Rapper Slug and producer Ant continue to evolve with their 2011 effort The Family Sign, a conceptual effort dealing with the family unit. No surprise that the duo that arguably invented emo-rap finds a lot of pain in family and growing up, and when Mom gets to “mourn for the touch of a punch” during “The Last to Say,” it’s downright devastating. Slug’s lyrics are equally vivid and blunt, and after all these years of delivering therapy session rhymes, he still continues to impress, giving up the stark reality like few others can. Still, the most interesting devices on the album are Ant’s subtle references to the “Minneapolis sound” that the duo grew up with. Electro percussion that recalls Prince and white-noise, gritty sounds that are Hüsker Dü-influenced add a bit of nostalgia and suburban hominess to the landscape, as if Slug’s lyrics were the domestic strife of the downstairs and Ant’s productions were the boombox bedroom escapism of upstairs, where new wave and Paisley Park offered a way out. In other words, knowing a bit about where this group literally came from helps a lot, and when you add the personal element of Slug chopping down his family tree, this effort may be too inward-looking for the newcomer. That said, anyone intrigued by the idea of emo-rap at its most introspective will find this a well-crafted and moving effort, while returning Atmosphere fans get the satisfying usual with some extra maturity and growth.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries