Despite the possibility of sounding a bit like a broken record, I have to mention this because it’s absolutely true: one of the great things about the proliferation of independent labels is their ability to reintroduce sadly forgotten yet influential artists or sadly forgotten artists that we should have been paying attention to back in the day to new audiences who may actually get it, often through the reissuing of albums that seemingly disappeared. Others do so through releasing singles and videos that were largely considered apocryphal by fans, critics and industry insiders.
Now if you’ve been following JOVM for any time at all, you may have picked up on the fact that I’ve largely focused on indie level artists. Let’s face it Beyonce, Jay-Z, Katy Perry and others receive enough press. And perhaps this is a little pretentious – if so, I must apologize profusely – but I feel that I have a responsibility to shed light on new artists I think you should be paying attention to and to artists that were forgotten to the dustbin of history. And with such generally terrible and thoughtless music “criticism” with writers being afraid to take risks and put their necks on the line to support anything different, who else out there will stand up for artists who wouldn’t ordinarily get love?
In any case … Comprised of Slug, Spawn D (who later left the group) and Ant the trio of Urban Atmosphere had been together for a few years. Interestingly, they had been part of the Headshots collective, a collective that had been seeing increasingly popularity in the mid 90s; in fact, the collective had been so popular that a much-anticipated compilation featuring tracks by The Abstract Pack, Phull Surkle, Black Hohl, Beyond, and others. Urban Atmosphere’s “Ear Blister,” a song that had been a part of their live sets around that time was supposed to be included on that compilation along with an official music video. However, the song was never officially released. And unfortunately, the compilation never materialized and the video became scarcely seen. So the video became the stuff of legend with Urban Atmosphere fans, who had talked about finding the video for the better part of 20 years.
Obviously when you hear “Ear Blister” it’s extremely period specific – as expected. Its jazzy keyboard and bass sample immediately brings me back to hip-hop’s halcyon days of the early to mid 1990s, which is arguably the genre’s most influential period. Importantly, much like the hip hop of its period, it stands up in a way that I suspect that most contemporary mainstream hip-hop won’t 20 years in the future. May real hip-hop live forever! And may this track fill in the gaps of one of the most important and beloved eras of hip-hop.