Inside the mind of Slug Christ
The Awful Records rapper/producer ruminates on God, existentialism, and drugs
Slug Christ has a polarizing effect on people. The 25-year-old rapper and producer, born Chaz Bell, enjoys a cult-like following. His fans are called Slug Christians. Equally as many people revile his music and image. Then there are those who don't know what to think when they first encounter his music. Love him or hate him, Slug Christ's had a multifaceted career so far as a key member of Atlanta DIY rap crew Awful Records.
"For everything negative about my art there's something positive it sits next to," he says. "I have always tried to achieve a balance of good and evil in my art."
A seasoned producer and vocalist, Slug's collaborations with higher profile Atlanta artists such as iLoveMakonnen, Father, Rome Fortune, and 808 Mafia have made him one of the most talked about figures on the young indie hip-hop scene. In 2015 he released his debut full-length, The Crucifixion of Rapper Extraordinaire, Slug Christ. His forthcoming follow-up, according to a Facebook post, will be titled The Resurrection of the Sunlight Drunken Slugger.
To understand Slug Christ, one must first dig through the archives. His life as an artist has taken him from painting to playing in grindcore bands and beyond. Lyrics and titles alluding to slugs and other slimy imagery surfaced long before he anointed himself the Slug Christ. His solo output includes instrumental rap beats, 8-bit music, guitar songs about girls, and unclassifiable electronic experiments reminiscent of math rock. Whether he's hanging upside down from the rafters at a metal show or beating the shit out of music software, God, existentialism, and drugs remain common threads in his music.
Phrenia, the 2011 concept album from his technical grindcore band An Isle Ate Her, told the story of an alien race that worked to achieve immortality. When their attempts failed, the entire race jumped into a volcano only to be recycled and born again after millions of years. Mortality, addiction, and being a social outcast are dominant themes throughout songs such as his recent collaboration with producer Keyboard Kid, "I Ate All the Pills." His sense of humor, childlike voice, and slurred shaman wisdom illustrate a battle between dark and light.
"I used to be scared of dying," he says. "My family told me there was some chance of immortality through religion, and it took me a while to clear my head of that idea. All of my art deals with the struggle of human existence, the plight of knowing all this information and feeling small. Knowing you are on a rock orbiting the sun. The flip side of that is knowing that we as humans have the power to become gods and the act of creating in and of itself is god-like."
The glorification of prescription drugs in mainstream hip-hop weighs heavily on Slug Christ and drives much of his defiantly underground sensibilities. To be high on multiple drugs, particularly the now off-the-market Actavis syrup, a key ingredient in purple drank, has long been something to boast about. Look no further than Future's Dirty Sprite mixtape and chart-topping DS2 album. More recently, in the song "Panda," Desiigner's raps, "I got broads in Atlanta/Twistin' dope, lean, and the Fanta."
Slug Christ worries about the influence on young listeners, most of whom don't understand the long-lasting and sometimes fatal repercussions of substance abuse. "Everyone wants to do it for show," he says. "These kids don't even know what they are doing. They are drinking cups of heroin and I'm sure these kids that die just wanna be like their favorite rapper and it's fucking horrible."
Slug Christ says he's suffered several near death experiences from substance abuse and is compelled to weigh in on the subject. "The pop side of drug culture glorifies it. Some people think I glorify it, too, but I deglorify it. I talk about withdrawing from drugs and feeling like I'm gonna die lying in the bathtub," he says.
On first listen, his blatant drug references in songs such as "On It (Seven Grams)" and "3 Tab Shawty" can be misconstrued as obnoxious party anthems. The video for his song "Herron" sums up his intentions best with an opening disclaimer: "Nothing but death wait ahead. Slugger walks here alone and wished for no one to walk with him nor follow him. If you are already here you understand it does no good for anyone. You can crawl out of a hole you dug. OK OK."
He remains adamant that his music means to do more good than harm. "I don't pressure anyone to do drugs," he says. "Everything I do is for me. I do this shit so you don't have to. You don't have to do drugs to be cool. It can be fun, but you have to pay for it. The more you do it, the price gets bigger and bigger. Not a lot of artists talk about this side of it."
Polarizing though he may be, the Slugger speaks with truth, wisdom, and real-world experience. Love him or hate him.
Slug Christ playlist
Three pharmaceutical-grade mixtape hits
“Lately” (produced by Balam Acab/Slugger)
Balam Acab puts out records that cut straight to the soul. This collaboration with Slug Christ is a thrilling collision between two artists established in their own respective realms. The song is a collage that pulls from a carefully selected palette of sampled vocals, water sounds, and synthesizers drenched in reverb. Lyrics such as “I don’t wanna fucking die, but I don’t really want to live,” come across as both ecstatic, sentimental, and disconnected from the rest of the world. This is music for introspective moments and times spent pondering one’s own existence.
“Kill All the Cops (Even the Cool Ones)” feat. Houdinne
Houdinne Becky is like an onion: He’s an artist with many layers. He raps, sings, makes beats, remixes, and inserts ad-libs into spoken word recordings. His songs effortlessly display his lyrical wit and slow-ride musicianship. Houdinne gained many of his fans from his viral Vine page, most of whom seem quite obsessive; he even has people pretending to be him on Instagram. Lyrics like “Commandeer the drone shit/Reprogram them to target pigs/You write me ticket I’ll write you ticket for not bein’ chill,” will make you laugh, fall in love, or call the cops.
“I Ate All the Pills” prod. Keyboard Kid
Seattle-based producer Keyboard Kid is best known for his production work with Bay Area hip-hop and internet icon Lil B the BasedGod. The two met on MySpace in 2007 and have worked together ever since. His sample-heavy beats can be heard on Keyboard Kid’s “Still Evil Red Flame” and Lil B’s 6 Kiss, or on his instrumental beat tapes on his Bandcamp page. Slug Christ landed a beat on Lil B’s 05 Fuck Em mixtape back in 2013, so for him to collaborate with Keyboard Kid is a match made in Based World.