<interview conducted Winter 2000>
The Rhymesayers are a crew of MC’s, breakers, and graffiti artists based out of the Midwest. Many look at them as some of the pioneers of the current hip hop scene in that area. They include such talented MC’s as Eyedea, Slug, Beyond, Spawn, RSE, and many others. I got to talk to Slug from Atmosphere a little bit on what part Hip Hop plays in his life.
How did the Rymesayers crew come together?
The crew came together in 94’. A lot of us were friends. We had all been involved in promotion companies. Me and Spawn had been rhyming together for a while. We started working with some of our other friends putting on parties. Eventually we started co-opting, and released all of our music under the name Rhymesayers. We started out just making mixtapes, building off each release to have enough money to put out another tape. Then we started buying equipment, and began to make ourselves into a real company. We became really self sufficient and started releasing CD’s. Now we own our own store and studio.
What was your first real exposure to hip-hop?
Riding on the school bus to second grade. Hearing the bus driver play “Rapper’s Delight”. He would play that shit all the time in the mornings to the point where the second graders knew all the lyrics and would sing the song and even make up their own words. My father was a young father when I was that age, and he even listened to it as well. It was pre-hip-hop, it was all about shit like Earth, Wind and Fire. Hip-hop just kind of climbed into it. Being from Minneapolis, I didn’t really know what kind of music was out there in the rest of the country. Hip-hop started slowly, climbing into school at about the sixth grade. They were playing “rap”, and there was even a radio show. It became a kid thing, a way to bond with other kids. We came to realize it was ours, and not our fathers. From there we got into break dancing, and by the time I was in junior high, I began tagging. I started buying records in the 7th grade. In 8th grade, I had gotten my second really bad turntable. I DJ’d at a few parties and some older heads from a crew back then kind of took me under their wing. I would be some small young ass kid break dancing at all these older people’s parties.
What’s the Midwest hip hop scene like?
In the Midwest, thug rappers, underground rappers, all of them pretty much get along. I go to an out of town show and everyone looks like me. There’s no ballers, there’s no one who really stands out in the crowd. Here you go to a show, and you get a whole mix of shit. I dig that, you know, because I know I did my job when some J Rule wannabe comes up to me and says, “Yo man, you really spit ya shit.” We were in Dallas and I felt we were rapping to a bunch of friends. That’s the difference in the Midwest, most heads get along and support each other.
How do you feel about the current hip hop scene in general?
I’m happy with it. I kind of went through my complaining phase. Now I like whatever. I used to want to draw, so I went to school for commercial art. In school I learned to hate to draw. I don’t draw anymore, I realized that kind of thinking, “Oh we got to save hip hop!” was the same way of thinking that got me to start to hate drawing. I’m trying to not get caught in that way of thinking again. Man, I have an Ice Cube record playing upstairs.
So now you’re just trying to kick back and enjoy it?
Yeah, it’s like as far as I’m concerned, no one is as good as me. I’m just going to kick doing what I do regardless of what people think. I’m happy with the state of hip-hop. Me and my friends are actually allowed to go to different towns and play for people. For me, that’s amazing. I’m just this weirdo from South Minneapolis and motherfuckers are going to listen to me rap. How am I going to be angry about the state of hip-hop if I can do that?
What’s the most white trash thing you’ve ever seen while living in the Midwest?
Oh god. In East Side St. Paul, there are probably the scariest white people in the world. East Side of St. Paul is fucking incredible. It’s nuts. I don’t think I can pin down the one case. I’ve been a cashier my whole life almost. I’ve worked at stores where the most white trash go. One time I got robbed by a guy with a flare gun. Pretty hardcore white trash. This same fucking guy would come in all the time and buy a twelve pack and just stare at me. This time he came in brought up a twelve pack, and then just took out this giant yellow flare gun and said, “Give me your money.” After I gave him the money he just stood there for a while smiling at me. I was like do you want me to just lie down on the floor and count to 30? And he was like, “Oh. Yeah, OK.” And then he took off.
Where are Slug and Rhymesayers going in the future?
I think I have a few more albums in me. I’m 27 now, I’ll be 28 soon. In a couple of years I will be 33, and when your 33 there’s really not too much you can say to a bunch of 15 year-olds. I’m just trying to do what people did for me when I was a kid. If I can have some influence, and do it in a positive manner, then I’m accomplishing something. And then from there I’m definitely going to stay involved. I will find my niche in either artist development, or I’ll help run the label. The label itself is my main focus, way more than being Slug. Being Slug is easy, I just wake up, drink a cup of coffee and go to work. The label is the way the work needs to be done, so when we are 40 we are still involved putting out other people’s stuff.
Last words? Upcoming releases? Shoutouts?
I have an EP coming out which will be split in two singles, and then on CD. It will be the precursor for the full album. That will be in a month, the full album will be hopefully done by next summer. There will be a full album for Musab next summer, Eyedea and Ability’s next summer, and a full album for The Native Ones, and a few other singles. I will be touring soon hopefully. Shoutouts to Stevie Wonder, every porn star that ever existed, my man Evan, and my mom, Valeri. And what’s up to DJ Fingers from the 1200 Hobos.