The characters populating Atmosphere's fifth album are in unenviable situations. And not all of them are painting that shit gold. Vagrants, single parents, and dope-addled fiends live, work, fuck, and wallow in their misery, giving overemotional rapper Slug a chance to traffic in someone else's self-righteousness and -loathing for a change. Yet their issues and insights are never too far removed from his own. While some cuts — like "Guarantees" and "Like the Rest of Us" — come off as clichéd, partner-producer Ant skillfully chops up bass, guitar, and synth parts, making When Life Gives You Lemons . . . a record that occasionally transcends indie-rap's usual sample-driven listlessness.
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