Atmosphere with Brother Ali , Oddjobs , the Micronots and Deejaybird at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Tuesday (November 4). $24.50. 416-760-3332, 416-323-1251. Rating: NNNNN
Things been lousy for you lately? Times tough? Been dumped? Then you're in luck, because Atmosphere are here. Although they play hiphop, rapper Slug's suburban looks and heartfelt, self-flagellating tales of relationship fuckery appeal to an odd amalgam of underground hiphop headz, indie kids and melodic punkers (hence Atmosphere's distribution deal with Epitaph for their newest album, Seven's Travels), many of them female.
Why has Slug succeeded at bridging a gap between subcultures when everyone from MC 900 Foot Jesus to Methods of Mayhem have failed? And does that gap need to be bridged?
If Slug's position in this entire white-guy underground clusterfuck circus were a song, it would probably be It Ain't My Fault, by Silkk Tha Shocker (also featuring Mystikal).
Although a quick appraisal of his skin tone might not tip folks off, Slug has spent most of his bi-racial lifetime in an Afrocentric mindset.
"People assume I'm a white guy," he says from his Minneapolis home. "It's been that way for most of my life. But I grew up with my father, who is black and native American, and most of his friends were black. I didn't become friends with white people or get into white culture until I had sex with a white woman."
These days Slug is mad familiar with the weird ways of Caucasian culture. The audience at Atmosphere shows tends to be whiter than a naked albino in a Minnesota snowbank, and often descends into a frenzy of stage-diving and mosh pits.
Obviously, their Epitaph affiliation helps, but the rock vibe has more to do with a decision by Atmosphere's resident DJ, Mr. Dibbs, to play songs like War Pigs at shows to get the crowd hyped.
"When Dibbs started taking hard rock and playing it with hiphop beats and scratching on it, that's when it started getting crazy," Slug says. "I love the energy. I love it when a buncha kids come to a show with new shoes and leave with them all scuffed."
Seven's Travels won't lose Atmosphere any fans, it'll make them new ones. Although Slug's rhymes can be lyrically dense, they're always accessible. Beatmaker Ant builds on the early 90s jazzed-out hiphop sound reflected in Slug's MC influences - names like Big Daddy Kane, X-Clan, De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers. So what took Slug from a straight-up hiphop head to a dabbler in punk?
"A woman got me into it. At first I was into emo stuff, but now I'm more into art punk."
The man could not be more stoked on the in-your-face ethos of punk. Apparently, it's all laid out in the new Jack Black flick School Of Rock.
"I suggest every skinny indie rock fuck go see that movie," shouts Slug. "Rock 'n' roll is about stickin' it to the man' - I am so down with that. I want to give Jack Black a hand job."