I’ve noticed a trend that rappers that rap about guns or violence generally get caught up having to deal with guns and violence. I kind of figured if it’s all self-manifestation like that, then why don’t I rap about women and beer? That way I can get…women and beer.
story by Spencer Lokken
photo by Dan Monick
“Atmosphere finally made a good record. Yeah right, that shit almost sounds convincing.” These are some of the first sentiments you hear on the track “Trying to Find a Balance”, off of Atmosphere’s fourth full-length album, Seven’s Travels. Those of us who have been listening for awhile are well aware of the humble demeanor of the group’s fearless rapper, Slug. To many, however, these words may be the beginning of a long relationship.
Along with a slew of other beat nuts and lyricists such as Ant and Slug of Minneapolis’ Rhymesayers crew, Atmosphere is leading the charge in revitalizing hip hop music. Its most recent effort is a thoughtful concept album, and along with an engaging video for “Trying to Find a Balance”, the group may be on the brink of super stardom. It is this journalist’s opinion that far too many “artists” have haphazardly landed in the spotlight and poisoned our ears with worthless drivel.
The time has come for a new leader to emerge who deserves the attention of the masses. Someone who will really give us something to think about. And to laugh at.
It was the Pharcyde who just wanted to kick something that means something (yes, I realize they also mentioned that your mama’s got a peg leg with a kick stand), right? Well, Chicago Innerview had a chance to listen to something that means something when speaking with Sean Daley (a.k.a. Slug) in between East Coast tour stops. As he selflessly confesses on fan favorite “Woman with the Tattooed Hands”, he has a lot to teach, and even more to learn:
Chicago Innerview: The new record is great, and a lot of people agree with me. I suppose you’re going to tell me it sucks. Talk to me about the process of you and Ant creating the concept album, Seven’s Travels.
Slug: I don’t really know how it happened, the songs are all based off of the last four years. Some of them were actually written a long time ago. We wanted to make a record about touring because me and Ant have got a weird thing where he doesn’t tour. He only knows what he did vicariously through me or Ali or some of his other friends, but he still has his theories behind what it feels like. He kind of approached it like he was trying to say something that he didn’t know, whereas my stories are based off the road.
Chicago Innerview: You once said you wanted to be bigger than guns and bigger than cigarettes. Last month you and Aesop Rock made the cover of URB. Are you prepared for what may lie ahead?
Slug: Man, I have no idea. Seriously, everything is a fog right now. None of us know what the fuck is going on, but we’re trying to pretend like we do. I’m going to say no. We’re probably not prepared, but I’m going to think it and feel like we are.
CI: Tell me about your attitude towards the major labels and being approached by them.
Slug: I’m not mad at them. If I’m trying to take care of my physical or my surroundings, I don’t really want to have to put myself in a position of having to owe anything to anybody else. I like being in complete control of my destiny.
CI: Let’s talk about the love for your hometown, Minneapolis, and your role in creating a sound for the city. How would your rhymes and Ant’s beats be different had you been brought up in say, New York or L.A.?
Slug: I think a lot of what me and Ant do is based off of [being] self-taught. There was no mentor shit, there was nobody to show us. We had to learn it from just listening to other people’s records. So, we probably found a strange hybrid of all of our influences. I guess that works for everybody, but a lot of times that will be based off more regional shit. I’m sure our goals are going to grow or expand or evolve, but there’s always going to be a reason to strive for something. Musically, it’s not so much like I can roll like this for the rest of my life. I’ve pretty much already accomplished what I set out to do. Now I can kind of play around with it a little bit…or who knows? Quit. Maybe I’ll go start a rock band or learn how to make really good pancakes. I’m kind of lucky that I’m in a position now where I don’t really feel too much pressure to be anything for anybody else. I can just figure out what I want to be for me.
CI: It’s rare for hip hop artists to have staying power. What are your thoughts on people like Common and Andre 3000 who are branching out and exploring different sounds?
Slug: It makes sense to me. No matter what you do, you can only go so far before everybody’s going to think you’re being redundant. That goes for all of us…the people you look to for support…are eventually going to think you’re being redundant. Artists, as they mature, go through that. It’s not just rappers. You can see that in anybody and everybody.
CI: I see the “Trying to Find a Balance” video is getting attention from MTV. Explain that balance you’re looking for.
Slug: Right now I’m trying to find my happy place. You take everything, the good and the bad…you know you’ve got to carry a certain percentage of weight for the rest of your life, and it’s just a matter of trying to figure out how to do that without losing your fucking mind.
CI: The women love you, should their fathers be worried? Do you think telling stories about your relationships, rather than guns and violence, is what makes you so popular with females?
Slug: Nah, I’m a nice guy. I’m a really good man, I’m just a bad boy. I’ve noticed a trend that rappers that rap about guns or violence generally get caught up having to deal with guns and violence. I kind of figured if it’s all self-manifestation like that, then why don’t I rap about women and beer? That way I can get…women and beer.
CI: Your fans seem to have an eclectic taste in music. Tell me about looking out over the stage and seeing such a wide spectrum of different types of people.
Slug: I think the thing with that is there’s this new genre of music that’s out now…I like refer to is as the record store employee pick of the week. You get a lot of bands that get thrown into that. You get your Atmospheres, your Aesop Rocks, your Canibal Oxs, and then you get your Mars Voltas, White Stripes, and your Johnny Cash…some of them do better than others, but overall if you look at the fans of an Atmosphere, you’ll also see that they do like Mars Volta, and they do like the White Stripes. I think it’s dope that I can be appreciated by people that also appreciate a lot of different types of good music.
Atmosphere will play at Metro Dec. 3 and at the Abbey Pub Dec. 4.