Atmosphere: Interview with Atmosphere

AtmosphereOkay, let’s get this straight. By now, you’ve probably heard the name Atmosphere, and that’s wonderful. But before we go any further, it would probably be a good idea to clear up any confusion. Atmosphere is not a person. They are two people.

A collaboration between lyricist Sean “Slug” Daley and producer Anthony “Ant” Davis, Atmosphere, as a group, have been around for almost a decade, releasing their first album, Overcast! in 1997.

Having stumbled onto some crossover (read: suburban) success with their last several albums, most notably 2003’s Seven’s Travels, the Midwestern collective found themselves on a threshold, staring over the edge at potential major label success and (gulp!) fame, but not wanting to give up their stake in their label, Rhymesayers Entertainment, made the complicated decision to stay indie.

Slug, who has been billed as “emo-rap” by the “please fuck me” music press, and Ant released You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having on Oct. 4. By bizarre happenstance, the Pour Me Another Tour, headlined by Atmosphere, will be hitting Irving Plaza in NYC on Oct. 14, and the Trocadero in Philly on Oct. 15. My goodness, it’s almost as if these things are planned out in advance.

Because the coincidences never stop around here, Slug recently got on the phone and opened himself up to honestly and thoughtfully answer questions that he’s undoubtedly been asked 100 times before. So be it.

The buzz around Atmosphere seems to have been developing over some time. Does it space you out to have people think of you as new?

It does and it doesn’t. I’m doing my best to keep a healthy head about all of this shit. I don’t really get upset or freaked out. If I’m new to you, that means you just found out about me, and if that’s the case, what can I do to make a good impression starting now? And in the end, you’re new to everybody at some point. If I’m new to you now, maybe you’ll find out that I have this back catalogue that you think is just amazingly horrible. Maybe it’s best that you think this is my first record. (laughs) Maybe it works in my favor.

In the end, they can think what they want to think, and they can call me emo-rap and this and that, it really has nothing to do with what I’m doing, it only has something to do with how I’m perceived.

Bottom line is I only get to control about 20 percent of how I’m perceived. With that, I’m gonna do my best to maintain how I want to be perceived in that 20 percent. But the other 80 percent of it is up for grabs.

For christ’s sake, at least they’re not calling me ‘trip-hop.’ Whatever the hell happened to that shit? It is what it is, but at the same time, I feel old now. At 23, I’d probably have been pissed off and breaking windows.

The whole emo-rap tag kind of gets to me. I don’t know where that one comes from.

I know where it comes from. It comes from journalists. And I’m not gonna go on some rant against journalists, because I love you guys, and I feel a kinship, but journalists gotta get laid too, dawg [he’s right on this one—ed.]. And within that comes all kinds of shit.

You want to be the guy that writes about the cool new thing. You don’t want to be the guy that writes about it a year late. You also want to be the guy that, come on man, let’s face it, even rappers, we want to start up our own slang.

Whoever made up the word trip-hop, whoever made up the word emo-rap, that guy, that girl, they’re at a party somewhere, and they’re talking to somebody, using their art to get laid. Just like everybody uses their art to get laid. And that’s kind of what it all comes down to.

There’s also the side that, you got this job to take something that might not be the easiest thing to explain, and you’ve got to explain it to ignorant people who don’t know about it yet, because there’s no point in preaching to the choir.

You don’t have to explain Atmosphere to a bunch of people who know what Atmosphere is. You have to explain Atmosphere to people who don’t, and you’ve got to do it as minimal and with the least amount of words possible. So, just saying the word emo- rap, even though none of us know what the fuck that’s supposed to mean, it gives somebody an idea of what the fuck might be going on, or it at least makes them go, ‘Alright, what the fuck does that mean?’ Either way, you’re doing your job.

So I’m not really mad at whoever started that phrase, and I’m not really mad that I get called that. In the end, it is what it is. I didn’t write these rules, I just happen to decide which ones I’m going to play by and which ones I’m going to break.