The air up where?
SN&R tracks down always on-the-go Atmosphere emcee Slug
Sacramento State Student Union, Redwood Room6000 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95819
Slug, the wordsmith behind hip-hop duo Atmosphere, is what Buddha would look like if he rocked a microphone wearing a fresh pair of kicks. The outfit’s latest album, To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blade Holy, skyrocketed to No. 2 on the iTunes’ top album download charts the week of its release, and it’s pretty easy to see why Slug’s not sweating the small stuff. After years of underground success and critical acclaim, Slug and Ant (deejay and other half of Atmosphere) still manage to do the same ol’ thing—but do it pretty damn well.
What’s the meaning behind the new album?
Nobody knows about it; it’s a secret. We’re not promoting it or making a big deal out of it. We’re kinda making it just for the audience that we have, as opposed to putting it into the industry machine to try and gain new fans. It was kind of an ode to some of my inspirations in the past, and To All My Friends comes from [writer Charles] Bukowski. It was more for the friends I already have, as opposed to trying to find new friends.
The vibe on this album seems much less cynical compared to your Lucy Ford days. What contributed to that?
I got out of the scene. About six years ago, I stopped going to bars and hanging around cynical people. Now, I got my fuckin’ six friends and my family. I just decided that it’s time for me to get to that part of my life where I could start building as opposed to destroying, and start growing, I guess. I’m sure the music is just a reflection of that.
What are your thoughts on the current hip-hop scene? Do you think it will ever get back to being just about the music, instead of superficial things like money and fashion?
It’s hard to say, because I don’t think it’s hip-hop that’s doing that; I think it’s people. … But there was never a time where fashion wasn’t a big deal. For example, there was a time where the fashion was camouflage. This was in, like, 1993, during the Wu-Tang and Boot Camp Clik days, and that camouflage fashion was a big part of it. What hip-hop is going through right now is what I would consider more of an insecure phase. I generally think that the person who needs to show off is usually a pretty insecure person. And right now, there’s a lot of showing off going on in popular culture.
You’re from Minneapolis, so what does that scene have to offer that the East or West coasts don’t?
I don’t really believe in coasts and territories and whatnot anymore, because with this age of communication we’re in, you could make music from Bogatá and put it out so people can hear it. But, I think Minneapolis will probably always continue to be a very self-sufficient scene. They get that shit called cabin fever, and most of us who stay inside all winter turn toward art or sex or alcohol or drugs to deal with it. The amount of people who turn toward art is phenomenal.
What are your plans for the future? Would you like to work with anyone specifically?
Well, we’re working on another album right now that will be out in the spring. I don’t really aspire to work with anybody. I’ve been working with the same guys for years, and I’m very content with that. In the same breath, I’m not going to say that there’s nobody I would work with. The problem is that in the past, I’ve made music with people I don’t know, and a certain type of purity gets lost in the actual song that you make.
So it’s a lot less personal?
Definitely. I’m sure my age has something to do with it, too. I’m at a place where I take this music very personally. It isn’t something I just do because I want a check or because I can. It’s something I do because if I don’t, I get depressed. This is part of what fuels my life, so I don’t ever want to find myself making music that I don’t believe in.