’m sure nothing off of this CD topped any Billboard charts, I’m pretty sure that Saves The Day is the biggest single off God Loves Ugly. The beat is mellow and comprised of mostly Guitars and Piano but also features a simple bass part and an equally simple drum part. Slug’s rapping isn’t superb on this song, but it isn’t bad at all. His lyrics once again are the spotlight, from the opening verse, From the fifth floor I schedule my meeting with the moon/Stress, let it go so it don't completely consume/When the vegetables bite back, and the grass starts to sting/I yell up to heaven to get me the hell out of this dream/I fell out of my stream of self-consciousness/And I got welts on my mind to signify all my accomplishments/No matter whose math you use to count the dead/Progress will never rest, in the hand that has no head
all the way to the quiet woman’s voice that ends the song the lyrics are great.
While God Loves Ugly
may or may not be the best Atmosphere album, or the most popular, it is, for sure, an excellent album. The beats, vocals and lyrics are all great. But flawless it isn’t, sheer length is one of the few problems I have with Atmosphere’s third release. At 18 tracks, the album is a little too lengthy for my tastes and I have a problem with listening to it as a whole. In addition, songs can get slightly samey and of course there almost always are those songs that just plain suck (Bass and the Movement, for one). Obviously (for me at least) the good outweighs the bad by a large margin and I give God Loves Ugly a 4/5 overall.
Fuck You Lucy
Saves The Day