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BEST ALBUM OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS Minneapolis 2008 - Atmosphere, Strictly Leakage

Slug and Ant didn't necessarily have to release this album, at least from a commercial standpoint. They could've coasted on the success of the intermittent Sad Clown EPs that showed up every few months in 2007, taken a breather, then unleashed When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold right on time for prime spring windows-down/speakers-up season. But Atmosphere decided that they'd give fans a bit of season's greetings, and as a gift they dropped a full-length mix tape full of old-school beats and seasonal-affective-disorder-killing rhymes that stand with some of the hardest-bumping moments of the local rap luminaries' last half-decade. It's a blast to hear an amped-up Slug at his most confident, rampaging all over tweaked classic Kool G. Rap and Big Daddy Kane beats. And he's not just in it for himself—the cut "Crewed Up" (featuring Twin Cities representation by Brother Ali, Stage One, St. Paul Slim, Muja Messiah, and Toki Wright) is one of the best local-heavy posse cuts in years. Better yet: It was all priced to move at the low, low cost of nothing, making it the next-best thing to a free open bar.

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