Big up my hometown, my territory, my state
But, I couldn't figure out much to brag about
Prince lives here, we got 10,000 lakes
Minneapolis City Hall
(Thanks, Micahmn - wikimedia)
“Such a pleasure to come home, Cuz I have a very special love for this city,” so says rapper Sean Daley aka Slug, as the opening line to Atmosphere’s, track “Shh,” (sometimes also listed as “Say Shh”). This song pays direct tribute to where Sean Daley grew up and where Atmosphere was born, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The city of Minneapolis lies on the northern banks of the Mississippi River, rubbing shoulders with the state's capital, Saint Paul, so that together the cities are known as the Twin Cities. Also nicknamed the City of Lakes, Minneapolis takes its name from the Dakota word mni
, meaning water, and the Greek word polis
, meaning city. The history of the city developed around its many waterways, creeks, and lakes, allowing for the construction of mills, serving the lumber and food industry. Today, Minneapolis is home to almost half a million people ~ thriving, thanks to an economy centred on commerce, finance, and industrial manufacturing of electronics, automotive, medical, and agricultural equipment.
Atmosphere's Sean Daley, aka Slug
A bonus track on the band's third studio album, 2003's Seven's Travels
, “Shh” celebrates all that's good and wholesome about the Midwestern city. In the hip-hop world where lyrics are proliferated with references to drugs and violence, sex and vice, it's refreshing to come across a band that steps beyond that popular gangster image, taking pride in their all-American roots. Daley points surreptitious fingers at other rappers in “Shh,” with the chorus that poses a series of questions: “If the playground is clear of stems and syringes...If there's only one store in your town that sells 12-inches...If no one in your crew walks around with a gun...And if you ain't gonna leave 'cause this is where you're from, say shh...” Despite the sometimes vitriolic lyrical content, “Shh” is a gentle blend of R&B and rap with a rolling bass line that keeps the song floating through a sea of slick beats and seamless rhyme.
Part of the underground hip-hop scene, Atmosphere released Seven's Travels
on the independent record label Epitaph, owned by the seminal punk band Bad Religion. Although their one track, “Trying to Find a Balance,” was featured on console game ~ Tony Hawk's Underground 2 ~ the album didn't perform well in the commercial charts. In October 2003, Seven's Travels
hit the No. 1 spot on the charts of the non-commercial, student-run Honolulu station KTHU.
Kites on Lake Harriet, Minneapolis
(Thanks, Cativated Photography - wikipedia)
But fame and fortune were never the goals for Atmosphere. As with most of their albums, Daley offers up social commentary as lyrics. Aside from “Shh” and its praise of small town life, several other tracks on Seven's Travels
also express the band's disgust at mainstream trends and commercialism, with lines like “Peace to Rick James, Anna Nicole Smith, Bill Clinton, and Motley Crue, and anyone else who has ever utilized their 15 minutes of fame to realize their true dreams of being an absolute jerk-off,” from the song “National Disgrace.” The title says it all, really.
Given Daley's scathing opinion of pop culture, it's no wonder rapper Slug and his band, Atmosphere, have become symbols for the underground hip-hop movement, and pioneers for the continued struggle against commercialism and the allure of fame.
~ Suzanne van Rooyen
(Thanks to Kim for suggesting this Songplace.)Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include
Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and
The Other Me. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and eats far too much peanut-butter.