Deep within the mass of beats and rhymes found on the Minneapolis based label, Rhymesayers, Atmosphere’s , You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having, is already grabbing critics attention. In Slug’s lyrical content that travels the path from mind to mouth, you’ll find analogies of himself, alcohol and his favorite topic: women, to coincide with the background beatsmith, Ant’s, musical creations. Atmosphere usually resides in the underground layers of the Hip-Hop world, but it seems they are unknowingly on their way up, out of Minneapolis and past the airwaves of college radio. Most would think, what the hell does Minneapolis know about Hip-Hop? But the truth is, they know lots.
The Atmosphere ideology grew from their love of Hip-Hop music and created something new, something of their own. Eventually, they evolved into the creators of the Rhymesayers Collective which now hosts recognized artists such as Brother Ali, Blueprint, and MF Doom. Recently, AllHipHop.com caught up with the mid-west duo to find out about lyrical meanings, touring and of course, women. So what does Minneapolis know about Hip-Hop? Sit back and find out.
AllHipHop.com: So far, the critics response to You Cant Imagine How Much Fun Were Having has been good.
Ant: That’s good, I hope it helps.
AllHipHop.com: Recently at a show in Iowa City, you actually performed. I was very excited about that because you usually don’t tour. Are you taking a new turn in your career? Should we look for Ant at more shows from here on out?
Ant: I can’t say that for sure, maybe if I’m invited back [laughs]. I just started getting comfortable, it took a while. It’s not my expertise. It’s definitely not a reality for me. It’s very odd.
AllHipHop.com: Well on the new album, I’m really impressed with the last song, Little Man. Slug, it’s interesting how you took your father-figure and then your son, and almost admitted being questionable at both. What is the most valuable lesson learned from your youth that you apply in raising your son Jacob?
Slug: The most valuable lesson I want him to learn is not to fall for it. When I say it, I mean not to have to pick sides. Our culture is all about that. I just want him to be able to apply common sense to all of his decisions. The lyrics in this song bring me back to my issues of co-dependency and the issues of me with relationships, where I have to be validated by someone else. This song is about how I never learned how to have an equal-standing relationship. My mom kicked my dad out when I was eleven and I accept what’s handed to me, because I come from a broken home. My mom did her best to put a rational equality outlook on life. But I learned through the eyes of a woman who was pissed off and from that I carry male guilt. People have been brainwashed and when they say I always rap about women, and they think I’m a chauvinist but I’m not. I look at it as self-bashing. Does that make sense? I ramble.
AllHipHop.com: Most definitely.
Slug: I’m surprised that I get to talk to a girl journalist in the Hip-Hop world. I like to see more women in the Hip- Hop world, I think it is hard for them. It surprises me how many girls are publicists, you know. But I like to see more on this side of it. Even within the music aspect, there aren’t many female MC’s. I mean you have Missy Elliot, but she still has to wear layers of make up to be accepted.
AllHipHop.com: I wish there were more women in the game too.
Slug: If you look at an Atmosphere show, there is a 40-50 ratio of women in the audience. They are allowed to like Atmosphere, but not Gangsta- Rap, unless you’re a dyke. We don’t allow them to like it, we think they can’t relate to it, but they do. They can have a bad day and want to shoot their boss. They can get in their car and turn it up and feel p*ssed and relate to it.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I know what you mean. Sometimes it is hard for people to take you seriously when you’re a girl in this business. And Gangsta- Rap does fit the mood sometimes. Ant, I know you love West Coast Gangsta-Rap. If you could work with any 80’s Gangsta-Rap legend, who would it be?
Ant: MC Eiht, just because I could work well with him. Even though Ice Cube is the best, MC Eiht and I would get along really well, I think. I cant explain it.
AllHipHop.com: Let’s talk about your last album Se7en’s Travels. It was said you hated this album, and while it was your biggest, it also stirred up some disappointment in the core Atmosphere circles. What did you learn from the record and how did you apply it? Because, already, this one is being toted as your best.
Slug: Se7en’s Travels I hate because I didn’t pay attention to supplying something that people could understand. I made a record of how confusing my life was, when I found out my fans didn’t get it, it confused me too. It was a reflection of where I was in my life. After making records for like ten years, you evolve, just like your fans do. Is it not okay for me to grow lyrically? I know it was relevant than any other record, I just didn’t make it obvious enough. This one is more refined. Moods are direct. People can get their own versions out of it.
AllHipHop.com: Ant, we saw how versatile your producing abilities are, especially with Brother Ali’s Shadows on the Sun. You used more horns and a fuller soulful sound for him. Why did you feel that worked better for Ali than say Slug or other MC’s you have worked with?
Ant: He has a bigger voice and it can handle a bigger sound. It’s a feel thing, for others it doesn’t feel the same. One track on that album was originally for Slug, but it wasn’t right for him. He didn’t like it. But Ali ran into it and it turned out to be Bitchslap on Shadows. It’s weird how things work out.
AllHipHop.com: Other Indie producers haven’t reached the numbers in sales you have, but they get more exposure than you…like 9th Wonder for example. Why do you think you’re not getting that same exposure?
Ant: Maybe it’s a taste thing. Maybe that’s what they like. If numbers were the case, we’d be talking about the producer for Britney Spears.
AllHipHop.com: True, Would you like to work with some more commercial MC’s?
Ant: I would, but I’m not crying over that. I’m open to whatever. I’d want some power in the situation though.
AllHipHop.com: In a recent interview Slug said Atmosphere helps kid’s find their identity. Do you feel that is a common theme among young people and how do you help them with finding themselves?
Slug: I can’t believe I really said that. [laughing] It is the best I can hope for. We are playing a small letter in the equation in helping them find themselves. I’m not hoping to go platinum, the best I can go for is providing quality, positive Hip-Hop within the game.
AllHipHop.com: Ant, This year alone, with the Rhymesayers label, you are producing around five projects. Will you be doing other projects off the label?
Ant: I’ll do a song here or there.
AllHipHop.com: How do you chose the MC’s you want to work with?
Ant: Obviously, if I know them or if they’re good. If I can fit it in too. I prefer to work with somebody, not to send something in the mail. A lot of people are doing that s**t these days. I don’t do that.
AllHipHop.com: Let me ask you about the Rhymesayers label. Rhymesayers put out critically acclaimed albums from MF Doom and Blueprint this last year. Do you see the company continuing to putting a Rhymesayers flip on other artist’s styles?
Slug: The problem with Indie labels is they tend to create a certain sound. I love diversity on our label. We have Brother Ali, MF Doom, who is like the Andy Kaufman of Hip-Hop, and Blueprint, who is just the all around MC’s MC. I appreciate diversity and most important with our people on our label, is that they are all good human beings. They are all people I can bring my kid around. I mean, people can learn to be dope. I can stick you on a bus touring with Brother Ali and you can get dope, but in the end, if you’re an a**hole, you’re an a**hole.
AllHipHop.com: Ant, I heard when you first met Slug, you didn’t care for his voice at all, what changed your mind?
Ant: Touring has done some damage to his voice and it’s helped his voice. It sounds like more of an adult. When we first met, he had that teenager thing happening. I mean, it was all right.
AllHipHop.com: You have said in the past, you are more of a background guy and leave the front man stuff to Slug. You also said you are not trying to be Puffy or anything. What do you get out of producing then? What is your ultimate goal?
Ant: When I said that, I meant big in the sense of having my face everywhere. Ultimately, I am chasing my dream. I like making music. My goal is to accomplish my dream and I’ve accomplished most of my dream already.
AllHipHop.com: Let’s talk about touring. You are one of the kings of Hip-Hop van touring. With that said, what is the coolest roadside attraction in America? I mean it can be a good sandwich or anything.
Slug: Oh man, that is a tough one. I like the mountains, I like looking at them. Um, That is a good question. On the road, I am very distracted by women. I am completely into studying people. People generally keep me going. It is an opportunity to meet future friends, future ex-wives, future co-workers and on stage I jump around and seem loud, but off-stage I am not a loud guy. I like to observe. That is why I write so much about people. My writing is about the human condition. Did I really just say that?
AllHipHop.com: [Laughing] No, it sounded good. Speaking of women, let’s talk about the song Like Today. I heard someone say it gave sexual hope to the hopeless. What prompted you to write that song?
Slug: Like Today is really my version of LL Cool J’s The Do Wop. I even ended it like him, where I woke from a dream, but nobody got that except me. I never expected people on the outside of Minneapolis to hear it. It is really about the ‘any man’ lifestyle for kids in Minneapolis. It is the ‘any man’s’ song.
AllHipHop.com: Have you been worried about sample clearances, since your selling more records now?
Ant: A little. We try to clear our stuff or part of it. We’re not that big where people pay attention.