Lyricist Sean Daley and DJ/producer Anthony Davis, have been doing their thing since 1989. Better known as Slug and Ant, the two are actually even better known as the Minnesota duo Atmosphere, for such indie hip-hop hits as “You” and “Puppets” from their 2005 album “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That (expletive) Gold” as well as “Smart Went Crazy” and “Pour Me Another” from “You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having” of 2008.
Now marking their 25 years together, the two just dropped “Southsiders,” released on May 6 on Rhymesayers, to rave reviews that state the hip-hop veterans have stayed true to their poetic storytelling known for its brutal honesty about life and all its struggles.
But Slug wanted to clear something up. While Atmosphere's record label bio states he considers “Southsiders” a “detailed look at my life,” the 41-year-old admits: “I didn't actually say that.”
“They wrote that in my bio because if it was up to me it would be like, ‘Slug likes hamburgers,'” he said, laughing during a phone interview Tuesday.
He quickly added, however, that it's fair to say “Southsiders” is a retrospective on his life.
“All of our records are like that; they document the evolution of Anthony and myself as artists and people,” he said. “Maybe not autobiographical, but where I'm at philosophically. It's the (expletive) I'm pondering, my musings on the (expletive) I'm pondering — and that would be a horrible album title so we didn't go with that.”
The Los Angeles News Group caught up with Slug while walking through Manhattan with Ant before their album release party at the Highline Ballroom in New York, just two days before jet-setting to the West Coast for their May 8 show at The Roxy Theatre.
The two said they are excited for the sold-out West Hollywood concert because “it's an energy that is really not like anywhere else.”
“It's a very hungry crowd of fans out there with people with of lot of enthusiasm. I'm going to be nervous as (expletive), but within 30 seconds it'll envelop me,” he said, adding that there's something about performing all up and down the coast of California that is special to Atmosphere. “There's something about the West Coast and the people there, how they accept you and embrace you... All I know is that ain't scared of you motherfunkers.”
After performances at Outside Lands, Summerfest, Squamish and the Hudson Project Music and Arts Festival, Atmosphere is scheduled to return to L.A. for a two-day run at the Hollywood Palladium on Sept. 5-6.
In the meantime, check out his thoughts on mortality, Kanye West and Macklemore:
Q:SO I READ THAT SOUTHSIDER' ISN'T NECESSARLY ABOUT A REGION,BUT MORE ABOUT THE FLIP-SIDE OF THINGS, KIND OF THE DARK SIDE OF THINGS. IS THERE ANY TRUTH TO THAT?
A: It's a shout out to where I grew up, but also I felt that that would be a little exclusive so I didn't want to write album about just my town... There are a lot of songs where I'm kind of dealing with where I'm at with life struggles, with the main one being mortality. I was looking at that angle and exploring that concept. I mean, there's a song about the courtship of my wife and somewhere in that song I'm questioning death; how and why that's the memory I want to hold on to. I'm trying to illustrate the struggle I'm at now... See, it's funny to talk about an artist who is mildly successful because now you're there, if you keep writing about how you got there it starts to be ingenuous. No one wants to hear about Jay Z rap about his struggles because he's already rich and famous. ... I ain't rich, but the struggle for me now is, “Who am I? Where the (expletive) am I?” It's kind of a privilege as an artist to get to this point.
Then it got me to thinking about, “How could I live forever?” Well, it's through my art and my rap?” This is how I'm going to live forever. Now why am I wondering about living forever? It's because I'm 41 and have a bunch of kids I love — I just had my third son four months ago; I have a family, a network of friends and people who are in my circle. We've all experienced death and loss and how inconvenient that (expletive) is for everyone involved, so I started thinking about how when when I do go I want it to be as organized and convenient for everyone. It's not because I'm scared to die, but I just don't want to leave all my (expletive) on the shoulders of the people I love.
Q:I SEE WHAT YOUR TALKING ABOUT MY DAD TALKS ABOUT THAT TOO AND SOMETIMES PEOPLE THINK IT'S MORBID, BUT HE'S JUST TRYING TO BE REAL ABOUT HOW WHEN HE DIES HE DOESN'T WANT US TO TO DEAL WITH ANY BILLS...
A: Well, it goes beyond your bills. I have a vinyl collection that is insane. If I was to keel over right now while talking to you, there is a mess of stuff in my basement that my wife and kids have to deal with... I'm not saying it's going to be a convenient departure because it never is, but I'm trying to make it as convenient as possible. That's the kind of (expletive) I'm thinking about so some of the (expletive) showed up in these songs. Not everyone is as corny as me, so I tried to make it palatable... I try to hide a couple of Easter eggs, but if there are all these Easter eggs then I'm not sure I'm communicating it all so I like to be pretty direct about some of the messages in my songs.
Q:YOU HAVE A NEW TRACK CALLED "KANYE WEST" ON THIS NEW ALBUM. WHAT'S THE MESSAGEON THAT TRACK?
A: That's the song about the courtship of wife. We got married in 2010... and man, we've been dating since the dawn of time. We're like Adam and Eve.
That song is about how volatile some of that courtship actually was. We had to go through world wars and so much poor decision making to reach the point of getting married and the song highlights the parts of the courtship that were so passionate that some people tend to see as negative, which is why it's called “Kanye West.” It's about when you love something so much that people misinterpret that as something bad because you just don't give a (expletive). The truth is that you don't give a (expletive) because you love it so much and some people just don't understand. To me, Kanye, himself, exemplifies this concept. Kanye is slang to me for loving something too much. I'm in awe that he loves himself, his art, this culture so much because we've been trained to not do that so publicly. Kanye West, as far as pop icon goes, is an amazing pop icon. A lot of these rappers remind me of Madonna and he doesn't. So yeah, I named it after him because I feel him and feel how he has outbursts and doesn't give a (expletive) about how it makes him look... That's why his name made the most sense for the song. Maybe 15 years ago I would have named it David Bowie, but right now Kanye exemplifies what I was trying to say.
I mean, I love my wife so much that I was that dude that flipped over the table, you know?
Q:HAVE YOU HEARD ANY FEEDBACK FROM KANYE ?
A: I can't imagine he knows about the song; we're so under his radar. But it's funny how so many people ask me about it because I did a song titled “Bob Seger” and “Rick James” when he was alive. In fact, I did the song with Murs (as Felt) even before David Chappelle did that one, which makes me think he might have heard it and based it off my “Rick James” song. But yeah, we even named a song “Paul Reubens.” It's a thing I've done for a while now — for almost 15 years.
Q: A TWIITER FOLLOWER WANTED ME TO ASK YOU THIS QUESTION,SO I'M GOING TO ASK IT VERBATIM:"WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACKLEMORE BITING YOUR STEEZ?"
A: I think people need to get (expletive) off that. Let that man live. He's not biting nobody's (expletive). And if you're accusing him of biting off me, then you have to accuse me of biting of KRS-One, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane... And you know, it's almost disrespecting me when people say that because if we have the same style, then why don't I have four Grammys and fake fur coats? (Laughter)
Man, tell that kid (on Twitter) he's a corn ball. (Laughter)
But you know, I'm very intrigued by the Macklemore phenomenon. It's not like this dude came out of no where and yet a lot of people think that... you must not love the underground hip-hop scene that much because most of us have been privy to Macklemore for some time now. ... I'm not going to say nothing bad about Macklemore. I can't. He's a really good guy.