Today marks 15 years since Atmosphere brought us all on Seven’s Travels. The group’s nationwide breakthrough smash saw our hometown heroes land on Best Buy shelves and Target in-store TV screens coast-to-coast without sacrificing anything that’s made us proud.
Go 95.3‘s Chaz Kangas spoke to producer/DJ Ant on Seven’s Travels’ tenth anniversary, and today we revisit the conversation about how the album changed Ant’s life, what he still loves about the album a decade later, and a few tracks that almost made the cut.
You were working on God Loves Ugly and Seven’s Travels around the same time that you were also working on Brother Ali and Musab’s records. What was the scheduling like?
It’s hard to really remember 100 percent how it all went. I feel a lot of songs on [Seven’s Travels] were leftovers from the previous years. There’s probably five songs on there that shouldn’t be on there. Back then, Slug used to tour pretty heavy, and I wouldn’t tour with him at the time, so when he wasn’t on tour I was working on stuff with other people and some mix CDs. When he got into town, we could go right back at it every weekend. The main thing about Seven’s Travels for me, though, isn’t a music thing. It’s another record I tried to do good at. It’s not necessarily my favorite one or anything like that.
The making of it is really hard to say, whenever we could get together we got together. The special thing about that record is that it’s the first time I made any kind of money [from] my craft. That was my dream, I had always wanted to be a producer, and that was one of the first times that started to become true. I never made any money on the records prior to that. That money was being invested into Rhymesayers and I still had a job as a janitor during the whole recording of that record. I didn’t quit my day job until probably a year after that record. That’s what’s special to me about that record, it really encouraged me that this could be a reality.
Do you recall the moment you had that realization?
Yeah. I was on my way to work and Siddiq asked me to stop by and pick up a check. I picked up the check and it was kind of a “good sized” one. It was way more that I’d make as a janitor. I was on my way to work and had a lot of emotion. I remember exactly, that was the moment. “This really could happen. This really is gonna happen because I’m not stopping now!” I was hoping people would like it.
One thing about that record, I love the whole “travel” theme. All the s*** he captured on his recorder, like all the pilots, those are all real things. I found one record that had an airport scene on it. Those little things, I would think “aw man, that’s pretty tight.”
I always liked that too, the nuances of the seatbelts unbuckling and the everyday life.
I’m kinda like “Yeah, that’s pretty cool” when I think about that record. Like on God Loves Ugly, I like the chicks getting in his a** and s***. That’s cool to me too.
Seven’s Travels was announced right around God Loves Ugly‘s release. Was the “Traveling” theme of the record the plan from the jump?
I don’t recall. Maybe not when we were exactly putting it together, but that became the theme when we were going. All the new songs became based upon his travels, you know? Like, some of the older songs, you wouldn’t know but may have even been done before God Loves Ugly. The newer songs were definitely going toward the travel themes. And, musically, I look at that record as kind of all over, but a good amount of a little rock sound to it.
That was your first time working with live instrumentation too, correct?
Yes, but it’s very sparsely used. And, obviously, that just started to grow and grow.
What lead to the decision on choosing “Cats Van Bags,” “Trying to Find a Balance” and “National Disgrace” to be the singles?
To me, they were the best songs. “Trying to Find a Balance” is technically the best song. It may not be the best written one, but to me, it was different for us and it was cool. That was my thing, I was into that song and I think all of us were at that time.
“National Disgrace,” the funny thing about that song, is that I felt I may have been the only one who was like “this is the s***.” I think everybody was a little more apprehensive about that song, but I really pushed that. I loved the jokiness of it, and I really liked the sound of it. At the time, I didn’t think anybody was messing with that sound. Basically, I was being selfish, those three songs didn’t sound like anything else at the time and were different from what we were doing.
You had the cameo in the “National Disgrace” video too.
That was my big debut. That was Slug’s idea. I’m super shy, especially back then I wasn’t even trying to leave my basement, let alone be on camera. That was weird.
“Cats Van” I thought was an excellent song.
I liked how, on “Cats Van Bags,” Brother Ali shouts out your mix Melodies and Memories 2 a solid two years before it got released.
(laughs) Yeah, he probably had a copy way before that ever came out. Back then we would turn something it and it would take a long time before it would come out. That’s how some songs like “In My Continental” wouldn’t belong on that record as it was made around Lucy Ford time. It’s weird how things work out. Nowadays, it’s a little more focused because we can. When we’re not touring, we’re sitting down and writing songs and that’s that. Back then, he would come over to the house, I’d play him a bunch of beats and he would spit to them whatever he had written down and that’s that. Now, we write to the music, sit down and go over the lyrics and music. Back then it was trial and error.
Seven’s Travels was the last album tour you weren’t on. What lead you to decide to eventually take the stage?
That was one of those things where Slug was with a band for a year and wanted to do a little more DJ-stuff again. I did the 10th Anniversary show and I was super scared to death, and then I did it for the Felt thing, and felt I could do this. That was my feet to the fire. It was supposed to be just that one tour, but now it’s eight years later. It’s an amazing job.
Seven’s Travels closed with the double shot of “Always Coming Back Home to You” and “Say Shh.” I spoke to Slug for Complex Magazine and he mentioned how during the making of it, you were really pushing for it to be on the record whereas he had just written it as a writing exercise. What stood out about that song for you?
The hook. The hook was the main thing at the end. At that time, it had a mood that I felt we hadn’t done yet that could be more like our sound or our lane. It was a good sound. I had no idea I was the one who made that happen, he may be exaggerating that a little.
Is there anything about Seven’s Travels you wish you would change?
I don’t know about change. I needed all of that stuff to happen. I might have done a different few breakdowns or a little different arranging. All in all, it is what it is.
Is there anything you’re particularly proud of that you think has gone unnoticed?
To be honest, I haven’t listened to it in a long time. The whole way we used to do things with the interludes and the quick cuts, people don’t normally notice that stuff. That’s fine, but I’ve always been really happy with that. Maybe that, but I don’t think there’s any song that didn’t get the right love or anything like that. Truth be told, there’s not a lot of good s*** on there, just a few things. There’s one B-Side on “Cats Van Bags,” called “Self Hate Bad Dub.” that I’ve always loved. That should have made it on the record, but whatever. I always liked that song.
We did. That was cool too. We used to try to do as many little things like that as possible. We got off on s*** like that when we used to buy records. Both of us would but 12″ inch and use to love s*** like that. We tried to keep doing that as long as we could.
I always really dug “My Songs” from the Fat Beats Volume 2 compilation.
Yes, and that’s another one I wish would have made it to Seven’s Travels. You know, you miss things sometimes. It’s just weird.