Plenty of hip-hoppers know how to write about male-female relationships, but few cut as close to the bone as Minneapolis native Sean Daley, aka Slug, half of the duo Atmosphere. Sometimes he’s tender: on “The Abusing of the Rib,” from 1999’s cassette-only Se7en–essentially an Atmosphere album released under the name of the group’s crew, Headshots–he tries to understand his lover by putting himself in her shoes, providing a sort of hip-hop analogue to Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend” (“I know she’s been put through hell / I can feel it / And I know she’s touched heaven as well / Trying to steal it”). And sometimes he’s blistering: on “Don’t Ever Fucking Question That,” from the new Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs (Rhymesayers Entertainment), he proclaims, “I love you / Don’t ever fucking question that / That’s why we’ll probably never get along / If I was better at finding the right words to say / I wouldn’t need to write these motherfucking songs.” Sounding equally like a heart-on-his-sleeve indie-rock poet (say, Jeremy Enigk with a beatbox), a son of KRS-One, and a cousin of Eminem, Slug has attracted one of the most rabid fan bases in underground rap. (He’s written about that, too: “I need to start writing pieces about other people’s problems,” he says on “It Goes,” also from Lucy Ford, “because the strangers are starting to get worried.”) Courtesy of producer Ant, the duo’s stay-at-home member, Atmosphere’s hand-tooled sound manages to be contemplative and party rocking at the same time. And despite Slug’s predilection for soul-searching, he knows when to lighten up: on “Guns and Cigarettes” he brags, “I wanna be bigger than Jesus / And bigger than wrestling / Bigger than the Beatles / And bigger than breast implants.” It’s easy to believe he might get there yet–at a recent New York show, he held the stage even when fellow indie-hop luminaries like El-P, Aesop Rock, and Freestyle (formerly of the Arsonists) jumped up to take turns at the mike. Wednesday, August 8, 6 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Emily Eagler.