Minneapolis has a penchant for creating important artists. You've sung the chorus to Prince's charms. Now Its time to hear the new voice of hip-hop. Atmosphere's lead rapper Slug deals with life's travails in brutally poetic fashion. Quick on the draw and bare bones honest - Slug demands his rhymes rip in black and white.
By Karen BondowskiLivewire: How did your recent tour go?
Slug: Very good. Nobody tried to beat us up.
Livewire: I was at your Milwaukee show and I thought it was pretty amazing.
Slug: You liked it?
Livewire: I loved it.
Slug: I was a little nervous at that one. Well, I'm a little nervous at all of them but my girlfriend actually came to that one and I was extra nervous at that one. Beause if she says I suck, than it's over.
Livewire: If you were to name your two favorite CD's what would they be?
Slug: In the whole world? My two favorite CD's? Oh my god!! I guess maybe "Sign 'O' the Times" by Prince and uhh.. oh my goodness!! I guess Prince and probably "To the East, Blackwards" by X-Clan.
Livewire: And why those?
Slug: Well, 'cause when the Prince album came out.. actually the both of them, they came out around the same time and both had such an influence on me because of how old I was when they came out, how much closer I was coming to music and how I used music and the X-Clan one just, I would say, as far.. it functioned for me within how I felt at the time. The first time a hip hop record scared the shit out of me - as well as taught me - as well as inspired me to go learn other shit. Then the Prince record was just kind of a coming of age record for me, man. Listening to that record at the same time I was learning how to perform kind of lingers and at the same time figuring out who my identity is within art and how I chose to quench my thirst for it. That record came out at just the right time! You have to imagine I was like 16 and just starting to become like a sexual being. Granted I was kind of young but that Prince record taught me hot to fuck, basically. Sorry. (laughs)
Livewire: What was your very first show like?
Slug: I don't know if I can honestly answer this question just because.. Aside from knowing historically when it took place, I really don't remember much.
Livewire: Uh oh.
Slug: (laughs) You know what I'm saying? That was a lot of beers ago! It was in high school. I started doing talent shows and goofy little like community center shows and shit like that. Back then, the shows were not about rocking the crowd as much as they were about teaching myself whether or not this is what I wanted to be doing. You know what I mean? And so, at the time I thought I was the shit and I thought I was rocking the crowd, but now that I look back on it, it's kind of like.. my theories and my thoughts on it now are what took place of my actual memories. You know what I mean? Especially since I've had to answer questions like this so many times. It's like the memory starts to fade and the importance of the moment starts to grow. So now I look at it as just.. you know the first couple of shows were really just more so about feeding as well as killing my insecurities about my role in hip hop.
Livewire: When did you realize it was something you wanted to continue doing?
Slug: I think every show is still a continuation of my realization. All the way up to last show. Every single show is still a continuation of my realization that this is what I want to be doing, you know? I'm sorry! I'm not trying to get all ethereal on you or nothing like that. I'm not a hippie. These are actual honest answers. Even though they sound like bumper stickers. (laughs)
Livewire: What is your biggest fear?
Slug: My biggest fear.. I guess.. of all things that I fear or am concerned about.. mostly in regards to the safety of the people I love. You know.. my son, my mother. Everyone fears getting that phone call that he fell off of his bike and he's unconscious while I'm in fucking Australia rapping, you know what I mean? It's like.. you know.. for the same reason I stopped doing drugs.. or I would say, aside from pot and alcohol, but I stopped doing things like mushrooms, acid or ecstasy or whatever. Years and years ago it was because I didn't want to give six to eight hours of my life to a drug when anything can happen, you know? In the middle of your high that you might not rationally be able to deal with because your dumb ass is high. And so that all stems from just fatherhood and the fears of like falling short and the same places that maybe my parents fell short. Which brings me back to saying one of my biggest fears is my son being hurt and me not being able to do anything about it to help him.
Livewire: How do you balance everything out though? Being a father and being a well known rapper whose busy and on the road quite a bit?
Slug: Neurosis! Umm.. You go through parts of feelings of being an irresponsible dad to a part time wannabe dad and then an irresponsible artist a part time wannabe artist. You go through a lot of different thoughts of trying to balance that out and by trying to balance that all out by remembering who you are in this world and really what it comes down to it.. not trying to be a pessimist or not to be pretentious, but I'm pretty certain that Jesus already put me on the guest list.
Livewire: Would you say that you are religious?
Slug: No. Absolutely not. That's just kind of a metaphor kind of way of saying that I know I'm doing good. I know I'm doing right. I know I'm not a bad person, regardless of whether or not, sometimes I may be a poor decision maker. That's just part of learning. When it comes down to it, I'm an incredible, incredible human being.
Livewire: It seems that your artistic output is so prolific. What drives you?
Slug: I am a workaholic. I used to be an alcoholic! (laughs) I am no longer an alcoholic. I used to be a functional alcoholic who still got his job done. And I am no longer an alcoholic. In fact I traded that filth medication for just straight up.. you know, embracing work.
Livewire: How did everybody get their nicknames? You got Slug. Jason's got Bird. And Ant..
Slug: I think that answer is going to be different for everybody in the world who has a nickname. Well like Ant, his real name is Anthony. So, you know.. that's the kind of nickname he probably got way before hip hop. Umm.. Ali is his real name after he converted to Islam a long, long, long time ago. He took the name Ali. Myself.. Slug is actually short for Sluggo which is actually short for little Sluggo which is what my name was as a child cause my fathers nick name was Sluggo. And so all of his friends called me little Sluggo which stuck once I started getting my own thing, you know?
Livewire: Does your upbringing have any kind of effect to your lyrics?
Slug: Oh, I'm sure. I don't know if I could necessarily pin point how, where, when or why but yeah, I'm sure because my upbringing has an effect on just who I am as a person and that's where I, as an artist, base every single lyric off of. All I'm saying is if I would have had a different upbringing then maybe I'd be rapping about guns just because if I did have a different upbringing I might be.. I guess a little less influenced by trying to be responsible with what I do. If my upbringing had been a little different, it's possible that I could be a little asshole and in that case that would probably effect what I rapped about. Like I don't necessarily feel like I wear my upbringing on my sleeve -in my records. I feel like I wear myself on my sleeve, but I feel like that stems from the fact that I was raised to be myself.
Livewire: How do you feel about the term "emo-rap" that some people have given you?
Slug; (sighs) There was a time where I was a little defensive about it but nowadays I don't really care. Like I see through it. I see through peoples' need to label things. I understand where it comes from and most things.. The reason people do things like that.. that's bigger then me! That's bigger then my little role in rap. That's bigger then my little role in the entertainment industry. The peoples need to label things have been around a lot longer then I have been around. You know what I'm saying? It's like especially when.. If you look at in a journalistic standpoint, its kind of your job to explain to people who know nothing about it - what it is and it's best if you can do it in the least amount of words as possible. So, let's say you make up this new term called "emo-rap" and basically you're saving yourself about fifty words by saying that! And not only that, but people are going what? What is that? So, you know there's a little tinge of shock value so.. not like Marilyn Manson or Eminem style shock value but more like shock value to the thinker and all those things play into your favor so you can get laid too. Because let's face it.. journalism is an art and art is about getting laid.
Livewire: (laughs) Good analogy. I like that.
Slug: Which part? The part about getting laid?
Livewire: Yeah, I've never heard it in that way before.
Slug: Well, ok. Let me break it down. Art to me is just another form of communication. One that not everybody has learned. If you think about it.. I don't know how to speak French, right? But I know how to draw and so it's another language. Whether it be music or film.. It's another form of communication. Communication is all about being able to work and deal with like minded individuals. But then what's the point of that? So you can build things right? But what's the point of that? So you can have a family. It's healing. It's eat, sleep, fuck. It's the survival. It's what we're here for. So, art doesn't enable some of us to sleep well at night, yes this is true. And art doesn't enable some of us to eat, yes this is true. But it enables everybody to fuck cause if you put that painting out there and if one person likes it so much that you make friends with them.. who knows. By this time next week you might get their roommate pregnant. It's just another way of bringing people together and personally bringing people together is all about procreation as far as I'm concerned.
Photo: Karen Bondowski
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