I’ll admit I haven’t listened to much Atmosphere in recent years. But what I’ve heard of the new stuff, it’s more introspective and chill, as if Slug is content to ride in the passenger seat and look out the window instead of driving the car. It has a little less punch -– which is totally fine -– it’s his art to do as he pleases. But on Felt 4 U that’s not the case at all. Working with the other half of Atmosphere, Ant on production, and sharing the emcee spotlight with Murs, there’s a lot of swagger, pride and drive. This record’s got punch. When Murs kicks off opener “Never’s Enough,” the record feels like a breath of fresh air. When Slug jumps in at the 1:45 mark, he feels invigorated with new life.
The record straddles many tones, from bangers like “Alexander F’Real” with big pounding beats and subtly uplifting bells (classic Ant) or it’s follow-up “Hologram,” or smooth, slow jam R&B like the soothing bass flow of “Through the Night” or the soft and sleek “Underwater” (which is a bit graphic, for lack of a better descriptor). Between Murs and Slug, it reminisces of gang culture, pop culture and love life, ultimately asking where those subjects merge and separate.
These different styles often meet in the middle. Take “Freeze Tag” as a case in point. It has that funky beat but with heavy hitting verses that trade off and shift gears with perfect mic handoffs. It’s equally potent and playful. “Trees” is another example, using classic 1980s scratches, mid-sentence trade-offs, and surprisingly effective repetition. In “Don’t Do Me Like That” they work the mic in tandem.
On a collaborative project like this you often get inconsistent results where different artists don’t fully coalesce. Felt’s fourth go-around is seamless as it bounces back, forth, and in-between. “Alexander F’Real,” “Borboleta,” and “Sticks and Stones” are a few of the standouts, but 4 U isn’t an album defined by its big hits. It delivers consistent quality from the first beat to the last verse, defined by three artists knowing when to merge their styles and when to let them stand in the spotlight individually. It’s exactly what you’d expect given the artists involved.
8.0 / 10
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