I was able to interview Slug, half of Rhymesayers hip-hop masterminds Atmosphere, a couple of years back -- he was one hell of a cool guy, very smart and laidback and cool, all at once. And I got out to see the duo on their tour for 2005's You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having, which turned out to be a little, well, weird.
Us Houstonians were doing our usual "stand w/arms crossed" thing, although the crowd did seem to be into it from where I was standing -- even got an impromptu between-sets show of breakdancing from some talented folks waiting for people to get on stage. Everybody was smiling and nodding along, but apparently something was pissing Slug off, because he seemed to spend about half the show on the verge of dropping his mic and stalking off-stage. Not sure if it was our non-go-nuts crowd chillness, sound issues (it was at Warehouse Live, which can have its issues and sound like a big, boomy room), or what, but the vibe was pretty angry and unhappy. We cheered & clapped, but I dunno; something was off, I guess.
Now, four years on, Atmosphere are headed back our way, stopping here tonight, Tuesday, August 4th; they're at the Warehouse once again, touring on last year's When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold and celebrating the re-release of the 2002 classic God Loves Ugly.
While they're at it, they also just released a new, free EP, the appropriately-titled Leak At Will -- the band "leaked" it online themselves, giving it away to anybody who signs up for a user account on their new online Fifth Element Online store. Go here for the info, then download away.
From where I sit, Leak At Will ain't bad, although it does feel a bit like an odds-and-ends EP of outtakes. They're short as hell, laidback and loopy, but still with Slug's trademark bleak, street-level storytelling. I'l admit that I miss the manic, fuck-it-all energy of You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having (it's hard to beat the facepunch touring madness of "Bam"), sure, but Leak is a nice glimpse into the group's collective mind. Instead of the manic, we get hazy, low-to-the-ground, laid-back beats and meandering story-verses.
"C'mon" is probably the most aggressive, in-your-face track here, at the same time serving as a somewhat touching story about youth, struggle, and growing up, while "White Noise" is a damning indictment of our always-on culture of marketing overload with a bumping, almost Dead Prez-like funky groove and "Feel Good Hit of the Summer 2" is a head-shaking warning (sort of) about drugs and the dangers of not knowing your limits; the bit about 'shrooms and "please stop pretending that it makes better music" cracks me up.
The best track, though, is closer "Millie Fell Off the Fire Escape," a chilling, heartbreaking tale of youth gone wrong, all over some nice, Jackson 5-sounding backups. A kid makes a mistake, runs, wants to do the right thing, and then one false move makes it all horribly final.
I am a bit bummed, btw, that we're not getting P.O.S. this time out -- still need to see that guy -- but I've heard openers Eyedea & Abilities (dunno first-players Attracted to Gods, sorry) before, and they do some damn smart, twisty hip-hop themselves. Get on out, y'all.
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