Being the hardest-working man in indie rap means leaving your fingerprints everywhere. No surprise, then, that in addition to his own brilliant Sevens Travels (see preview), Atmosphere MC Slug also appears on three of 2003s most intriguing under-the-radar hip-hop records.
BROTHER ALI AND MR. DIBBS open for Atmosphere Showbox, 8 p.m. Mon., Sept. 15 $15 adv./$18
Cincinnati turntablist Mr. Dibbs is Atmospheres tour DJ, so its hardly surprising that Slug appears on Dibbs The 30th Song, rapping on Thrice or that the disc appears on Slugs Rhymesayers Entertainment label. But what keeps me coming back to it is Dibbs sometimes messy, always intriguing, and usually good-humored approach to sample slaying. The albums two centerpieces, the late-90s 12-inches Delta Bound and 231 Ways to Fry an Egg, reconfigure old blues records into arty soundscapes that bring to mind what DJ Shadow would sound like if he preferred down-home funk to orchestral soundtracks, or Mobys Play refocused through an unregenerate, unsentimental, pop-unfriendly lens. And newer tracks like Captain Splatter Patty and I Hate Greg combine audacious turntable trickery with solid, mutable grooves.
Brother Alis Shadows on the Sun is even closer to home. Another Rhymesayers release, the disc also features Slug (on Blah Blah Blah and Missing Teeth) and was produced by Ant, Atmospheres beat-making half. Here, his production is friskier than it was on Sevens Travels: jumping soul horns, blues guitar runs, spidery organ, the funkiest oboe hook ever. Ali is a firm follower of Islam, and as a result, Shadows frequently recalls One for All, the daisy-age debut of Five Percenters Brand Nubian. But Ali is also an albino, which certainly makes his P.O.V. uniqueits not every rapper who can rhyme about being beaten up by white kids on the playground for being even whiter (Picket Fence). Hes also got a great sense of humor: On Forest Whitaker, he boasts, Im not the classic profile of what the ladies want/ You might think Im depressed as can be/But when I look in the mirror, I see sexy-ass me.
Omids Monolith (Mush) is a bit more downbeat, mining a stoned-slow, late-night vibe thats typical of indie raps instrumental producers. But the L.A. beat-smith knows his way around a baroque hookcheck how he dots Double Header, which features Halifax rapper Buck 65, with orchestral swirls, or the wowing/fluttering strings and theremin that underpin the ghost-babble vocal of Arrival/Departure. As for Slug, he laments on Live From Tokyo, I feel like half of a man/All in this foreign land/Living half of my life out of a touring van . . . Half of these fans probably wish that I would stop it. Not when you choose your collaborators this well we dont.