Slug from Atmosphere: "We've Grown Past the Underground Rap Identity Crisis"

Categories: Q&A, hip-hop

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Slug (left) and Ant of Atmosphere.

Do you guys come through Arizona often?

We do! We really appreciate Arizona, the kids there. You know, I don't think I would ever live in Arizona because it's a little too hot for me and there's certain political qualities about Arizona I don't necessarily agree with. But as far as the scene and the movement there, and the people that come to our shows, man, it's some of the best connecting I get to do in my job. I don't know what it is about it; I'm assuming it's the west coast so there's open mindedness that is there with these kids that you don't necessarily find in the colder parts of the world. But there's too many rules. Even though it's beautiful.

Yes there seems to be something always going on that's in the national news.

Yes. But if I had to move to Arizona I'd move to Tucson. Because when I'm in Tucson I almost feel like there's an old West kinda vibe to it. Like there's a little less rules and it would be easier to hide from the cops.

How do you feel Atmosphere's sound has evolved since the last two albums, The Family Sign and When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold?

Not to overuse the word fortunate, but I feel fortunate to be able to change and evolve with every record. I wouldn't necessarily say any two are similar, now, there is obviously a common theme that runs through all of them. And that's me. The albums are always a look at my world and my life. But as far as how we approach it and the colors we choose to paint with, we've been lucky that we can let the music and the words grow at the same pace that we've grown as people.

For example, we've been known as the group that has made a lot of music collaborations relationships. But's that's just a surface observance, because when you actually look at those particular songs most aren't really about relationships. I've used the concept of relationships as a metaphor to highlight other parts of life in the world. And that's huge part of what we are and what we do. Fans come and go.

I'm 41 and our first record came out when I was 25. That is 17 years of making music and that doesn't even count music I was making before people had ever heard of me. So the fact that I'm still doing what I do, but not having to rap about the same stuff I rapped about in 1997, is a testament to how accepting people are of the growth. You always find some fans who wish you sounded like you did on your first album.

I can appreciate that opinion. But at the end of the day, if I was still rapping that way, I wouldn't be here still. How many people have you been listening to for 17 years that are still doing the exact thing they did then? In the 90s crack rap was a big deal. Now imagine if I rapped about that for 17 years wouldn't you start to feel sorry for me? I'm rapping about selling drugs for 17 years? Not only that, he hasn't even escalated to being a king pin? If you spend 17 years on the corner you are a horrible drug dealer. Laughter.

How would you describe Atmosphere then and now?

My description would've changed every year. But this year? I would suggest....I don't 'even know if I should be allowed to give a description of it. I feel like people who try to describe themselves are breaking a rule. With that said, I guess the first word would be "humble" or...damn but that's weird? I have no answer. That's my answer.

Maybe describing what it means to you, not what you think you're projecting?

Well it's a vehicle that I and my musical friends use to get their messages out there. That's always been really important to me as a musician and a co-owner of the record label.

So an artistic vehicle for music.

And not just music; graphic designers; people who illustrate and do the t-shirts. Most the people I work with are my friends. Most of the people I've gone to for any sort of artistic direction or reasoning are people I believe in.

I'm sure that creates a really amazing energy in the space.

It does. It has created a foundation in our city to show other artists that it can be done and you can do it on your own terms. I feel like that's a part of Atmosphere that none of us really discuss or talk about. But as an example, we lived by example to show how it can be done. Prior to me learning this about myself, even I used to think that you had to send demos to major labels, get signed, blah blah blah. It wasn't until we decided to jump in to the ocean and swim we figured out that it's possible.

Atmosphere is scheduled to perform on Saturday, March 15, at Tempe Beach Park.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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Location Info

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Tempe Beach Park

54 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ

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5 comments
Marco Cruz
Marco Cruz

underground? really? they never were from the start. more like same ground. if you are on the same level as the shit reporters report on, you arent underground. garden block. rest in piss.

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