Rap’s Atmosphere has never shied away from a heavy tour schedule. The duo would travel hundreds of miles for a couple hundred dollars, rarely covering costs, just to drum up buzz.
After steady success with six studio albums, Atmosphere still takes to the road at a ferocious pace — now for love and money.
“I enjoy the communication aspect of it. Just talking, even, to large groups of people at one time. It’s a weird thing to enjoy, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had,” said rapper Sean Daley, who performs as Slug. “As old as we are — well, we aren’t in our 60s or some shit — but it’s like, ‘They let us do this?’” It’s a dream come true for the Minneapolis-based Daley — one born from a certain, Adidas-loving crew.
“What first attracted me to rap was Run-D.M.C. The way they presented themselves, it was apparent that it was being presented to me, not my father or mother. When they came out, I got into it without them pushing me towards it,” he said. “It wasn’t the beats or the rhymes or the clothes or the flash; it was that it was mine.”
His Minnesota roots also came into play more than you might assume for a rapper hailing from the chilly state.
“I’m from where Prince is from, man!” Daley said. “He was the dude. Even though it might sound weird, I hear Prince in our shit all the time. My whole life, I’ve wanted to be a shitty version of Prince.”
My whole life, I’ve wanted to be a crappy version of Prince.
Far from it; national audiences got their first taste of Slug’s heavy lifting in Atmosphere’s 2002 album, “God Loves Ugly.” The later “You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having” and “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold” made the duo into a hip-hop favorite. Daley’s proudest effort, however, is this year’s “The Family Sign.”
“I’m becoming more comfortable with not having to prove how good I am with words, and I’m communicating better,” he said. “I’d communicate with your pets if I could get them to understand what I’m saying.”
Daley doesn’t know what the future will bring for Atmosphere, but with him living his dream, one could guess.
“Hopefully, the music will follow.
This vehicle has become a really validating thing for me,” he said. “To be able to be a part of something that gets good music into the hands of kids, I like being a part of that machine. Even if I hadn’t ever started rapping, I’d want to be a part of that.”
Photo by Dan Monick