With nicknames like “Ant” and the “Slug,” it might have been difficult to foresee the longevity of the rap group Atmosphere. It’s been nearly thirty years since Anthony Davis and Sean Daley’s talents came together. This is certainly a feat worth noting in itself. Knowing that the group mostly thrived off attention from college radio stations and the indie-sphere, their career timeline is even more impressive. Their lyrically dense and vibrantly produced music has allowed them to garner respect from industry figureheads and the underground community alike. With that being said, Atmosphere does not always stick the landing with their projects. This is certainly not due to a lack of talent or artistic vision, but sometimes it feels like Slug’s wordplay may not live up to previous albums or Ant’s production lacks the energy of previous projects. With their latest effort, Mi Vida Local, the group encounters a new problem: a lack of connection.
Perhaps no track describes this lack of connection better than “Virgo.” While this track features a performance from Slug that is passionate, personal and even heartwarmingly funny at times, it certainly doesn’t showcase any dynamics from a production standpoint. Had the musical direction of this track picked up, this track could have easily packed an extra punch. It could have won listeners hearts and reminded everyone what Atmosphere can bring to the table. Instead, it just sounds like two performers going in two completely different directions. On the previous track “Stopwatch,” the opposite situation occurs. While the production is still rather stagnant, the beat feels very large. It feels like it could really hold some weight with some proper bars placed on top of it. The problem is that this only partly happens. Slug is very inconsistent on this track and when he is weak it really stands out.
While many tracks on this record fall into this pattern, “Earring” and “Jerome” are truly fantastic songs. The fact that these are two standouts is pretty cool considering how different they really are. “Jerome” is a layered affair showcasing grittiness, immediate earworm key motifs and just the right amount of fuzz. On top of these elements, the rising synth line creates a certain tension on this track that adds a perfect poignancy to Slug’s words. Slug’s verses in this song are both eccentric and sharp. They feel uncompromising and encompassing of who he is an emcee. “Earring” is a more stripped back affair. The nice piano chords paired with the bendy woodwind/guitar inflections on the track intrigue the listener with ease. The beat feels like something you can just ride out to. This is absolutely essential for the type of track this is. Both Slug and Musab have a very somber tone on this track. They want to educate the listener with their cryptic and desperate words. The serious tone taken here winds up working wonders. Despite the minimal nature of the track, the listener still won’t be able to let up focus. The short and captivating verses say a lot, but saying a little and ultimately keep everyone on the same page.
Sure, Mi Vida Local has its moments of triumph, but it is far from a complete project. The disconnection between the producer and rapper truly hinder the potential this project had. Nothing on here is inherently bad, but not much will stick with you long after the record stops. Let’s hope there is a change of atmosphere for next time.