Atmosphere, one of underground rap’s most successful groups, is back with new album Mi Vida Local, which packs more of an underlying punch than 2016’s subdued Fishing Blues. The duo of Sean “Slug” Daley and Anthony “Ant” Davis, who are seasoned veterans of the rap game, have taken on a more serious tone in the later years of their careers. Slug’s sometimes self-serving lyrics have now turned more reflective and socially conscious, while Ant has gone from easy sampling to more ambient sound. Mi Vida Local is a step forward in artistry for this duo, providing more thoughtful material in an era that requires more heady music.
The ever-present Midwestern homegrown feel of Atmosphere’s work is key in what has made the group successful over the last two decades. Mi Vida Local is humble and personal, easily resisting commercial hip-hop by remaining true to the roots the pair set down long ago. The album has taken on a somber tone, pressing against the current political climate in subtle ways. In “Drown”, Slug recounts, “Freedom of speech don’t mean what you think”, then, in a later bar, “I’m just trying to keep my head above the hopelessness”. The coy way Slug would smirk about issues of partying turning into casual alcoholism is now overshadowed with worldly problems, which is what helps keep Atmosphere fresh.
The strongest example of the album’s overall mood comes with the first single “Virgo”, which is hauntingly reflective and just short of optimistic. Collectively, the album is muted, testing the waters of would-be “dad rap” that’s turned into a more relevant project. Under the gun of growing older, Atmosphere doesn’t shy from poking fun at their progressing lives. “Trim” laments over a wannabe provocative track about trying to have sex in a house full of kids and obligations. “Mijo” is touching and uplifting, maturely working over the sentimentality of fatherhood. Depth has always been a strong suit for Atmosphere, and this album is no different.
Mi Vida Local carries a sometimes overwhelming amount of frustration lyrically and, combined with Ant’s cosmic musical energy, it paints a trying picture fueled by coping mechanisms that might not always work. This is the strongest album Atmosphere has put out in almost ten years and will please both old and new fans of Minneapolis’ finest.