April 6, 2003

Slug (of Atmosphere)

SlugAfter entertaining crowds all across the U.S I got a chance to chat with Slug about God Loves Ugly, touring, and the future of the Orphanage project.

With Crescent Moon now working full time with Oddjobs why did you choose to add Blueprint to the bill instead of another local Minnesota MC?

Crescent was an accident. We did a tour and Eyedea and Abilities and they were doing a set and they brought Crescent on as Eyedea’s hype man. I didn’t have anyone with me. Me and Brad were just doing it ourselves, but Crescent would get drunk enough that by the middle of my set he would end up on stage doing my backups just for fun. So when we got ready to do the next one he asked if he could come. Then we did it again and he said he wanted to go again, but this time he said I can’t go because we’re (Oddjobs) doing our own tour. We are releasing the Soul Position record, we just put an EP out a couple months ago and the full length is coming out soon. So I needed Soul Position to tour to just get people aware of the record coming out, but RJD2 is on tour with the Def Jux guys. So either Soul Position needed to go out with them (Def Jux) or Blueprint needed to come out with us. With them dudes they already had so many people on tour they really couldn’t squeeze another person in so Blueprint came with me. That way we could work some Soul Position material into the set and just kinda get him in front of people as a preempt for the album they have coming out.

So far what have been the ups and downs of the tour because I know you guys are touching a lot of spots you haven’t been before?

Most of the shows have been really good. So far we’re six weeks in and there’s maybe three cities where all of us felt like fuck this city and it never had anything to do with the kids, it had more to do with the police there, the venue, or the people that run the venue, shit like that. So we’ll probably still end up going back to those cities, but we’ll just try to do it different the next time.

SlugThis is the first time you’ve done a show in Baltimore, what do you expect from tonight’s show or tonight’s crowd based on what you know of the area?

I don’t know, but I’ll tell you right now I was expecting a bigger turnout in Baltimore than what we were going to have in DC last night. When we pulled into DC yesterday based on what people have told me and Aesop has told me about Baltimore being kinda tight. Everybody else I talked to said DC is not that tight. You go into DC and it depends on how moody people are as to how many people are going to show up so I was just hoping for 100 kids last night and it ended up being like 700 kids. So that fucked me up, I was like woah especially having never played there before, so I know that my luck can’t be that good two nights in a row so if I can get 150-200 kids tonight even 100 I’ll be happy. But the vibe is generally the same all the time not to say everybody is the same, but most of the shows we play people come just to have fun. None of us are the lyricist of the year so we don’t get a lot of mean mugging from other emcees and we have a good name for having fun shows. The only thing that can wreck it is if a knucklehead or two get into a fight over a girl, but other than that it’s pretty good anywhere whether we have a 100 kids there or 1500 it’s always been these kids came with their $12 to have some fun.

This particular venue has started to bring more underground heads and even some well known names like Black Sheep are coming back to tour and there are actually pretty good crowds out here who come to see those groups.

You’re about to see a lot of that. What I’m noticing now especially when I’m talking to booking agencies, like my agency will call me up and say do you know who Das Efx is? And I’ll be like yea and they’re like oh they are trying to do tours now, Black Sheep are getting back on the road, Big Daddy Kane’s about to start up. What I’m seeing is that cat’s used to do it like this. Like in 91-92 hiphop went the way of the tour bus tour and a lot of that let’s just get in the fucking van and get on the road shit died. And over the last couple years with Jurassic Five doing so well, with Dilated doing so well, with tours like the Def Jux tour or with the fact that we go out two times a year for three months at a time I’m starting to see fools ain’t blind to what the fuck we’re doing. They’re saying who the fuck is Atmosphere and why are they making a little bit of money touring. Black Sheep is going back on the road, Das Efx is about to hit the road again and I think that’s fresh because its kind of like you don’t have to do it the Cash Money Jay-z way, even though that’s probably the most plush convenient way to ever do it. But it’s good to see that a cat like Dres at 33 years old is about to hop back into a van and go back out there and get his thousand bucks a night. To me in a weird way I feel like me and some of my friends played a small role in reminding some of those older guys that just cuz you can’t sell more than 40,000 records anymore don’t mean you can’t have a good time and be successful. I expect a hug from Big Daddy Kane, when I finally meet him that fool owes me a hug cuz I kept his shit alive for him while he was gone and now come back and get it homie.

SlugWhen did it get to the point where you built up the credibility to start touring outside of the Midwest?

It took the vinyl. When we put out all the different tapes that’s what got us in the Midwest market and we represent that shit. We pump Midwest so fucking hard that I could go to Chicago and they wouldn’t hate on me just cuz I wasn’t from Chicago, so it was all love. That’s where we first started making a little money so that we can actually start pressing vinyl, pressing the overcast CD, and once we pressed the Overcast vinyl that’s what got us into college markets from the east to the west coast. We just didn’t know what we were doing so it took a minute for us to learn it. Every move we made was a dummy move. We would get into a van and drive all the way from Minneapolis to Dallas for one show that paid us 250 bucks and it just cost me damn near two g’s to put all six of you in this rental, but we gotta do it because its our only opportunity to go all the way to Dallas. We did the same shit with New York, so it took a minute to get a reputation of giving a decent show and getting our own self esteem rolling as far as we know how to do this now what’s the next move. There were a series of mistakes we were able to learn from and eventually learn how to master the touring procedure. Now I almost scare myself when it’s too much. I can’t wait to go home right now. It’s been six weeks I miss my kid, my cats, next time I’m putting in a two week break in the middle. Ten weeks straight is crazy like I swear when I get home my kid is gonna have a mustache.


Everybody is ready to knuckle up and beat each other up in the van.

I would think that would be the toughest part, being cooped up with the same people all day.

It’s real. Next time I’m giving everybody a two week break in the middle to go home and we will meet back here in the middle and then we’ll go back and finish up the rest of the country. Ten weeks straight that’s a long time to be in a van. I never want to do the tour bus thing because it’s too expensive, it’s a waste of money. Plus you got to sleep on the tour bus, the way we do it right now we get rooms or we stay with friends so everybody after the drive everyone gets to run off to their own compartments where as on a bus you’re stuck with each other.

I read in a lot of interviews about how you changed the purpose of your music where Overcast was more braggadocio and now with projects like Lucy Ford and God Loves Ugly everything is more conceptual.

Everybody asks about that, here’s the thing before Overcast I had already put out six tapes. I did a bunch of Headshots tapes and I went through those phases. By the time me and Spawn made Overcast both of us consciously knew that we were climbing out of the bragging, boasting, I’m the greatest emcee in the world type shit. We still had songs like that on there, but even inside of those songs I think both of us were consciously offering the new direction we both were about to start. Even from the first song, the song “1597,” to us our stupid ass had this vision that that song was [about] how these types of rhymes are medieval now, they are from 1597 and now we’re in 1997 so this song shows where our history was and the rest of the album was supposed to start slowly taking you to the next. One of the things I’ve consciously done is make my albums fit together granted nobody else gets it, but I get it. When I hear it I know at the end of Overcast “Primer,” the camaro and the mobile home song, is the set up for the Lucy Ford album. I know at the end of Lucy Ford “Homecoming,” with EL-P, was the set up for coming back home for God Loves Ugly. So people always ask me or they complain online how Slug doesn’t do these types of rhymes or he’s just fucking out there or whatever. I’m just kinda like what did you expect, did you like Overcast, did you really listen because the whole record I was telling you that I am not going to be rapping like this anymore. This is my ode to this kinda shit and I’m getting out of it. The only problem is that a lot of people discovered me through that record. Like, if they would have discovered me prior to that record it probably would have made more sense.

I see a lot of people talking about that on the internet like you said and from just talking to different heads between Overcast and Lucy Ford a lot of the fans you gained felt alienated or lost because the two albums were so different. Some people couldn’t get with Lucy Ford did that ever concern you?

Nah see that’s fine with me. I guess as much as I want to give the people what they want the only person I have to impress is myself. If everybody shits or me or turns their back on me that’s really not my problem. It might affect this or that in my life, but I’ll be alright. “If you don’t like me and your yellin boo / there’s nothing wrong with me there’s something wrong with you.” I know what I put into my music and I know that God Loves Ugly is fifteen times tighter than Overcast. The only difference is maybe cats can’t relate to what I’m talking about, but just me as a writer and Ant as a producer I know progression is there and that’s all I’m concerned with. I want to make sure we are continuing to progress whether or not the community identifies or feels it. As long as me as him know that’s the shit right there then that’s as far as it really goes.


How many more albums do you think you have in you?

With Ant I got 7 or 8 more records before he finally realizes I’m a piece of shit because he is kind of a slow learner. Once he realizes that I’m a chump he will start working with better emcees and then I’ll just learn how to play a piano and get a little boom mic and turn into the Tom Waits of rap or something and I’ll sit up there and rap my shit. I don’t know how many records I have left, like God Loves Ugly might have been my last record for all I know. I don’t really think about it. I got another record done. Seven’s Travels is finished and I’m just holding it and I’m probably gonna put it out in the Spring, but who knows what happens after that. I might just flip and go head first into the label and start working other artists’ tours or driving the van. I’m not too worried about it, I’m gonna play an influence on this shit for the rest of my life. There’s no getting me out at this point. It’s just whether or not I’m an emcee or I’m doing management or sitting on the phone trying to sell stores the new Brother Ali record. Somehow I’m gonna play a role in making sure good music is out there whether it’s my music or somebody else’s.

As a fulltime emcee how do you still keep it interesting and fun when this is the way you pay your bills and you might have to consider making compromising in order to pay the rent?

It’s a part time job. That’s how I still keep it fun. My real job is being Sean sitting at the Fifth Element making sure anything I can do to make shit run smoother. What that means is I sit in a chair next to a phone and wait for Saadiq to tell me what to do or I sit in the chair out by the register and tell my brother yo we got this coming in I need you to be in or whatever. To me that’s really my job, that’s the job I can get mad at. This is after work I’m going to catch a little buzz and go down to my part time job at wherever and I’m not going to get fired because nobody takes it seriously enough. There going to let me have a couple beers on the job, they don’t care as long I keep up my end. So it’s a little easier to deal with in comparison to the job I get more angry at. But it’s still a love hate relationship, as much fun as it can be in the course of a 24 hour day especially on tour, it’s like an acid trip, you can go through anything. You have the moments where the sun is too bright and you can’t stand it, you have the moments where it calms down and cools out, you kinda go through everything. You hate it as much as you love it.

You ever sit back and reflect on being able to travel the entire country getting to places you never thought about ever going based on emceeing?

Yeah, I’ve thought about it. Honestly, I had never left Minnesota, rap is the only thing that got out of the city. I never left my state for anything until I started going to do shows so I have to be very aware of that. It’s responsible for all the traveling I’ve done period. I don’t really think about the accomplishments, well I try not to. The only times I do is if I’m getting really arrogant and someone is in my face hollering and I gotta shut them down somehow. Sometimes the best way to do it is to pull a power card on them, [like] go away your records are CD-R, eat shit. But I don’t even do that often, usually when I do it’s with a friend. I’m not that good at yelling at strangers.

What, if any, is the connection between God Loves Ugly and Sevens Travels?

They are not related. Sevens Travels is not going to be considered an Atmosphere record, it’s a Headshots tape it’s a lot more fun, its more like my De La Soul record. I’m not really approaching any serious issues and try to be on some like yo kids learn. It’s more like did you like Industrial Warfare then you’ll love this.

SlugI know you have a lot of material that you haven’t released, do you always bring those recordings to sell on tour?

Sometimes. It depends, some tours I’ve done where I didn’t have a new record. So what I would do when I knew the tour was coming I would go over to Ant’s and make a four track and that’s when the Sad Clown Bad Dub records starting coming out. I got a new Sad Clown and it’s a DVD and I’ll probably have a new one on the next tour. I probably got like 400 four track songs that will never come out. What I used to do with em is I would give them to Advizer from the Oddjobs and in return he would give me dubs of all the shit he collected and that’s how I found out about people like Aesop Rock and Siah and Yeshua. So he would collect all that stuff from other people and I would share my unreleased four track shit to get that and he would take my four track shit and spread it out over the internet and this was way before I knew I could use the internet. He pretty much was my biggest distributor. He doesn’t know it so don’t tell him, but the shit he did when he was throwing out my four track shit is insane because even now I got kids that will come up to me and be like yo are you gonna do “Rats” tonight? I’m like “Rats” where did you hear that and there like I got it 3 years ago on an mp3. I’m like that’s fresh, but that song never came out and I don’t think I even have a copy of that song.

On God Loves Ugly you take a more aggressive stance towards Lucy. What changed in your life that caused that different focus?

She moved in with me. She lives with me now. Before I was pissed off because I was stuck with some other girl that I hated and Lucy was on some dumb shit. She would booty call me from time to time, but she wasn’t trying to get down. So I made a record about how much she frustrated me basically. Then she moved in with me and then I realized how much I fucking hate her. So, I was hoping that wouldput an end to the whole Lucy saga, but I can’t really do that because aside from Seven’s Travels the stuff I have been writing for the next Atmosphere record I have to keep it in the context of the previous ones because I want everything connected so that you can trace Overcast all the way down the line. So she’s making it in still as a character in the new raps just not as my girl, but she’s still a character and I am working out the Rico thing. Aesop did a song about Lucy on Labor Days as a way of telling me to quit rapping about Lucy and he brought up Lucy’s boyfriend Rico. So now I have to get Aesop back by doing a song about this kid named Rico.

Speaking of Aesop, you’re in the supergroup, The Orphanage with him, Blueprint, Eyedea and Illogic, but I hear that the material you guys recorded may not come out as an album.

That’s my vote, but there are four other visionaries that are involved. My thing is this hiphop does not need anymore underground supergroups. That shit happened in ’97-’99, its over with. The Weathermen should be the last one to ever happen. So I would prefer that we take the Orphanage material and put one on the b-sides on one of my twelve inches, have Illogic throw one on his record if he wants to and spread it out like that so that people see it more as five friends that make music together as opposed to we came together to save hiphop. Not only that the record is very hard to sit and listen to the whole thing because you have five people that are very strong personalities. Sometimes that can be a bad thing to have all five on record because my interpretation might be different from his and his, but all of us are coming so strong at what we’re talking about its confusing. I would prefer to separate the songs from each other so it’s not looked at as a full project just scattered songs.

Check rhymesayers.com for upcoming tours and the new Sevens Travels.