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Seven's Travels

Wednesday, Sep 17 2003
A few years ago, the idea of rappers hailing from Minnesota was as foreign as subtitled films. So when Minneapolis' Atmosphere wanted to build a music career, it did what any industrious band would: It hit the road, winning its audience the old-fashioned way. Today, Atmosphere packs nearly every house it plays and its albums outsell like-minded counterparts, rappers like El-P and J-Live. Success like this typically dooms DIY indie bands, hip hop or otherwise, yet the group's fourth studio album proves the duo can handle the weight of success -- this is Atmosphere's most cohesive, straightforward, and accessible work to date.

Seven's Travels follows familiar footprints: MC Slug opens his journal, piloting listeners on a personal journey atop producer Ant's soul-stirring beats. The curtain rises with a stewardess welcoming everyone aboard a plane, and this theme is cleverly peppered throughout the album's hour-plus flight. Along the way, Slug, true to form, makes it purposefully difficult to decipher whether he is referring to himself (aka Sean Daley) or narrating a story, whether he's relating a deep, dark secret or just a witty anecdote -- in other words, whether we're laughing with him or at him. The most pleasant surprise, however, is the way these poetic tales aren't camouflaged by riddlelike abstractions. On "National Disgrace," the poker-faced MC lays his cards on the table: No matter how you "pick apart the detail/ It's about alcohol and females/ All around the world same song." As with past Atmosphere LPs, the album is loaded with a throng of confessional punch-drunk love numbers, but the themes here strike a nice balance, from upbeat and honest ("Reflections") to theatrical ("Lift Her Pull Her") to straight-up bored-and-horny ("Shoes").

Over the course of their Travels, the duo touch down on the hazy streets of "Los Angeles" and at a soulless airport bar in "Denvemolorado," before returning to Minneapolis on "Always Coming Back Home to You." It seems that after becoming the talk of so many towns these past few years, Atmosphere has flipped the script and talked right back. Thankfully, it hasn't let all the buzz go to its head.

About The Author

Daniel Liszt

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