Slug (Atmosphere) - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Can’t You Imagine Atmosphere Having Fun?

November 2005

Would you love hip-hop if the culture was not fun? Music is a form of escapism for both the musician and listener. How many times has something f*cked up happen to you, but you felt just a tiny bit better when you heard a certain song? Some people (including myself) will dig deep into their collection because they need to hear a specific track. Emotionally depressing music and socio-political music can also be pleasurable. The listener relates to the artist on a physical, mental, and emotional level. The artists utilize the entire emotional spectrum. Lovers of hip-hop culture can emotionally, financially, or philosophically depend on the music. Regardless of the song’s style or mood, hip-hop music is rooted in a party. The emcees play with words and rhythmic flows. The producer plays with beats & samples. As hip-hop groups, these artists “play” their music for the listeners. Perhaps, we use the word “play” in this context because the listeners and the artists are having a good time. Would you “throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care” if you were not having fun?

The music of Atmosphere (Slug & Ant) mixes the darkest emotions with the party energy of hip-hop. If you think Atmosphere is not having a great f*cking time these days, you do not know anything about the group. Hailing from Minneapolis (Minnesota), Atmosphere are one of the most respected and successful groups in underground / independent hip-hop. Like Gangstarr and Eric B. & Rakim, the duo consists of one impeccable producer/DJ and a charismatic emcee. The duo’s magnificent chemistry is showcased when Ant’s production intertwines with Slug’s vocals. Born from a racially mixed couple, Slug appears to be a Mid-western white guy who loves music. Friends and fans know that Slug’s respect for hip-hop pumps through his veins. He also happens to be a very talented, unique, and successful emcee. A maelstrom of emotion sweeps through every Atmosphere album. Furious anger, humble gratitude, love for friends / family, and bittersweet sadness can all be found in their expressive concoctions. Slug’s lyrics yield to multiple interpretations, mixed feelings, and sarcastic & ironic humor. He is having the time of his life while he follows his dreams. Fortunately, Slug is doing what he loves and having serious fucking fun!

Atmosphere’s success story is based on creativity, a shrewd business sense, chemistry, and a fervent work ethic. Originally consisting of Spawn, Ant, and Slug, Atmosphere released their “Overcast” LP on their own label, Rhymesayers Entertainment. Spawn eventually left the group and Slug continued to collaborate with a myriad of emcees. During 1999, Rhymesayers established Fifth Element, an independent record store in Minneapolis. Not only did they have a label to create their records, they had a store where they could sell the albums. Released with critically acclaim, the “Lucy Ford” CD mixed 2 separate EP’s together (“Lucy” and “Ford”). Once they released the classic “God Loves Ugly” LP, Atmosphere’s respect was cemented within hip-hop. Songs like “Modern Man’s Hustle”, “F*ck You Lucy”, “Vampires”, and “Flesh” all possessed a signature style. Slug’s introspective lyrics led to multiple interpretations. Ant’s soulful production was accessible but also unique. Listeners found something new every time they replayed their music. The “Sad Clown Bad Dub” DVD documented their successful tour across America (for the “God Loves Ugly” release parties). Slug also teamed up with Murs to release a side project called Felt. Produced by The Grouch, Felt’s “A Tribute To Christina Ricci” possessed a party vibe, in contrast to the darker feelings created by Atmosphere albums. Slug’s balanced diversity proved his maturity as an emcee. Simultaneously, Rhymesayers grew when they released the classic M.I.C. (Monsta Island Czars) “Escape From Monsta Island” LP (featuring MF Doom & MF Grimm’s super group). After years of touring, Atmosphere released another classic LP, “Seven’s Travels” (Rhymesayers / Epitaph). Songs like “Reflections”, “Trying To Find A Balance”, and “National Disgrace” showcased their musical and lyrical growth. The original fans were happy when Rhymesayers released “Headshots: Seven”. The CD was a collection of songs recorded on a 4-track between 1997 and 1998. In 2005, Murs and Slug teamed up again for Felt #2 “A Tribute To Lisa Bonet”. Produced by Ant, the Felt #2 project maintained the party vibe of their previous effort. Songs like “Woman Tonight”, “Dirty Girl”, “The Biggest Lie”, and “Employees Of The Year” were fun, but still rooted within an emotional honesty.

At the tail end of 2005, Atmosphere returns with “You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having”. Slug and Ant have made an incomparable album that does not include one filler track. The duo’s growth is evident within every song. Slug is more focused and precise with his performance. Ant has created up-tempo rhythms with thick boom-bap beats. Although the music possesses an upbeat party-like energy (inspired by mid-90’s hip-hop), Slug’s performance remains poignantly astute and wickedly clever. “Watch Out” is a cunning statement about the typical independent / underground hip-hop fan. On the poignant track “That Night”, Slug rhymes about a true incident when a fan was raped and murdered at an Atmosphere show. In the introspective track “Little Man”, Slug’s verses are written as letters to various important people in his life. The first verse is to his son and the final verse is to himself. The instantly appealing, “Smart Went Crazy” works perfectly even though the subject is not obvious. Sine fans thought Atmosphere could not top “Seven’s Travels”. Atmosphere has done the impossible. They have made another classic LP.

Music has saved many lives. Every emcee uses music for lyrical & emotional communication. Slug has not only has used music to survive, Slug also uses hip-hop as a form of therapy. His dark emotions and showcased vulnerability entertains listeners. Even though hip-hop music was born in poverty, those people within the culture wanted to have a good time. Slug may create emotional music, but he still wants to party. The group have released classic albums, worked on multiple collaborations, toured the world, and maintained creative control of their music. How the hell can you think Atmosphere is not having a good time?

MVRemix: These days, Atmosphere is getting very popular and much more exposure.

Slug: I don’t even know if that is what you would call it. We are accumulating attachments, is what it is. These aren’t fans, they are girlfriends. You know what I mean?

MVRemix: I must say that the new album is excellent! I thought ‘Seven’s Travels’ was dope too. Usually groups do not maintain the same level of quality, but ‘You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having’ is dope.

Slug: Thanks, man. That means a lot since you are from New Jersey! This is New Jersey saying that, so you know you are making me feel good. The New Jersey thing is a cut. That’s serious. For me, growing up in Minneapolis, I look at the East Coast as the hip-hop Mecca. Just to see the kind of support we get from the East Coast, as well as L.A., blows my fucking mind. How the fuck did they get into this?

MVRemix: C Rayz Walz is friend of mine and a dope emcee. He was on the ‘Sad Clown Bad Dub’ DVD. That proves that you have got love on the East Coast.

Slug: I got co-signed by C Rayz Walz! You know, the advocates and the fans, who don’t even walk around with these rappers, pigeonhole me as that guy who makes that soft shit or whatever. It’s funny to me because I’ll get into an argument. They’ll come to my in-store or my show and say, ‘I used to like your shit.’ In my head, I would think, ‘You just paid $15 to see me and you don’t like my shit no more?’ Hey, that’s cool. It’s part of their identity search. Ask them who they favorite rapper is. They’re favorite rapper was probably at my house 2 weeks ago. At one point, I was insecure about how I stood amongst the rest of these emcees. You know, there’s that emcee thing where you want to impress other rappers first. It reached a point. C Rayz probably doesn’t bump my record. I listen to his on occasion, but I don’t roll around the street bumping his. Both of us are bumping old Jungle Brothers music. I’m learning a lot from this shit. I just hope someday, someway, somehow, I’ll be able to apply all this shit to something.

>>> continued...

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"I look at the East Coast as the hip-hop Mecca. Just to see the kind of support we get from the East Coast, as well as L.A., blows my f**king mind."