Atmosphere

God Loves Ugly

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Coming straight outta the rough'n'tumble surroundings of Minneapolis/St. Paul, the Rhymesayers clique is slowly but surely putting Minnesota on the hip-hop map. OK, so the frozen lands that gave listeners Prince and Morris Day & the Time may seem like a fairly unlikely setting for the next hip-hop hotbed, but you can't deny the talent the area's been bringing to the table. First, Eyedea won the country's biggest MC battle with a brilliant display of freestyle ability, now Atmosphere's latest album states the case that there are some serious skills in the Great White North. The group is fronted by Slug, whose densely packed rhymes on the opening "Onemosphere" and "The Bass & the Movement" showcase a clever lyrical flow that recalls early De La Soul if they'd been produced by El-P. On "Hair" and the title track, the MC exposes a refreshing sense of self-deprecating realism all too often lacking among the current hip-hop scene's posturing poseurs. Though the lo-fi D.I.Y. production slows the momentum on a handful of tracks, when Slug's rhymes and producer Ant's beats click, the results are as good as underground hip-hop gets.

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