When the houselights go down and the stage lights go up rapper MC Slug and his group Atmosphere become performers, with their lips pressed to microphones and hands waving in the air.
Atmosphere will take the stage at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, in The Sanford Center Ballroom, 1111 Event Center Drive N.E., Bemidji.
To their fans, the group is known as "legends" of the hip-hop genre. But family members of lead rapper "MC Slug" see him as Sean Daley, a husband, son-in-law and father.
Cyrus Pansch, group sales manager of The Sanford Center, said, "The upcoming show proves to be a ground breaking moment for Bemidji. Atmosphere is hands-down the most influential and pioneering hip-hop group Minnesota has yet produced."
Rhymesayers Entertainment and Jade have put together a "Welcome to Minnesota" tour which features DJ Abilities, Prof., Los Nativos and Gene Poole. The tour starts in Mankato and ends in Duluth, with a Bemidji stop tucked in between Mankato and St. Cloud.
Daley's mother- and father-in-law, who live in Bemidji, will play host to MC Slug, who is married to their daughter, a Bemidji High School alumna. This will be the first time the in-laws will see Daley perform in Bemidji.
During a recent phone interview, Slug said he has had no formal music training but as a youngster, listened to the music his father played on the car radio. He grew up listening to "Prince" and "Earth, Wind and Fire," but said the progression to hip-hop or rap was natural because it is youth-oriented. He went on to say hip -hop related to him more than it did to his parents.
He and his partners, Erick "Ant" Anderson on keyboard and guitarist Nate Collins, have a new album coming out in April titled "The Family Sign." It is said to be proof that hip-hop has the potential to discuss life's virtues and disappointments. Slug is known for his ability to reach his listeners as he touches upon life's challenges: loss, love, fatherhood, disappointment and joy.
"There were a lot of kids my age who related to hip-hop even if they weren't from New York," Slug said.
The origins of modern hip-hop are said to have started in the African-American neighborhoods in the South Bronx in the 1970s. It seems to stem from a tradition of youthful boasting and spontaneous rhyming set to rhythm. Further, the terms "hip" and "hop" are from two words in African-American Vernacular English (Ebonics). "Hip" meaning "in the know" and "hop" for the movement. The birthplace of the American genre is said to have been at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx, N.Y.
Disc jockeys created rhythmic beats by looping breaks or portions of percussive patterns on two turn tables. Later a chant or poetry was added usually in 16 bar measures accompanied by vocals used to simulate percussive segments of the music among other technical effects.
"Once I learned how to do this, I realized that a turn table is an instrument, and I could say that I played an instrument," Slug said. "I strive to learn and keep my moral compass, and it's not a far cry for me to say that some of my music is cathartic, even though when people first said that to me, I had to look up what the word meant."
Slug said he looks to connect because the message is universal and not toward a particular demographic. He said the message still remains, "You can work yourself out of this; you can build something out of nothing. You can go to a party and forget that you can't pay your light bill. The rockers that these people look up to all say you can do it too! Art is usually made by the poor and consumed by the rich."
Slug said rap is an exposé of street life and there was a natural progression to Gangsta Rap as the performers told of life in the ghetto and violence on the streets - drugs, weapons, misogyny or violence.
"The movement behind this actually encourages urban youth to do something for themselves, and it is amazing how this has grown in the past 40 years," added Slug. "It's take pride in yourself even if you are down and out. It's not just a type of music, there's a lot going on behind it."
Slug promises an event that all can relate to in their daily lives.
Tickets are $21 each and are available at the box office and on-line at Ticketmaster.com or Jadepresents.com.