Atmosphere MC Slug has gained some much-needed perspective since the release of 2005's You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having. "The identity that comes with [being a rapper] carries a lot of self-entitlement," Slug (AKA Sean Daley) says from his South Minneapolis home. "That's a good thing. It's part of what makes a 16-year-old a dope MC by the time he's 24 — that belief in self. But you can't do that forever."
At one time cocooned in alcohol and excess, Daley has recovered from the hangover and set about his business with a renewed purpose that's evident on his latest, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. His best-selling release to date, it reflects a change in sound and narrative style. In fact, it's arguably his most personal album. In the past, Daley's raps were primarily first-person, but he wasn't the guy who raged against his ex, Lucy Ford, in numerous songs, or staged ill-fated post-show hookups with groupies ("Hair," off 2003's God Loves Ugly). Yet the line between himself and the characters he played onstage became blurry, as he acknowledges on Lemons' "Me," which he calls one of his most autobiographical songs despite the fact that it's told in the third person.
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Some songs even veer closer to singer-songwriter fare than the underground "backpacker" rap with which he's always been associated. "At a certain age, you don't get to pick an identity anymore, I'm starting to realize," Daley says. "I stopped being a backpacker awhile ago, when I hit 30. I'm not really anything. I'm fucking 36, a dad, and a homeowner. Besides, every time I wear a backpack, it fucks up my left shoulder."