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Hardcore hip-hop
Slaine puts a Southie spin on rap

In the rough-and-tumble world of Boston hip-hop, itís rare for a newcomer to emerge from relative obscurity to become a player on the scene overnight. But Slaine is doing just that. The well-traveled South Boston native isnít exactly a rookie. "Iíve been writing raps since the first time I heard Run-DMC and Kool Moe Dee when I was nine in 1986," he says. "Iíve actually been MCing since I moved to New York at 18."

The influences he mentions are clear in his raspy delivery of sharp rhymes that deal in diverse topics. "I rap about whatever is going on in my life at the time I sit down with a pen. For a lot of my life, that has been drugs and all the things that go with that: selling them, using them, addiction, detox. I rhyme about pain, alienation, depression ó the poverty and struggle to survive that my lifestyle put me in at certain times. But as a writer and a human being, I think you have so many experiences and emotions to draw upon. I also write about love, lust, hope, violence, disease, death, money, politics, race, religion, and whatever else I feel is stepping on me that day. I mean, other times, I just enjoy rockiní party shit, or rhyming because I love rhyming"

As a hip-hop fan, Slaine doesnít like a lot of what heís seen happen in the music. "Itís in a funny spot right now. There have only been a few classic records made since the late í90s. Thereís tons of commercial garbage, and I am not one of these people who hates on an artist once they get big. I like Jay Z, Nas, Eminem, and 50 Cent. Itís like artists gotta aim songs at the 18-to-24-year-old female demographic to make sure they stay relevant to their label. Do you think any of the old classics would blow up if they were made today? ĎThe Choice Is Yoursí by Black Sheep, for instance? I think not."

But his old-school ethic and distaste for the state of major-label rap hasnít turned him into a retro act with an out-of-date style. Slaineís aggressive flow, wordplay, and imagery appeal to underground purists and mainstream audiences alike. "Some listeners want to hear about guns and drugs and some want to hear about a broader range of issues. There is room for everything. I have the experiences to touch on both sides."

Those experiences include ties to the New York hardcore scene, an odd place for a rapper. Slaine is even working on a collaboration with members of Hatebreed. Although independent hip-hop and hardcore may be musical worlds apart, they have a similar ethic that appealed to him when he lived in New York. "I moved to Queens when I was 18 and ran with a notorious hardcore crew called DMS. They are my brothers, and the cats I ran the streets with in New York. DMS are the kings of the New York hardcore, with bands like Madball, Agnostic Front, Dmize. Hatebreed is down with us. We are a close-knit crew who go to war together and pull each other up any way possible. Thatís my hardcore background. And in New York, hip-hop and hardcore are related in that they are both street culture.

"I certainly have been at this a long time, and I think it seems like Iíve come out of nowhere because a lot of my opportunities have crumbled in the past. I was in New York until four years ago, so that is why Iím just becoming a staple on the Boston scene now."

Crumbled opportunities are a part of any emerging music career, but Slaine has been mentored by two local heavyweights whose endorsements give instant credibility. Veteran rapper Edo G and Jaysaun of Bostonís Kreators were so impressed that they asked Slaine to be the third member of their new supergroup Special Teams. "When I came back from New York after all those years, I didnít really know anyone in the Boston hip-hop scene. Apparently, Edo was impressed with my demeanor and my abilities. Originally, we talked about doing a song about the racial climate in Boston, since heís from Roxbury and I grew up around white parts of the city like Southie, Dot, and Roslindale. But we didnít get on it right away. We would see each other at shows and be like ĎOh we gotta get up and do that.í "

With Special Teams signed to former House of Pain/Limp Bizkit DJ Lethalís new Lethal Productions imprint, Slaine is now in a position to follow through on that project and anything else the trio have in the works. Lethal has signed on to produce the album, and DJ Premier, Jake One, and Pete One are also set to contribute. So, will Slaine be Bostonís next big hip-hop success story?

Issue Date: March 4 - 10, 2005
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