When I moved to Montana for undergrad, I was lucky to cross paths with people who had impeccable taste in music. They broke me away from my own short-sightedness. Moving away from my own bubble (which generally included whiny emo and corny third-wave ska), I discovered a lot of undiscovered goodies. I remember the first time I heard Atmosphere. I was sitting in my buddy’s car and he told me that I had to hear this something special. I was extremely skeptical as my limited hip hop experience dealt with artists like Busta Rhymes and Black Eyed Peas.
(Quick aside: Before you laugh or dismiss this, BEP’s debut album, Behind the Front, remains of my all-time favorite releases. It’s true hip hop and it came before Fergie. It features inventive beats and fantastic rhymes. Before the group sold their soul to the radio gods, this album arrived. And I highly recommend everyone check it out.)
End of aside. My friend played me some tracks from Atmosphere’s 2002 release, God Loves Ugly. I was floored. The combination of humor, candor, beats. Slug and Ant seemingly had it all.
I was highly impressionable at this point, but Atmosphere left a lasting impression. Since then I have eagerly anticipated new releases from Atmosphere and Rhymesayers Entertainment (their homegrown label). Artists like Brother Ali and P.O.S. have continued the Atmosphere tradition, taking it to new and exciting places. These artists are not always similar, but they all share in the same RSE aesthetic. Slug has continued to expand his empire with his joint releases with Murs. They have released three albums as Felt. This is where I was first introduced to the work of Grieves and Budo. The emcee/producer duo released a five-song remix EP of some of the songs from Felt’s third release, one dedicated to Rosie Perez.
Grieves and Budo released their RSE debut earlier this year. Entitled Together/Apart, the album features the minimalist production of Budo that ideally suits the rhymes of Grieves. The album is 16 tracks strong and it features many of the hallmarks commonly associated with other Rhymesayers artists/releases. Emotions take center stage as Grieves doesn’t hide or suppress anything from the audience. And the songs are thick with introspection. The rhymes fit perfectly with the beats. One of the standout tracks on the release is “Against the Bottom.” This song perfectly melds the two artists and demonstrates how RSE is more than just the headliners.