The MC Sean ‘Slug’ Daley Atmosphere Interview
Back in 1997, Atmosphere transformed Minneapolis into a hotbed for underground rap. MC Sean “Slug” Daley and producer Anthony “Ant” Davis make up the duo that has since consistently represented their home of South Minneapolis in their music. Last month, they released their eighth album, Southsiders. Slug says the album is about the ‘other side’–the darker perspective of things that are taken for granted. Namely, the other side of love, the other side of passion, and even the concept of time, death, and mortality and what it means to be meandering through life. We had the opportunity to speak with Slug about the new album:
When you explored the ‘other side’ to develop Southsiders, did you come across anything surprising?
I was moreso realizing a lot of work that Anthony and I have done in the past in our career has always kind of focused on the other side of those things. It’s just that as I’ve gotten older and evolved as a person, those things also evolved and changed, so your perspective starts to sway and change. Even within that though, I still feel like I am coming at it from the same side. I am still who I am, I have just refined what I’ve allowed my perspective to be. I’ve learned that when you actually pay attention to how you pay attention you can sort of mold and shape the world in a way you want it to be. You design it, rather than being a victim of what the world has to offer you.
Is there a verse or track on Southsiders that represents growing up in South Minneapolis?
Not any more than all of my music. A lot of who I am is based on the fact that I grew up in a working-class neighborhood on the side of town that isn’t necessarily the worst side of town, but isn’t the best side. I grew up in an area with a lot of single-parent family homes. A lot of moms with one or two jobs and had to leave their kids in the care of their neighbors or their oldest kid. My side of town is a very working-class environment and it’s a very mixed environment, and that kind of shapes and forms who I am in general, and all of my songs technically are South Minneapolis songs because my whole perspective stems from it…
If anything what I represent is a river town and I represent the side of the river town that’s open-minded. We all worked for a living, but we were open minded and appreciated art and music and we like to get down and party. That’s relative to a lot of river towns where the rivers are dead. I don’t mean that literally, I mean the towns were built around these rivers and for shipping and transportation. Now that a lot of American money isn’t necessarily being made from there, it’s interesting to see these towns redevelop themselves for the future.
That’s the thing that shapes our music. Working class values and ethics have always played a role in our music. You can see if you’ve watched how we make our music, how we tour, how we work the industry. We never came into this as a “put me in a limousine” kind of a rap, we came to the party with work boots on.
What does your song “Camera Thief” discuss in relation to the ‘other side’?
“Camera Thief” is about trying to use the concept of time. It’s about taking moments and making them last forever. As opposed to the traditional concept of time as a measurement—it’s now, it’s happening, it’s gone. We don’t really know how to look into the future. It’s that old thing, “Hey, where do you see yourself in five years?” Nobody really knows what that means or how to answer that question. But, time as a measurement – you do all kinds of things when you’re measuring it. You’re measuring towards your death and you don’t know what kind of increments you’re working with. Truth be told, that’s some man made shit, it’s not a real thing. We just needed something to make ourselves feel better about what we were trying to get done, what it is we are barreling towards. So “Camera Thief”, the first verse is about the moment, the second verse is about the past, and the third verse is about the anticipation about the future.
How about your song “Kanye West”?
It’s about going back to that other perspective of love or the other perspective of passion. There’s a lot of negativity inside of love. When you love something there’s so much room for that to go in ways that aren’t your standard beautiful energy. And so, that song is about submitting to the moment and submitting to your passions so much so that you don’t care that the people around you may be judging you in a negative way. In my head, at the end of the first verse, I stand up and flip over the table that we’re sitting at. Even though I don’t say that, that’s the image I have in my head at the end of the first verse. So imagine a guy flippin’ over a table for you. You wouldn’t necessarily see that and be like, “oh, he loves me, he flipped over this table for me!” even though it may have been born in his passion. For me, that’s what the songs about.
How did you come up with the concept of the video for “Kanye West”?
We were looking for a way to interpret my concept of the song without cheapening the song. I really appreciate the song and we could have gone so many ways and I wanted to make sure whatever we did with the video had its own narrative, but also worked with the song. The only guideline we had to follow was some bells and whistles in it with the guitar and the piano. There’s a bigness to it, to make sure we stayed true to the size of the song and then wanted to make sure it was a love story, just to give people a little more insight into what the song’s about in case they never got the chance to hear me describe it. And so we kind of go with a Bonnie & Clyde concept, only we wanted to make sure it wasn’t Bonnie and Clyde so we could show people that the love was the most important part. It doesn’t matter if the people are cool; the love is the main thing. The two actors we got present that notion.
To me it is about these guys are showing love. These people are so in love and they don’t give a fuck. Actually, they give so much of a fuck, it appears they don’t give a fuck, if that makes any sense. Sorry for the F-bombs.
You can take a journey into the dark side with underground rap legends Atmosphere at Mr. Smalls on June 11th. The show starts at 10pm and is open to all ages. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here or at the door. Enjoy the show!