30 Days, 30 Songs: Day 8 – Illicit Substances

Welcome to my new musical series for 2021, “30 Days, 30 Songs.” Follow me this year as I blatantly steal this Instagram challenge all in the name of good music and good fun. Every other week, I’ll cover one or two or more topics from the list (see here for a refresher), allowing them to percolate over musical memories, nostalgia, and whatever else comes to mind in the moment. And now, gimme a beat boys to free my soul, I wanna get lost in this rock and roll!

Day 8: A song about drugs or alcohol

A song I like about drugs and/or alcohol is “National Disgrace” by Atmosphere.

I don’t pretend to know anything, but I do know that in and among Atmosphere’s songs from the 2000s, liquor tends to be a feature in frontman Slug’s lyrics. Sometime it’s just in the background, and sometimes, like here with “National Disgrace” it’s the driving force.

Though, it’s certainly arguable that the song isn’t about being young, drunk, and stupid – that it’s more about having the freedom to be young, drunk, and stupid. But again, what the hell do I know? I’ve been there, and I’ve no wish to be there again, and this fact is also clear in Atmosphere’s (and Slug’s) musical evolution. We all need to grow the fuck up at some point.

But the song itself is really interesting. Out during the first-coming of reality TV and before the age of YouTube, it praises the nascent, arrogant bastards who are just out for themselves. Those who just want to “get drunk, party, and have some fun.” Add a dash of moderate fame to the mix, and hoo boy, look out! American artists have put out plenty of national anthems that have nothing to do with the stars and stripes; rather, they profess that individual and free are the way to be. And if you play the “right” cards, drink all the “right” stuff, and know all the “right” people, shit, you can reach the top of the world. “Do what you like, don’t nobody care,” Slug says, “it’s a sign of success only in America.” Sure, maybe you’re actions might lead to being labeled a “disgrace,” but that’s a label you can wear with pride! You do you, as they say; and if you need to be drunk to be you, that’s just how it is.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend being drunk when listening to this song, or anything by Atmosphere, really. I have to then a second shoutout here for the song “The Skinny,” which considering the topic, came to mind concurrently with “National Disgrace.” I’ve never smoked cigarettes (okay, except for that one time accidentally), and this song just puts that pastime into a whole new, repulsive light. It’s one of the most lyrically visceral tracks I’ve ever heard. Genius and madness, it is.

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