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Slug of Atmosphere
by Matt Crawford on Apr 24, 2008
As one half of the Minneapolis hip hop duo Atmosphere, Slug helped define a new generation of underground hip hop that shifted the previously dominant East Coast/West Coast mindset born in California and New York with emotive lyrics that touch on lust, love, heartbreak and other common elements of everyday life. His terrestrial alternative to the rap super heroes -- or super egos -- that are shaped through mainstream avenues has helped fuel a spike in interest in the group. Atmosphere is scheduled to perform during a two-night stand May 8th and 9th at the Regency Grand Regency. Slug spoke about fathering his 14-year old son and his new album When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold during a phone interview from Minneapolis.
SF Station (SFS): During your formative years, was there a particular kind of rap song that you liked?
Slug: Growing up, I was all about conscious rap: KRS-1, Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane and X Clan. I was 17 in the golden area of conscious hip hop and I was at the right age for something to be really influential on me.
SFS: Was there a particular style of song that caught your ear?
Slug: I was into the songs about overthrowing the government and conspiracy joints. Songs that were about uplifting the community, that were positive in nature and geared toward the plight of the common man.
SFS: You have never been overtly political with your own music.
Slug: I always feel pressure to hide it, so I use a lot of metaphors. A lot of people put me in a box and say I write songs about relationships and girls, but realistically a lot of songs are metaphors about how I feel and social situations. I wanted to put it into a narrative of characters. Iím not a fan of preachy shit. Nobody really pulls off conscious rap the way that cats were pulling it off when I was a kid. Nowadays everybody that does it sounds really preachy and sometimes itís fucking contrived. They are just filling the quota of conscious rap.
I kind of cringe when people say I havenít been overtly political because I think there are three or four songs on every record that have been incredibly political. Iíve figured out ways to humanize the politics and turn the politics into people.
SFS: Did fatherhood influence your album?
Slug: Yeah, every year he [my son] gets older and he can conceive more of what Iím saying. He can see through me, like anybody, and he is actually a really good test for me. I put it in front of him and if he can see through it or poke holes in it, I know that shit is whack and I have to fix it. With every year that goes by and the more that he has an understanding and comprehension of what Iím saying, there is pressure on me to make sure what Iím saying is proper.
SFS: Is he a fan of your music?
Slug: Iím not his favorite rapper. Iím one of his favorite people, but he likes rap that is a little bit more fun.
SFS: Does he listen to rap that you also like, or do you have to bite your tongue?
Slug: We kind of like the same rap, actually.
SFS: Do you want to drop some names?
Slug: I like Prodigy a lot. Most of the stuff I like is older, but as far as the new stuff: I like Prodigy, 50 Cent and G Unit. Iím a fan of Black Eyed Peas just as much as I am a fan of Aesop Rock and Murs. I use different types of rap for different types of moods in my day. Iím even a fan of Lil Wayne, it is just a matter of what Iím in the mood for.
SFS: Who isnít a fan of Lil Wayne?
Slug: Right, but Iím starting to feel a little bit of a Lil Wayne backlash. Weíll see what happens. He seems likes he is on top of his swagger, but Iím starting to see a little bit of Lil Wayne backlash in the blogosphere. But itís all good, those blogger motherfuckers are just ridiculous little bastards that donít get laid enough anyway.
SFS: Your album is titled When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint that Shit Gold; have you had any lemons come your way lately?
Slug: Not so much over the last few years. Things have been on the up and up. In the past, I have been a victim of my own poor decision-making. Most of my lemons were self-manifested and that is kind of what this record is about. Rather than sitting around and complaining about life, take what youíve got and make the best of it. If you donít help yourself, ainít nobody else going to help you.
Atmosphere performs May 8th and 9th at the Regency Grand Ballroom. Tickets cost $25 and the show starts at 8pm.
by Matt Crawford on Apr 24, 2008