The concept of authenticity has been a big part of the public's response to rap music since Afrika Bambaataa wasn't a morbidly obese version of George Clinton with a cane. Did Nas really brandish guns in his baby pictures? Were Da Lench Mob truly too occupied to count their entire firearm collection? Did Marky Mark actually try to get political? Minneapolis duo Atmosphere's newest release, God Loves Ugly, leaves listeners asking no such questions: Rapper Slug brings an honest, endearing voice to an album that actually plays out like an album.
Slug claims his goal is to "make it cool to rap about love again," and love is a recurrent theme throughout the album. On "F*@ck You Lucy," he rags on his now-infamous ex, "Lucy Ford." Imagine Dashboard Confessional with more balls -- but instead of appearing on a soft, acoustically driven emo album, "F*@ck You Lucy" boasts a piano-happy, hard-driving beat, courtesy of Atmosphere's other half, producer Ant. In "Hair," Slug takes an insightful look at his female fans, announcing that he's "never made a practice of introducing my mattress to women that I meet at my own gigs." It's an unexpected turn from the man who, only two tracks earlier, asks his listeners to "make noise for the women who swallow stuff," but it's sure to whip many thirteen-year-old girls into a frenzy, forcing them to find a new, more sophisticated "I read two pages of Nietzsche" angle to get their idol's attention.
"Modern Man's Hustle," the first single, is backed by a beat that could have been found on Jay-Z's The Blueprint. Over its speeded-up female vocal sample, sexual bass line and slow guitar riff, Slug breaks it down to his girl about having to be a hustler just to make it in the world -- his world being that of a successful underground rapper with thousands of female fans and the ability to turn down record contracts with a "Fuck a major label till it bleeds" attitude. God Loves Ugly may get a bit too self-referential for some, but it's not the standard rapper self-indulgence. The fact that a little underground group from Minneapolis can create a huge fanbase proves there's a market for rap music that's not constantly telling you it's rap and that maybe, just maybe, rappers can be a little emo at times.