Slug and Aesop Rock spin yarn for a living. Long ones. Thick ones. Intricate and textured, their stories epitomize the best of the new independent hip hop vanguard, where tongue-twisting tall tales are the lingua franca. Minneapolis' Slug, a member of Atmosphere (whose 'Ford One' & 'Ford Two' Eps were recently released on Rhymesayers/Fat Beats) renders frighteningly lucid vignettes, veering from failed relationships with woman to braggadocious rapper hypocrisy to, well, more problems with women. Intelligent and disinterested in industry hype, Slug is like the doppelganger older cousin to New York's Aesop Rock, who seems satisfied with the ladies (a snapshot of wifey adorns the inside of the CD booklet) but is pissed at just about everything else constructed by society-capitalism, mass media, and government. While Slug's been releasing records for years, Aesop's just now dropping his first, 'Float' (Mush). Aware of each other's music for a few years, now, the pair finally met last year for the feisty collabo 'I'll Be OK,' which appears on 'Float'.


Slug: The first time I met Aesop Rock, I played at CMJ last year. Actually, we met over the phone. The first time I met him face to face, he thought I was an arrogant, prick rapper. I came over to his house, and he thought I was on some ego shit. But he had it wrong. I wasn't on some ego shit. I was on emo shit. Completely different thing. I went over to his house, and we did a song that sounded like complete shit because a show that night and I'd completely abused my voice as it is.

Aesop: And you were an asshole, though.

Slug: I wasn't an asshole. Dude, your not a girl. What did you expect? After a show you want to talk to a woman.

"I wanna ride a train/ Up my lover's arm/ Stop off at the brain, hop out and find out what's going on/ Cut through trees and ride through rocks/ And synchronize the universal sundial to my watch/ I've seen a lot, but not quite as much as here/ To top it off, the memory and the imagination blur/ I know she's touched heaven as well/ Tryna to steal it."

Slug, 'The Abusing Of The Rib'


Slug: I've always been the class clown. I've always been the one that's like, "Look at me, guys. I'm gonna moon you now! Now I get to where a T-shirt that says, "Fucking Look At Me." Pretty soon it'll be a sweatshirt. I want to be the first rapper of VH-1 with a good song. We're going to make rap music for 28-year-old white women.

JC: But Slug, I'm thinking of your love song on the Foolblown compilation ['Abusing Of The Rib']. That song could easily be a pop song.

S: I mean I think it could too, and that's why I crack a joke about being the VH-1 rapper. I think a lot of the stuff I do is still safe and innocent enough to not really offend anybody, but still be different. It could be pop. It's just a matter of timing.

JC: Like Eminen. Where do you guys fall into that equation? Are A&R's knocking at your door looking for the next Eminem?

S: You know what? They are. I like cracking jokes about it, and having the ability to appear as if I'm not uncomfortable with it, but I am. But I'm not really too worried about being the next white rapper. I don't speak to that audience.

A: I agree with that, because I don't think either me or Slug is going to be that person. I think I make a pretty damn good rapper, but a pretty fucking terrible star. I'm not the person you want in your face all the time. I think it would be kinda boring. If I had all my favorite rappers in one room and I was like "Check out what I just wrote," they'd be like "Well shit man, that was dope." But I'm not that personality.


"Gathering loose ends in a bucket/ With a shoestring budget/ Every man's got a field to plough/ I know that now/ But it's like man, I really can't afford the oxen/ Fee fie etcetera/ I smell the warm blood of the bill collector knocking."

Aesop Rock, 'Big Bang'

Aesop: I think most of my shit nowadays comes from being a disgruntled 9-to-5'er. When you're in high school or college, you have so much time on your hands and you don't realize it. I had more time than I've ever had. Now I'm here working my 40 or 50-hour week. I feel like life hands you this routine and it's trying to be like, "Fuck you. We're trying to take away everything and make everyone come out the same - look the same, do the same." And I'm trying too make those hours between work and sleep very potent and come out with something and be like "Well, fuck your routine. I just made those couple of hours more potent than my entire day that you just threw me into."

S: I used to think that Aesop was a pessimist like myself, then I realized that he wasn't. He was kind of the nemesis of what I was. He was like so optimistic and I started to really get into that because I realized that I don't have any of those kind of people around me. Then I realized I was wrong, that he was a pretty hardcore pessimist. So now I really feel him.[laughs]


"Make me a star, I wanna touch gold/ Hold me suspended in a dream, merely inches from the screen."

Aesop Rock, 'Basic Cable'

JC: What constitutes stardom, though? Is it something you guys have?

Aesop: I do and I don't. Now when people recognize me on the street and say, "I like your shit." And I'm still just like, "Whoa." Kids'll ask for autographs and I'm like "Dude, why do you want me to write my name on a piece of paper?" It fucks me up, because I'm still a fan, and I write rhymes, but I don't have the personality or the confidence to be that person yet.

Slug: I'm ready to be a star. I'm at the point now where I'm not too phased by anything. I used to be freaked out by meeting new people, especially people who had something positive to say to me. But now I'm at the point where I basically know how to filter it all. I know when to let somebody vampire my energy and when to give someone exactly what they're looking for and they'll be happy and then go away. Being a star isn't going to be about being rich. It's going too be about being an inspiration, so I'm ready for that.

Aesop: I'm ready to be an inspiration, but I don't think stardom is about that.

Slug: To me it is. I love signing autographs.

Aesop: I do too. It feels great, but I walk away wondering why they wanted my autograph in the first place.

Slug: Well I love it because I was once one of those little fools that was asking people for autographs.

Aesop: Does that fuck you up at all when someone is like "Can you sign this piece of paper?"

Slug: Dude, I've got no food in my fridge. It's all I got.


Mush Records