Atmosphere

Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs

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The opening track on Lucy Ford, "Between the Lines," burrows into the heads of a frustrated policeman, an oblivious young girl who watches movies perpetually to get away from her own life, and an indie rapper who descends into self-abnegation instead of self-aggrandizement -- hardly typical subject matter for a rap song. In fact, with Slug's singsong delivery, it hardly seems like a rap song at all, and is tugged back toward the genre only by Ant's steady beat-making. But then Atmosphere proves not to be typical in most every respect on this debut full-length, which is much the better for the duo's, and particularly its MC's, peculiarities. Lucy Ford actually collects the bulk of a pair of early Fat Beats-distributed vinyl EPs from the Minneapolis-based group on a single long-playing disc. It makes for a sterling introductory display. Like Eminem, Atmosphere is a joy to hear when caricaturing old school trash-talking ("Guns and Cigarettes," with a truly inspired, bluesy Ant track) and even more so when Slug is lampooning his own penchant for indulgent egotism ("It Goes") with hilarious, self-deprecating one-liners. At other times, however, Atmosphere bogs down in a more earnest self-involvement, as on the romance ballad "Don't Ever Fucking Question That," where the duo reaches for heartfelt with less-than-convincing results. Slug excels when he allows his obvious passion to settle on subjects outside himself, as when he tries to coax the hip-hop community toward a higher calling on "Tears for Sheep," or, more breathtakingly, mixes autobiographical details with flights of pure imagination. The best tracks tend to occur when he plums the psychological depths of complex characters through brainy, abstract, and freewheeling narratives that exist somewhere in a surreal netherworld ("If I Was Santa Claus," "Aspiring Sociopath," "Party for the Fight to Write," "The Woman with the Tattooed Hands," the aforementioned "Between the Lines"). On these songs, the duo approaches dazzling heights that Eminem could never approach. Despite its few flaws, including a bit of merely serviceable filler, Lucy Ford offered one of the freshest voices in rap in 2000; in fact, its stronger moments are among the most forward-thinking hip-hop ever made.

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