Lemons and Life
Atmosphere’s fifth album, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, proves that hip-hop albums do not always have to mention money, cash, and hoes. Instead, vocalist Slug focuses on telling fifteen original stories through rhymes over the production of partner Ant. Think of Slug as the more realistic version of the original storyteller, Slick Rick, but without all the gloss and bling.
The album kicks off with “Like the Rest of Us,” a number worthy of a poet’s lounge with the piano keys tinkling in the background as Slug raps in lyrical verses. The storytelling includes everyday events such as splitting the rent with a roommate on “You” and flirting with a server on “The Waitress,” with the most touching songs being the most somber. In “Painting,” Atmosphere use the art form as a metaphor for drinking to hide the memories over a lap steel guitar that reinforces the depression. “Yesterday” samples the piano-laden Gladys Knight and the Pips song “Love Finds Its Own Way” to highlight the comfort faced when fondly remembering a deceased lover. Using a mixture of instruments including the flute and a Rhodes piano, “In Her Music Box” concludes the album with a tale of an emotionally abused child’s escapism via music.
While not an outstanding album, it is refreshing to hear the everyday stories that unfold in Slug’s lyrics relating to the production from Ant. It would be nice to hear a couple of positive stories told between or after the depressing ones, though. The closest to this request is “Dreamer,” a hopeful tale about a dire present with a chance for a promising future. Until then, this album is a nice change of pace from the typical rap album.