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Interview: Slug of Atmosphere

http://assets1.pitchforkmedia.com/images/original/45555.DanMonickProduce_MG_6532.jpgI recently had a chance to do an interview with Sean (Slug) of Atmosphere via the phone and here’s what he had to say…

L. Vicious:
I just saw an interview where you described your rap as personal and arrogant, would you care to elaborate?

Slug: I guess arrogant only in the sense that I actually pretend like I believe that people give a fuck about what’s on my mind, ya know what I mean, that’s hip-hop…I guess I tend to, well shit man I don’t remember describing it like that, I must’ve been stoned when I said that. I suppose the personal aspect has rubbed off on me from other people saying that shit, I mean I don’t think my rhymes are anymore personal than Slick Rick’s shit is. I’d like to apologize for ever saying that my shit is personal cause that seems arrogant.

L. Vicious:
So how did you and Ant first come about?

Slug: We met through a rapper named Mustaab, he used to sell me weed. We used to hang out, go to parties and shows and shit. Then one day he asked me to come over to do a song with him, you know a little collab, so I went over to where his producer Ant lived, we did a couple a songs and clicked. Anthony and myself were very work-orientated, focused on trying to get shit done. So over the next couple months we made like 50 songs. To me that was amazing cause me and Spawn used to work like a year to make two fucking songs. That was frustrating to me so when I started working with Ant and saw how productive he was, I realized how much I needed to get with the program.


L. Vicious:
Being raised by a single mother waitress, there’s quite a few tracks on your latest Lemon joint that hit home with me, what was your main inspiration there?

Slug: Officially the whole album was a wrap around story with about six characters but I tried not to make it too obvious cause I wanted every song to stand on its own and have its own resolution. I wanted to negotiate and navigate these people’s lives and how they were relative to each other. For me taking on that little challenge, cause I’m not the greatest of writers, I’m at like an eighth grade writing comprehensive level. So that was like a way out for me with a little help, kind of a secret weapon to accomplish this challenge and focus on people that are relevant to me or things I can relate to. Now granted I’ve never been a waitress but I’ve dealt with lots of ‘em, my girlfriend was a waitress at the time so I had different perspectives of the waitress life.

L. Vicious: Ok, Jacob is your son and Craig is your father. Is there anything else you can tell me about “Little Man” cause that track is up there with “Yesterday” and “The Waitress” for me?

Little Man was an attempt at me trying to take a look at the complaints people have about me and where they stem from. When I wrote that it wasn’t even supposed to be a song at first, it was more of an exercise to do the three perspectives thing where I was trying to figure out why I was the way I was. So I looked at my relationship with my son and with my father, then my relationship to myself. Ant was the one that actually pressured me to put that one on that record.

L. Vicious: Overcast dropped in the late 90’s with all kinds of hip-hop classics, how’d it feel to have a debut album come out in the midst of all this?

Slug: I mean it was an exciting time but to me that wasn’t really my debut album…

L. Vicious:
Right, but it was the one that put you on the map so to speak?

Slug: Yeah, I mean timing wise it couldn’t have been any better, it was a time with a backpacker identity, I was still trying to find myself and I fell into the pattern of trying to feed the people what they wanted, so with that record I was kinda filling the different niches that were required in underground rap at the time. I look back on that record and I’m not really proud of it for a lot of reasons. One, is I see through what I was doing, I was merely writing what I thought people wanted to hear as opposed to writing what I really wanted to. Like hey, here’s a song that’s anti-guns, or here’s a song for battle MC’s and here’s a song about a girl, so to me that was a record that I put wanted to put all my influences on. It wasn’t till after that record that I was even able to find my own voice. But what I will always love about it is the timing. The fact that kids, well there not kids anymore but when people come up to me and say hey “that was your best record” I shake their hand and I thank them and I know why you think that, it’s the same reason I think By Any Means Necessary is Krs One’s best record cause I needed to hear it at that time.

L. Vicious: Now I thought Overcast was alright and the Lucy Ford joint was good but quite frankly I didn’t even give you a chance till I heard “God Loves Ugly” do you feel like that was a breakthrough record for you?

Big time and you really shouldn’t have given us a chance till then, its obvious that I’m trying so fucking hard on Overcast and you can see through it and tell its not a person its more of an attempt at trying to fill the niche, it was like I was trying to prove to myself that I was a rapper. Then Lucy Ford was when I first started giving myself exercises, we didn’t hit the mark with the beats and the rhymes as well. It wasn’t till God Loves Ugly that Ant figured out how to capture a specific sound to a record and that’s when I figured out how to actually put myself into the music.

L. Vicious: Your rhyme style matured thoroughly on that joint…

Yeah, I agree totally. Of course, I wasn’t lost like I was during Sevens Travels because I was a drunk idiot. Its funny cause touring saves and fucks up my life at the same time. When we started to do massive tours I slowly became a caricature of myself, ya know here’s this guy who doesn’t really care and has co-dependency issues getting a blowjob or giving a girl head and that was the only way I could feel important and that came along with drinking cause it was the only way I could forget all the good shit my Mom taught me in order to bring myself to be that piece of shit trying to score a threesome in a hotel room. So after God Loves Ugly when we started getting all kinds of attention, the touring and it went to my heart more than my head, so I took that shit and ran with it rather than try and navigate it like an adult. Here I was a 28 year old man acting like I was 19. So Seven’s Travels was kinda the mess that came outta that. I don’t even really remember the sessions during that time. It was a haze of alcohol and pain- killers. Thankfully I hit rock bottom in a lot of ways, with friendships and health, I started losing hair, I ended up with this condition called Alopecia where clumps of hair would come off my head in the shower, I thought I was dying. That made me take a good look at how I was living. So here I am Mr. Indy rap sex symbol or whatever role it was I was trying to play going out on tour in front of people with no hair on my head lookin’ like a cancer kid and that helped look at my own vanity and how I needed to get that shit out of my art. That shit all needed to happen for me to become who I am now, other wise I’d still be rapping about how I’m gonna steal your girlfriend. So its really fortunate that things turned out the way they did from Overcast on. Each one of these albums is a look into my life and a look into the baby steps I had to take to become the adult that I finally am.

L. Vicious: You mentioned hitting rock bottom, I’ve noticed a few references to dope and have lost a couple of my best friend’s in the past couple years to the junk, are you speaking from personal experience or are you just on some storytelling tip?…either way it’s appreciated over here.

Slug: Both. I’ve never experimented with coke or heroin, speed, meth, none of that bullshit but being a blue-collar entertainer and being involved in the blue-collar entertainment scene, I’m surrounded by it. Being from Minneapolis, which is a city that is really big on escapism, I’m always surrounded by it. Myself, I only really fucked around with weed and alcohol…

L. Vicious: You don’t really need much more…

Slug: Exactly, you don’t need much more but to top it off I discovered Vicodin and it was over, forget about it.

L. Vicious: Well that’s how it starts, anybody I’ve known that starts down that path. They start with the PK’s and then its all downhill.

Slug: That was enough to make me sick and thankfully not enough where I was able to pull out of it and I think that had to happen or I’d still be a fucking idiot. I’d be a horrible Dad and a horrible boyfriend who would eventually make a horrible husband.

L. Vicious: Well that about does it, thanks for your time and we’ll get up soon.

Slug: Alright Brotha, thank you and have a good day.