Slug is a prominent rapper in the indie hip-hop network, that started to develop by the end of the 90’s. A model for the fast-growing Midwest underground scene, he defined his own way between backpacker conservatism and the avant-gardism of others. At times introvert and candid, at times harsh and cynical, and a collaborator of many others, he's become a central figure, in the wide world of indie rap.
Slug’s background is as complex as his status in hip-hop. The elder of three sons, Sean Daley was born in 1972, just two weeks after his parents’ wedding, while they were only 19 and 17. Her mother, Valerie, was from the countryside and of Scandinavian descent, while his father, Craig, the son of a black jazz trumpeter and an Irish woman, was a bassist in a Minneapolis funk band called Salt, Pepper & Spice.
Sean grew up with his mother, who married with another man, in a multiracial area in the South of Minneapolis. The kid turned into a hip-hop fan, and his father, expecting him to be less shy, encouraged him to participate to a breakdance contest. By then, hip-hop was only a New-York thing, and the boy followed all trends coming from the Big Apple. He became proud of his black origins, spending time among African Americans and living for a while with his father.
There, at Washburn High School and through a common friend named Derek Turner, Sean met with a hip-hop fan by two years his elder, Siddiq Ali. The three of them decided to form a band and to use aliases starting with "s". Siddiq became Stress, Derek was Spawn and Sean chose Slug. The double-meaning - a small and fragile animal and the bullet of a gun - fitted him perfectly. This new name, also, was said to be an acronym for "Sean Likes Ugly Girls".
But in 1993, Slug was still looking for his way. For a while, he hid behind the turntable, with Spawn as an MC and Stress as a manager, in a band called Urban Atmosphere. The small group that would eventually turn into the Rhymesayers collective started to grow slowly with the arrival of Anthony Davies, Beyond (the future MC Musab), Gene Poole and The Abstract Pack. Slug’s band, now named Atmosphere, changed as well: Spawn left (he would come back as Rek The Heavyweight), the DJ became an MC, and Anthony soon replaced him as ANT. Later, they would be joined on stage by MC Eyedea and DJ Abilities.
Progressively, their many freestyles and performances allowed Atmosphere to find a place in the Twin Cities. And eventually, the local hip-hop scene changed through them.
Just as hip-hop in general, Minneapolis rap was considered a gangsters and violence thing. Controversies happened, like in 1989, with an article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press titled "Bad Rap". But in 1996, Slug, Stress and Beyond made a call, on the national radio, for a more positive hip-hop, freed from major labels, and they asked rappers to defy them. This put Minneapolis on the hip-hop map. Slug’s intimate kind of rap, indeed, was a striking contrast to the usual braggadocios in hip-hop, and a main selling point for Overcast!. Released in 1997, the first Atmosphere album is nowadays considered as a founding classic of indie hip-hop.
By the end of the 90’s, Slug was a major player in underground hip-hop. A complex and contradictory guy, he got associated with opposite rap trends. While some related him to Common or Mos Def’s conscious rap, some others compared him to Eminem, another white underground rapper from the Midwest, by then not connected yet to Dr. Dre.
These two would be compared a few years later, when a hidden track on Overcast!, where Slug simulates an extremely violent and misogynistic dispute with his wife, would be seen as a blueprint to Eminem's own "Kim". Later on, though, afflicted by kids singing the lyrics and taking them for granted, Slug would refuse to play this song on stage.
Contrary to Eminem, Slug continued his career in the underground. One of the key events in his life would be his meeting with Sole from the Live Poets, and with Dose One. By then, these three white guys with an introspective approach to hip-hop discovered what they had in common. They met in a studio on the 26th of June, in 1998, and with the producer Alias, they recorded the core of The Taste of the Rain... Why Kneel? as Deep Puddle Dynamics. This record would be released on Anticon, a new label founded by Sole. Dose, Alias and others would join this new adventure, but Slug would prefer stick to his own way and crew.
In the underground, Slug developed a large following with hip-hop addicts, but also rock fans and, interestingly, many girls. He went on never-ending tours and he frequently featured with other rappers. For example, he collaborated with his friends from Minneapolis and St Paul, and he participated to Float, the third album of another underground hip-hop rising star, Aesop Rock. He also worked to make the Rhymesayers catalogue available at a worldwide scale.
In 2001, after three EP’s and some tour CD and minor projects such as Sad Clown Bad Dub, he released Lucy Ford, the second Atmosphere album, a record focused on his broken relationship with his girlfriend. The next album, God Loves Ugly, tried to close this chapter ("F*@k You Lucy"). It was followed by Seven's Travels in 2003, and You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having earlier this year.