As emcee for much-loved indie hip-hop sensation Atmosphere, Sean “Slug” Daley has spent the past decade on the ride of a lifetime, happily raging through inventive anti-gangsterism and pumping out genre-defining beats. Atmosphere’s latest album, You Can’t Believe How Much Fun We’re Having, arrived in a flurry of popularity, briefly hitting number one as Top Independent Album on Billboard.com. In spite of his grueling touring schedule and lyrics that are occasionally on the dystopic side of things, Slug does sound like he’s having fun. In fact, he sounds ecstatic.
“People are generally surprised at how jovial I am,” he laughs. “At least for a skinny person.”
Slug’s crew, Atmosphere, has been described as everything from emo-hop to outsider rap, with their dark themes and ironic tones. “She abandoned me left out in the cold/no suprises I guess that’s how it goes/sits across from me in a booth in this dive/I contemplate how much more I can survive” croons Slug in the track “A girl named hope,” displaying the highly personal, clever lyricism that’s found it’s own musical niche regardless of the label its on. His dedication to honest presentation, slick lyrics and freestyling has made him a fast favourite of critics across the country and around the world. Rolling Stone even went as far as calling him an “indie rock hero.”
“I could care less what they call me,” quips Slug. “Call me whatever you think will impress the babes you’re hitting on.”
Atmosphere’s new album is strong, sharp, and resonates with an unexpected amalgamation of life that drives images into your subconscious, many of them re-emerging days later. Tracks like Smart Went Crazy are throw backs to the rhythmic, fluid cuts of Run DMC and Jurassic 5, riding producer Ant’s (Anthony Davis) atypical, interesting and well-fit mixes.
“It’s past the Lucy shit [that inspired a previous album], it’s past the alcoholism,” says Slug. “Rap gave me the chance to live like that, and living like that gave me the inspiration for a lot of the music. This album is a different kind of piece.”
Atmosphere’s upcoming trip to Calgary isn’t the first for Slug and his crew. Atmosphere has been making appearances in Cow Town since the first days of their career, playing many sold-out shows. This time around the chance to play small towns across the province has Slug excited as well.
“I love [Calgary],” says Slug. “They started showing us attention really early on. I love playing in small towns, too. You’ve got these kids who come up to you after the show and say ‘I love your band! We just drove six hours to see you! Thank you so much!’ And that’s what it’s about.”
Despite frequent advances from record labels, Atmosphere has managed to keep it indie, hanging on to the group’s start-up and increasingly successful label, Rhyme Sayers Collective. It’s easy to accuse groups of sticking with the indie image out of lofty ideals or a stereotypical youth mentality, but Slug insists he’s outgrown this.
“About every two years they come at us,” says Slug. “At one point it was really like ‘Fuck corporate America. Fuck this, fuck corporate that. But then I learned that some of these people working for major labels are actually really wonderful people, and they really, really do it for the music. So maybe one day we’ll accept, if somebody makes us the right offer.”