Album of the Week: Atmosphere, 'Whenever'

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Atmosphere, 'Whenever'
Atmosphere, 'Whenever' (Rhymesayers Entertainment)

Shortly after an announcement of the Whenever tour, Atmosphere dropped an album of the same name with zero notice. Though the album's arrival came as a surprise, the material is more of what we've come to expect from Atmosphere. That is not a bad thing. Ant and Slug have arrived at a signature style: Ant crafts funk grooves, cranks the snare and adds ominous leads to float over them. Slug runs a magnifying glass over his life as a family man slash touring musician and if he needs to underline something he takes a deep breath and lifts up the register of his voice.

My favorite ones on Whenever are the least ambitious. "Postal Lady" is a thorough investigation of a fleeting crush on a new postal carrier in Slug's neighborhood. The punch line is that there isn't one. It's a harmless crush colored in with such believable details that I'm hanging on every couplet from Slug.

Students of the Minneapolis Sound are also going to rejoice over the song "Dearly Beloved". By my count Slug drops 19 references to song or albums in his 16-bar verse, with seventeen of those alluding to Prince's catalog. Slug's guests Musab and Muja Messiah aren't far behind with great references to Bowie songs, obscure 80s hip-hop flicks and the Lexington and Penumbra in St. Paul. In these songs where Slug is sharing bars with some of the best in our city, it's a friendly reminder he's still a great emcee.

It's also a treat to hear Slug sharing the mic with Haphduzn, Murs, and Gifted Gab on the title track. Though they all shine, it's safe to say that Gifted Gab takes the cake with a dense verse that had me wishing rewind worked better on streaming sites.

In the end, Whenever is giving me what I expect from an Atmosphere record, a handful of spectacular songs, some amazing cameo spots and rock-solid production and lyricism throughout.

Listen all week for tracks from Atmosphere's Whenever, your album of the week on the Current.

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