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With Atmosphere as the driving force behind the movement of Twin Cities hip hop, Minneapolis breeds more than just bodies of water. It plays host to a thriving music scene of issue conscious rapppers and those willing to put their stories out there in a style defined by its candor and eccentricity. Under the umbrella of Rhymesayers Entertainment—a hip hop label founded by Atmosphere, Brent Sayers and Musab Saad—these artists are given a central hub to release records. However, you won’t catch them hanging around the office for a grip as they are currently on vacation with labelmates Blueprint and Evidence. Louisville will be one of the last handful of stops left on this excavation, a journey that began in Chicago at Lollapalooza and eventually brought them full circle around the nation. It was a really scattershot circle, though.

The tour is named after a signature hand gesture devised by Slug’s son, a gesture so commonly occurred that they decided to put it on the cover of their new record. Following up on the facts of life within 2009’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, things begin to get really slow.

Usually this fixes everything; imagine any song with a beat and slow it down…that’s TENSE. Now, imagine the flow over top of this track spoken without much aggressive emphasis…that’s DYNAMICS. It doesn’t make much sense compared to the hip hop standards of violent subject matter and themes, but Atmosphere have been managing this sub-standard for a while. Piano trails littered the loungy, low-key nature of their last record, but now they’ve exchanged their coffee banter vibes with slithering psych-rock influenced platforms that conjure up enough texture to create its own natural system. In terms of where in the atmosphere this layer lies, it's the sub-stratosphere.

I didn't get into the scientific side of their music, but I did feel some spark from Slug's very blatant answers. My spirit was crushed to hear Deep Puddle Dymanics dismissed as a joke and was equally confused as to whether rewriting Eddie Murphy's "Boogie in Your Butt" is actually an ironic thing to do. I found him to be an extremely sincere guy serious with a respect for all art and the different purposes they serve.

I’m conducting this interview in the back kitchen of a head shop in Louisville. Where’s the strangest place you’ve done an interview?

I don’t know if I’ve ever done one in any strange places. Usually it’s over the phone, so it’s somewhere convenient.

That’s good. I’ve only seen a couple video interviews of you. I remember in one of them you said you became interested in writing hip hop from rewriting a really bad Eddie Murphy song…? Do you think if you chopped and screwed Kenny G it’d be any good?

I doubt it.

Is there no way of making it good?

No, I think it’s because the only reason someone would chop ‘n screw a Kenny G song would to be ironic, and I don’t think irony makes for very good art.

So you genuinely loved the Eddie Murphy song?

Which Eddie Murphy song-“Big Ol’ Butt?” “Put It In the Butt?” Yeah, that’s a great song- are you kidding me?

I’ve never heard it, but it’s definitely on the list to check out. (Note: I later came to find it’s titled “Boogie in your Butt,” something Eddie Murphy was not down with in the song.)

How does working in Atmosphere right now differ from your former rap group Deep Puddle Dynamics?

Deep Puddle Dyanmics was never a group. It was a thing, a side project that we did in 1998, but I’ve been in Atmosphere since 1989. Atmosphere has always been my group that I’ve been in. And then, a couple of dudes got together and said hey, let’s do this side project called Deep Puddle Dynamics and so we did that, and it was just a one-off. We only did one show because we all live in different parts of the country, so it was never really a group; it was just more like a recording project we did one time.

I meant that it was a group of people and collective effort.

Deep Puddle was never really work though, I don’t really know how to describe it. It was four guys who, for one week, smoked a whole bunch of weed and made a record. And so there’s really not a whole lot. Whereas Atmosphere is more like a machine, you know: a touring machine, recording machine. With Atmosphere I’ve put out about 7 official records, but we’ve put out about 15 records realistically. And Deep Puddle was something that lasted for six days. That’s what I’m saying, Deep Puddle wasn’t really a group, it was just a…a joke.

Well… I thought it was great.

Deep Puddle? Huh. That’s interesting.

I listen to it very often, actually.

You do?

Yeah, to this day.

Wow- right on, right on.

I just wanted to throw a question out there- I was genuinely curious.

I guess if I had to say it was different, I’d say that with Deep Puddle we didn’t really think about what we were doing. We were just doing whatever happened. We were under the pressure of time and six days together to make a record and so we just kinda did what happened without giving it too much thought. Whereas with Atmosphere, everything we do is very thought out; there’s a point to everything we do with Atmosphere.

I guess that’s why I like it- imperfect sound.

Right.

But with your newer stuff I noticed it’s becoming more positive- how have your audiences been responding so far?

So far, so good. Every time we make a record people have a tendency to go, “well I don’t know. I’ll really have to listen to it a couple times.” And then usually six months later they go, “wow this is great.” And I think this record is no different. When it first came out, everybody was like “well, it’s a little different, I don’t know,” and now that we’ve been out here for four months on the record everybody’s been starting to come around to it. I think people have this tendency to think they know us, or they know me. And so whenever I do something they think is outside of me, it’s like, they don’t know how to deal with it. They just all want me to be that guy that’s rapping about Lucy, and I haven’t mentioned Lucy on a record since 2002.

So, Lucy’s been gone for about ten years. So when I quit doing it, cause I knew I had to move on and do something else—you can’t keep doing the same shit for more than two years, otherwise you’re a sellout—so, when I moved on…it’s like, audiences don’t move on. Things are timeless. Somebody today is hearing that Lucy shit for the first time ever, so they don’t put a time stamp on it. So you know, it’s more about when you take it in or how you take it in. For me, it’s more like it’s a straight line. Not a circle. And I guess that’s how it is for artists; they live on a straight line, however, for those of us that appreciate art you know, it’s circular, it’s a cycle.

Among your influences, what is the constant drive in your life?

Just my surroundings- the people that I’m surrounded by. I usually just steal my inspiration from my immediate surroundings.

What are your feelings on file-sharing? Do you believe it's beneficial to the music community or does more harm than good?

I don’t think I’d call it either; it’s just a way of the world, you know? It’s just the way things are today. When I was a kid we used to make mix tapes and share music with each other. People are always going to share music; that’s part of why music exists. I think that artists are being crybabies about not making any money because of file-sharing, because 100 years ago before the music industry existed, you would be lucky to get a pillow to lay your head on a bowl of soup for being able to sing a song. And then somebody invented this big scam called the music industry and a bunch of people got rich. Now, those rich people aren’t making as much money than they used to and they’re being little crybabies about it.

When you're writing, are you attentive to the pronunciation in how it affects the song in a sculptural way, or do you focus more on the words and their meanings

?

I’d say, both.

Do you ever take breaks from writing or is it always a constant thing for you?

I take a break when I’m on tour.

Have you been through Louisville before?

Many, many times.

Any distinct memories?

None that I would talk about publically. I do like the airplane shoved into the side of the hill over there at Headliner’s.

Atmosphere will be performing with Blueprint and Evidence at Headliners Music Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 14th. Tickets are $20, available through ear-X-tacy, Headliners box office and Etix.com. Doors at 8PM. 18+ with I.D.

Photo: Lastfm/Slug photo album

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Lara Kinne's picture

About Lara Kinne

I am an Illinois native and have enjoyed life in Louisville for four years. Currently, I'm holding a position as web editor for The Louisville Cardinal, UofL's student newspaper, in addition to contributing regularly to LEO, Louisville.com and my own website, Huevos (spanishforeggs.com). I was an assistant editor for my high school paper back in the day and have continued writing from a young age. My goal is to provide the masses with no-bull sentiments of independent music and arts. Email me: [email protected]

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