Atmosphere’s Sad Clown Bad Dub II was pretty much impossible to find. In 2000 I ended up with a ripped copy on CD. Then, some folded flyer of a mail-order catalog had copies for sale and I sent in $20 cash and waited.
Pre-streaming. Pre-online ordering of everything. It’s wild to think about what we did to find stuff that moved us. And how it mattered to have a copy, not just an illegally downloaded one, to me at least.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, Slug and Atmosphere were taking the other side of my generation’s punk rock. It was an alternative path to the other alternative path of underground hip-hop, that groups like Company Flow and then (around that time) Def Jux were taking.
It felt like going from the Sex Pistols to the Ramones in 1977. Or the Replacements to Husker Du in 1987. Same scene energy, different scene vibes. This was our version from the mid-to-late 90s on.
Slug had imagery. Poetic and midwestern. Confident yet so relatably insecure. I hate that I’m using this word before these lyrics, but the confident-yet-insecure teetering, just read:
And she still wonders why I’m so insecure
She giggles because I sleep with a body pillow
Intentions are never nothing short of pure
But there’s a price to pay when you try to live a little
That’s not what we were hearing anywhere else. Not even from the underground. Atmosphere did that s***.
I know it matters, for posterity, that Sad Clown Bad Dub II is now available on streaming platforms everywhere. I want people to hear it. It’s dated, but it holds up.
But more than anything, it holds a place. I got really excited to put this on when I heard it was out. I want to remember the feeling of hearing it and feeling seen I had 20-some years ago. Part of a scene. In the water of a movement that was taking shape.
In the way only music can, the song still takes me back: