Slug (Atmosphere) - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Can’t You Imagine Atmosphere Having Fun?

November 2005

MVRemix: Yeah, they are busy struggling to go on an identity search.

Slug: Yeah! They’re busy struggling. They have to go get jobs or hustles. Over here in the burbs, their only struggle is basically against their parents or something. It’s almost like they want to rebel against the fact that they are coming from a family that has things. Those kids go out and try to shed that in order to find out who they really are. They do it through art. They do it through music, books, and whatever. If you can’t at least respect the fact that you are in a position to be on an identity search, you are already missing what the identity search is all about. I see why those kids reach a point that they think a group is not cool when everybody knows about the group. These kids don’t want to be identified as part of the masses. They see my video on MTV2 and immediately think that I am Kanye West. They don’t realize that Kanye West is selling 2 million records while I’m lucky if I break 100,000.

MVRemix: Some people think that since you have an album, you have tons of money. Many of these emcees who I interview, have full time jobs that have nothing to do with hip-hop, except for the fact that they are supporting themselves so that they can do hip-hop.

Slug: It’s funny because people look at me and say, ‘You get to do what you love and don’t have a full time job!’ I look at them and say, ‘Dog, are you serious?’

MVRemix: Shit, this is a lifetime job.

Slug: Yes! This is a lifetime job! I don’t get to punch out. It’s not even just the rap shit. I’m taking the little bit of money I make, the little bit of scratch I get, and put it into the record store. That’s another thing I have to pay attention to. Shit! It was easier being a courier.

MVRemix: When creating a track, do you have pre-written lyrics or a set theme? Or, do you write to the music?

Slug: We start in Ant’s basement on the 4-track. I write stuff on my own sometimes. Other times, he’ll give me a beat and I’ll write to it. We don’t really have a real pattern or standard equation. It kind of just happens how it happens. The only thing that is common over time is that we are not really looking for the fly shit. We’ve never been looking for the fly shit. We always look for moods. For me and him, that’s how we live. We live off of moods. We don’t live off of things like, ‘This is my joint! Turn it up!’ I’m in a certain mood to listen to this record, so I dig that record out and play it right now. That’s how we look at our songs. If the mood of my lyrics matches the mood of his music, then we agree that is the song. Whether the song is great or not doesn’t matter, we’ll make it. Later on, we’ll decide what songs go on the record. Essentially, there is not a pattern to how we do it, except for the fact we look for moods.

MVRemix: How did you meet Ant and decide to form Atmosphere? Was there a philosophy behind the group?

Slug: We met through a rapper, who used to call himself Beyond. Now, he’s Musab. I met Musab when he was in a group called Labyrinth. I was at a party and they were there. He was tight. His homies were okay, but they were nice dudes. I started kicking it with them. They were in St. Paul and I lived in Minneapolis, which is across the river. I started going to chill out over their house. We would drink beer, smoke weed, and do all of that shit that aspiring rappers do. Eventually, Musab became my weed dealer. One day, when he was dropping off some weed to me, he said, ‘Dude, come over to Ant’s house with me and make a joint.’ I was with making a song with him. We went over there and made this really horrible song that was on this ‘I kick a verse and you kick a verse’ rap shit. Then, Musab wanted me to get on the chorus for this song called, ‘Black Culture’. I asked, ‘Are you sure that you want me to do the chorus to a song called Black Culture?’ He was like, ‘You’re Black to me.’ At that point, he knew who my family was. He has seen my father and wasn’t on some funny shit. I wanted to do it. I was honored. That was kind of the beginning. I did the hook for ‘Black Culture’ and Ant told me, ‘You have a horrible voice, but you know how to use it.’ I didn’t know what he meant by that. I thought he was saying that I couldn’t rap. He thought that I had lyrics, but a whiney voice. I did at the time too. Ant thought that I had a way to use my whiney voice to my advantage.

MVRemix: Previously, Atmosphere had more members. How did the group form?

Slug: I was rapping with this kid named Spawn. The two of us were in Atmosphere. We used to make our own beats. When me and Spawn would make beats for ourselves, it would take us a year to complete 3 fucking songs because we were lazy. At Ant’s house, I watched Musab and Ant knock out 10 songs in one fucking night! That was what Spawn and I should have been doing. I brought Spawn over and told him, ‘This dude told us that he could rap over his beats!’ We went over there that night and pretty much made a whole record. I thought that this was how it was supposed to be! Prolific! Even if all 15 of these songs are garbage, it didn’t matter because we were learning how to make songs.

MVRemix: How did Ant’s contribution help you as an emcee?

Slug: The real deal was, before Ant made ‘Overcast’ with us, we made about 150 songs before we even allowed ourselves to make a record. I think that is something Ant does to the emcee. It’s the way that he works with the emcee. He taught us how to practice making songs, so when it is time to really make a song, you have a little bit of knowledge of how to structure it, and so on. You know, most rappers don’t even know how to count bars until they get out of the independent game. In Ant’s own way, he produced me for real! He was not just a producer who just makes the beat. He is a Dr. Dre-like producer. He gives the rapper direction. Quite honestly, until then, I sounded like a bad lovechild between Krs-One and Del. I had a whiney voice. It was Ant who taught me how to do this and be comfortable with my own voice.

MVRemix: Why did Spawn leave Atmosphere? Are you still cool with Spawn? Will you work together again?

Slug: Yeah, we’re still cool. He still makes music. It was one of those things. It wasn’t a matter of personal stuff. We did not split up because we didn’t like each other or talent. It was a matter of drive. He went and got married. He was talking about moving to Houston, Texas with his wife. That was where his wife was from. How could we tour as a rap group when you are in Houston? He couldn’t tour like that. He had a full time gig. He was a little bit older than me. We’re looking at a 28 or 29 year old man who was being asked to start up a rap career as if he was 19. He already had a life put together. I was like 25 or 26 at the time. Even for me, it was hard to get props outside of my city. I was like, ‘Fuck this!’ I wanted to do it. I couldn’t be a courier forever. I had dreams to chase. He still raps, but he raps the same way he rapped as an amateur. You know, he never did move to Houston either. He stayed in Minneapolis. He does local shows, but he doesn’t want to give up his life to do it, whereas I sacrificed everything to do this shit.

MVRemix: Hip-hop became your life.

Slug: Yes, it became my life. Honestly, you know what? In the end, I may look at his shit and say, ‘You did it right, dog!’ My man has a good life. He has a wife, kids, good dog, and a good house. Here I am living out of a goddamn suitcase for 8 months out of the year. I can’t maintain a relationship with a girlfriend. I have an 11 year old, who understands everything now, but when he was 6, it was rough.

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"I can’t maintain a relationship with a girlfriend. I have an 11 year old, who understands everything now, but when he was 6, it was rough."