The mood on stage was reflective Thursday night at St. Andrew’s Hall – Slug, a member of the hip-hop group Atmosphere, was holding court. “You feeling good tonight? That’s all we want, right, to feel good? We come out here, feel good for a while, and then we expect that to be the norm; we want to feel good all the time. A lot of people will spend a lot of money at that bar tonight trying to feel good.”

Both on record and in person, a big part of Slug’s shtick is his winking self-deprecation. Asked if he’s surprised at times from the positive reactions of the crowds, Slug answered, “I’ve been feeling that way for the past 15 years, homey.” No one takes him less seriously, it seems, than Slug himself.

Slug, who described his official position at label Rhymesayers as “co-owner/pimp-slash-spiritual advisor,” is quick to point out that he has no blanket objection to the majors, per se. “Yeah, I’ve seen major labels do some evil shit, but none of that compares to the evil that’s inside of me,” Slug said.

In regard to the recording of You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having, their latest album, Slug said, “We don’t care, worry about what people think, because that allows us to make any piece of shit we want. Then, when we’re done, we think, how are we going to get people to eat this shit? Maybe put some sprinkles on it.”

“We’re not very conscious of what we do. Basically, (DJ) Ant’s trying to impress me, or try to make my ears bleed from the snare, and I’m trying to make him laugh. That’s it. And we bum each other’s cigarettes.”

On stage, though, Slug plays it a little harder. Beginning the set with a live band and a fedora-clad bartender serving cocktails, Slug kept the quips to a minimum. The MC stalked the stage and delivered his material with almost a beat poetry feel.

Midway through, the band ambled off and the crowd received a treat – Atmosphere’s nontouring member Ant sauntered towards the decks, performing in Michigan for the first time.

Ant dropped the needle on the MTV2 hit, “Trying To Find A Balance,” and Slug kicked the show into another gear. He stared the audience down, spitting lines with vigor and gesticulating like a madman. Afterwards, he couldn’t resist an opportunity to cut himself down. With a shrug, he repeated a line from the song – “stop writing rhymes and go play volleyball” – in a mocking, incredulous tone, like it was the craziest shit he’d ever heard.

Of course, it’s a foolish man that takes Slug by his word. The guy knows how to keep the crowd off its feet; the focused MC becomes the court jester in the blink of an eye. Thursday night, Atmosphere was on their game, delivering their set with a passion and an edge. And then they sat back and, as Slug put it, watched “these white kids eat it up like mayonnaise.”

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