Atmosphere, 'Seven's Travels' (Epitaph/Rhymesayers)

Seven's Travels
Critical Mass
Label: Epitaph/Rhymesayers

by Michaelangelo Matos

The usual pop story is that you can't go home again, but in hip-hop you're suspect if you leave. That's never been a problem for Minneapolis rapper Slug. He may tour 200 days a year, but he's remained outspokenly loyal to his hometown since 1997'sOvercast!, taking as much pride in his boho-Midwesternness as Outkast do in being ATLiens. Despite its title, Seven's Travels, the fourth album by Atmosphere (Slug and DJ/producer Ant), could have been commissioned by the Twin Cities tourist bureau. Everything from Uptown drinkery Liquor Lyle's to late, great Minneapolis rockers Lifter Puller receives a shout-out; on the bonus track, "Shh," Slug even celebrates his hometown's clean tap water and abundant parking.

Now that Slug has seen the world--and spent last year's tough-talking God Loves Ugly worrying about his place in it--he's decided he's happier staying put, which just makes him seem more worldly. Seven's Travels is Atmosphere's least frantic, most playful album; even overtly emo moments like "Bird Sings Why the Caged I Know" are tempered by Ant's soul-kissed beats, which balance B-boy bluntness with billowing ornamentation. And while female trouble has traditionally been Slug's sorest subject--the point where his knee-jerk smart-assedness turns authentically, disturbingly mean--he's progressing.

The drunken bad-date slur of "Shoes" ("Those are your shoes, these are my shoes, we've got issues") butters its angst with sly wit: "Here we are sitting on your living room floor / Listening to records from your collection / Boredom, in between a coma and an erection." And on "Reflections," a nightclub pickup glimmers with the possibility of a more substantial connection: "All of your regrets you're carrying and burying / Don't mean a damn thing if you don't have someone to share them with." After all, if you're gonna go home again, why go (it) alone?



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