"On the Day of Atonement the high priest confessed the sins of the people while laying his hands on a goat. The guilt-laden scapegoat was then expelled from the community into the wilderness, bearing away their iniquities."

-The Story of Isaac-

The irony here is that in the original story, the scapegoat was set free without punishment. I mean, a goat doesn't really know that the sins of all the people in the village have been heaped upon him by the priest, does he? All he knows is that his buddy back there, the Lord's goat, is getting his ass gutted while he's being let free in the wilderness. The folks think he's taking all their little sins with him and giving them a fresh start; but all the goat knows is, "Hey, hey, hey. Another day! I think I'm as horny as a goat. Right Now!"

So, the "escape goat" is free and clear. Today, the scapegoat must endure all the punishment which was meant for others. . . . . How did this phrase get so turned around?

Overcast! came out in 1998, Atmosphere's "debut LP" consisting of some new material and some re-used material from assorted EPs and mixtapes that had hit the Twin Cities music scene over the few years previous. Scapegoat is the only song from that era that has remained a routine part of Atmosphere's live performances. That's no coincidence; not only did Atmosphere's second emcee Spawn leave the group after Overcast!, Slug took the Atmosphere project in a markedly different direction. 1998's Atmosphere was edgy, dark, angry, super-intelligent head rap. Slug was the poster-child for the kind of experimental hip-hop that was coming out of a new West-Coast transplant camp known as Anticon, but in the years following Overcast!'s release, Slug began to redefine himself. His music grew both more accessible and more introspective, and Slug found himself at the center of an entire new hip-hop genre called "emo rap".

But there are some parts of your past that you can't walk away from, and for Slug, this song is one of those examples. An expression of angst and disillusionment with the hip-hop scene and with the world in general, the song became an anthem for Slug's audience, and he's been performing it steadily for more than half a decade.

The beat is sparse and minimalistic, a scratchy, eerie, one-note-at-a-time piano loop playing over some drums. The only voice other than Slug's that appears on the track is a sample of KRS-One speaking, looped and scratched.

When performing it live, Slug and his current hype-man Crescent Moon like to segue into the song through a bit of word-play during another popular song, Like Today. The crowd always goes nuts for the song, rapping along to every word, and very nearly drowning out Slug's microphone-amplified voice.

In 2003, I saw Atmosphere perform four times, and I purchased two DVDs containing Atmosphere performances. Slug did this song at every one of those shows, and he never performed more than the first verse.

In 2002, when Atmosphere released their third album God Loves Ugly, they toured in support of the album, and brought a video camera or two on the road with them. The results of that footage are the tour DVD Sad Clown Bad Dub 4. Two performances of Scapegoat are interpolated together for one scene of the DVD. Both audiences are incredibly hot, and Slug is clearly amazed at how great the response is to the song. In the scene, he breaks off from performing at the end of the first verse and expresses disbelief to his audience that they're giving him so much love for a song he recorded more than four years earlier. He holds up a copy of Overcast! and asks how many people in the audience have heard the album, to an overwhelming response. He continues on, asking his audience: "We're all friends here, right?" and, after hearing their agreement, asked "How many of ya'll downloaded that shit?" At least a hundred people screamed their acknowledgement. The scene ends with Slug looking at his audience in disbelief.

"Aw, hell no. Each of you owes me two dollars!"

It's been a long road, and in some ways nothing has changed.

It is in this spirit, and in the spirit of fair use, that I have included only the first verse of the song in this writeup.

Artist: Atmosphere
Album: Overcast!
Song: Scapegoat

[ Slug, rapping ]
It's the caffeine, the nicotine, the milligrams of tar
It's my habitat, it needs to be clean
It's my car
It's the fast talk they use to abuse and feed my brain
It's the catbox, it needs to be changed
It's the pain
It's women
It's the plight for power
It's government
It's the way you're giving knowledge slow with thought control and subtle hints
It's rubbing it, itching it
It's applying cream
It's the foreigner, sight seen with high beams
It's in my dreams
It's the monsters that I conjure
It's the marijuana
It's the embarrassment, displacement
It's where I wander
It's my genre
It's Madonna's videos
It's game shows
It's cheap liquor, blunts
It's bumper stickers with rainbows
It's angels, demons, gods
It's the white devils
It's the monitor, the soundman
It's the motherfuckin' mic levels
It's gas fumes, fast food, Tommy Hil, mommy's pill, Columbia House music club, designer drugs, and rhymin' thugs
It's Bloods, Crips, fives, six
It's stick-up kids
It's Christian-conservative terrorists
It's porno flicks
It's the east coast
No, it's the west coast
It's public schools
It's asbestos
It's mentholated
It's techno
It's sleep, life, and death
It's speed, coke, and meth
It's hayfever, pain relievers, oral sex and smoker's breath
It stretches for as far as the eye can see
It's reality
Fuck it, it's everything but me

[ Chorus ]
On and on and on and on ...
The list goes on and on and on and on (3x)

Scape"goat` (?), n. [Scape (for escape) + goat.]

1. Jewish Antiq.

A goat upon whose head were symbolically placed the sins of the people, after which he was suffered to escape into the wilderness.

Lev. xvi. 10.


Hence, a person or thing that is made to bear blame for others.



© Webster 1913.

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