BIO The two main members of the group are the MC, Slug, and the producer Ant. With the exception of Overcast! and Lucy Ford, Ant has produced every Atmosphere record. Spawn (Derek jordan) was a member of Atmosphere, but left the group following the release of Overcast!. He is now known as Rek The Heavyweight. Becca Larson was an off-and-on touring DJ for Atmosphere prior to You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having tour, when Ant began touring, though he was never a full member of the group. He is now the DJ for hip hop artist EL-P.
At Washburn High School, Slug met soon-to-be close friends Seth Patrick and Brent Sayers; the men who would come to be known as Ill Eaze and Siddiq (or Stress) respectively. Together, the three formed the core of what would become the Rhymesayers Collective. The initial lineup saw them performing as Urban Atmosphere (originally Mental Subject, then Arhythmic Culture) with Spawn rapping and Slug on the turntables. Soon, Spawn convinced Slug to start rapping as well and they began making songs using turntables and a tape recorder. Through rapper Musab (then known as Beyond), Slug met producer Ant when they went to his house to record a track. Slug saw an opportunity in working with Ant and convinced Spawn to accompany him back over there. They soon started recording songs with Ant, learning how to structure songs properly and practicing vocal delivery. Eventually Ant, Musab and rapper Mr. Gene Poole (Swift, of Phull Surkle) joined the collective, with the group coming to be known as Headshots. Over time, seven cassettes were released under this moniker and garnered some local acclaim; enough so that even as early as 1996, Slug, Stress and Musab were making national appearances such as on NPR's All Things Considered. The start of Rhymesayers as a record label came when Siddiq, fed up with their treatment at a number of local studios, decided to buy his own.
Spawn left the group right as their seminal album Overcast! dropped citing a lack of desire to continue in a pursuit that seemed so insurmountable (he had also planned to move to Houston, TX with his wife). The release of Overcast! allowed audiences outside of the Twin Cities to be introduced to Atmosphere, mostly with the airplay that the song 'Scapegoat' received on college radio stations. Meanwhile Slug honed his live performance skills at Minneapolis hot spots such as 1st Ave & 7th St Entry. 1998 saw the recording of two albums by underground rap supergroups. The first, The Dynospectrum, involved both Slug and Ant as well as Beyond (Musab), Swift (of Phull Surkle) and I Self Divine. The second, Deep Puddle Dynamics, was an effort put forth by Oakland, CA-based underground rap label anticon, and featured Slug, Sole, Alias and Doseone rapping over beats by Jel.
Ford and Lucy Ford (2000-2001)
Now touring nationally on a more regular basis (the twenty-one date Ford One Tour brought them to the East Coast for the first time), Slug was able to quit his job at record store Electric Fetus, a job he had started when he was still pulling overnight shifts at Target in order to make enough to support his son. The year 2000 also saw the opening of the Rhymesayers owned record store The Fifth Element. In 2001, the two Ford EPs and The Lucy Ford EP were combined into the Lucy Ford LP; originally supposed to be a tour only release, it sold so well that it was later released as an official LP (making it the only Atmosphere album featuring producers other than Ant). Atmosphere hit the road harder than ever in 2001 with three separate tours straddling North America and Europe (Ford Two Tour, Who Killed The Robots Tour and Fill In The Blanks Tour; the latter being Mr. Dibbs's first outing as their tour DJ). With Lucy Ford, Atmosphere finally achieved national distribution through independent distributor Fat Beats.
God Loves Ugly (2002)
Atmosphere released their third studio album God Loves Ugly on June 11, 2002. The record featured more straightforward, almost battle-centric, lyrics from Slug. The record was distributed nationally again through Fat Beats and would go on to sell over 130,000 copies. The album generated two singles: "Modern Man's Hustle" and "GodLovesUgly". Atmosphere toured extensively in support of this record, going as far as Europe and Japan and even playing sixty shows in seventy-one days. Their various successes finally got the attention of major labels, Interscope, Sony and Warner Brothers all came calling on Rhymesayers with deals. However, for the time, Atmosphere decided to stay independent.
Seven's Travels (2003)
Atmosphere's fourth full length studio album, Seven's Travels, was released on September 23 through Rhymesayers and punk label Epitaph. It contained two singles, "Trying To Find A Balance" and "National Disgrace", both of which had music videos that received airplay on MTV2 and other stations, garnering Atmosphere more attention and success than previous releases. The album had one guest appearance from label mate Brother Ali and was entirely produced by Ant. Several songs on Seven's Travels contain lyrics pertaining to relationship problems, alcohol, and depression. For instance, on the song "Denvermolorado" Slug writes 'It's the sound of emotion enough, to make me wanna hang myself from the rafter that's over my bed'. On songs like "Always Coming Back Home To You", Slug displays his ability to paint a vivid picture in one's mind through his story telling abilities, while "Lift Her Pull Her" explains the trials and tribulations within his love life, as listeners have heard on God Loves Ugly and Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs. Seven's Travels is one of Atmosphere's most critically acclaimed and successful LP's to date. It has been said that the album cover for Seven's Travels was made as an homage to The Beatles' 'White Album'.
You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having (2005)
Released on October 4, 2005 Atmosphere's 5th album You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having was a definite departure from the previous 2 albums. Production duties were once again handled entirely by Ant, but the sound and lyrical content of the album was noticeably more raw than the more polished and commercial Godlovesugly and Seven's Travels. Reviews were generally positive with Stylust going as far as to say "The result may be, in a manner of speaking, the most consistent Atmosphere album to date." The opening track "The Arrival" appeared on EA Sports' Fight Night Round 3.
Strictly Leakage (2007)
Strictly Leakage is an unofficial album released as a free download in December 2007.
When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (2008)
The LP marks a departure from some of the notable styles of their past records. Ant used more live instrumentation in his production rather than sampling off of records. He would have the various musicians that play in Atmosphere's touring band lay down a few bars from which he would take what he wanted and assemble a track. Slug meanwhile started writing more songs telling stories and anecdotes about other people (real, fictional or somewhere in between); a move he had prophesied in an earlier song ("It Goes" off of Lucy Ford EP). Consequently, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold is notable for containing only two tracks that directly describe Slug's trials and tribulations.
Leak At Will (2009)
Atmosphere released a free, digital EP, Leak At Will in July 2009.
Slug credits most of the group's success to all the touring they do. In the early days they once drove from Minneapolis to Dallas to play a show for $250.
During 2005's 8 nights in a row at the legendary 7th St. Entry, the "Big Day Out" in Australia and the '@ it again' tour, Atmosphere was accompanied by a live band for the first time, featuring Nate Collis on guitar, Brett Johnson on bass, Erick Anderson on keyboards and Patrick Armitage on drums. Patrick (Drums) was replaced in late 05' by Brian McLeod for the "Pour Me Another" tour. The live setup brought a jazzy, more improvisational feel to Atmosphere's sound. Slug has said he wanted to play with a live band to add more of a challenge to playing live.
As of the Paint Your City Gold series of "release parties" in support of When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, the live band has been re-rostered with Ant laying down the percussion as DJ, Nate Collis on guitar and back up vocals, Erick Anderson on keyboards and synths & Mankwe Ndosi as the 'human samples.'
In Spring 2009, Atmosphere embarked upon the "When God Gives You Ugly" tour to celebrate the re-release of 2002's God Loves Ugly (which had been out of print) as well as their latest studio LP When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Slug & Ant was accompanied by Attracted To Gods, P.O.S, Brother Ali, as well as Eyedea & Abilities during the tour.
Slug's lyrics often differ from the bravado and self-promotion found in modern hip-hop. Slug raps in a personal, often introspective style, though this has become less prevalent as of 2008's When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Slug's lyrics often deal with substance abuse problems, tour life, death and depression, blue collar life and relations with women. Earlier songs often feature heavy references to his hometown of Minneapolis.
"Lucy" is a character that is featured prominently in Slug's lyrics; Lucy is referenced in many songs, and several songs focus exclusively on Lucy. Also referred to as "Lucy Ford" (a play on "Lucifer"), Lucy was originally a pseudonym meant to represent Slug's on-again-off-again girlfriend and mother to his son. Eventually "Lucy" became more metaphorical, evolving into a device to write about alcoholism/addiction, politics, guilty pleasures, hip-hop, and women in general
On a vidcast promoting the album When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, in response fans' repeated questions about Lucy, Slug jokingly states that "Lucy" was a cat he had owned when he had written his first few albums.
On Brother Ali & BK-One's Brother Ali & BK-One Present: Off the Record (2007), in the track "Damage featuring Slug," as well as on Sage Francis's "Doomage featuring Brother Ali & Slug" from "Sickly Business" (2004), Slug makes clear that "Lucy" has been used metaphorically to describe his relationship with hip-hop music. The lyrics state, "It's all been said before, buried in a metaphor, Lucy is hip-hop, and Jacob's a prince, Sean is an old man, and Slug is a pimp!" A few of Slug's emotions toward hip-hop that can be speculated through application of this information to his other works are; Slug holds resentment toward how his life has been so strongly influenced by hip-hop, Slug has insecurity toward his [lack of] impact in hip-hop music despite his strong effort, and how Slug feels that most people only see him as a hip-hop artist (Slug) rather than a person (Sean Daley).
Slug has also released three albums with Murs from the West Coast hip hop group Living Legends. The idea for Felt: A Tribute to Christina Ricci, their first album as a duo, came about while on tour. The two decided to see if they could garner some extra media attention for Ricci by dedicating their album to her, although according to Slug, Ricci has never responded to this or contacted the band. This debut studio album was produced by The Grouch from Living Legends.
Their second collaboration, Felt, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet, produced by Ant, was released in 2005.
Their third Felt album was announced on the duo's MySpace page, leaking the track "Protagonists" from the album and announcing the title (A Tribute to Rosie Perez), the release date (11.17.09) and the producer, Aesop Rock.
Slug has also been featured on albums by C-Ray Z Walz, Cunninlynguists, Brother Ali, Eyedea & Abilities, Evidence, Aesop Rock, Unknown Prophets, KRS-One, Oddjobs, Vakill, DoseOne, Jel, P.O.S., X-Ecutioners, Kanser, Blueprint, Heiruspecs, Jean Grae, Parallel Thought, Static & Nat Ill, DJ Vadim, Booka B, El-P, DOOM, Roosevelt Franklin, Greyskul, Minnesota indie rock band Lifter Puller, and several Living Legends albums as well as Living Legends solo projects such as The CMA.
Sad Clown/Bad Dub series
Between major releases, Atmosphere has released various live albums and EPs of unreleased material under the "Sad Clown/Bad Dub" title.
* Sad Clown Bad Dub (1999)
* Sad Clown Bad Dub II (2000)
* Sad Clown Bad Dub 3 (2002)
* Sad Clown Bad Dub 4 DVD (2002)
* Sad Clown Bad Dub 5 (2003)
* Sad Clown Bad Dub 6 (2003)
* Random Vol. 3/Sad Clown Bad Dub 7 (2003)
* Happy Clown Bad Dub 8/Fun EP (2006)
* Sad Clown Bad Summer 9 (2007)
* Sad Clown Bad Fall 10 (2007)
* Sad Clown Bad Winter 11 (2007)
* Sad Clown Bad Spring 12 (2008)
* Sad Clown Bad Dub 13 (2008)
The HeadShots series are low key compilation demos by Atmosphere released independently.
-1999 HeadShots Vol. 7: Se7en
-1998 HeadShots Vol. 6: Industrial Warfare
-1997 HeadShots Vol. 5: Effort
-1996 HeadShots Vol. 4: History
-1995 HeadShots Vol. 3: Compensation
-1994 HeadShots Vol. 2: Arrogance
-1993 HeadShots Vol. 1: Wbboy Sessions