You hear many times from various people that art saved their life. For Boston MC Slaine, it has served as his way to express himself and cope with life’s trial and tribulations since the age of nine. Rap music has allowed him to deal with emotions like divorce and father hood and the tough times we all face, living the Hell on Earth. Life is good for Slaine, who has done a few movies since his screen debut in Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone, but don’t for a moment think that Hollywood could extinguish the flame of a Master of the Dark Arts. With multiple projects, including the recently dropped La Coka Nostra album Masters of the Dark Arts (review coming, I promise), a collabo album willed with Boston’s best street emcees and a solo project coming, Slaine isn’t dropping the mic any time soon. Planet Ill caught up with him to talk about all of this and more. Let’s go.
Planet Ill: Slaine, formerly of Special Teamz
Slaine: Yup. Still on Special Teamz. We might actually do another record in 2013.
Planet Ill: I’m sure the streets are looking for the so that’s a good thing. You got a lot of movie time on you. How does acting differ from rapping?
Slaine: I think the two are totally different live performance wise, because really both of those are live performance. That’s the similarity of them Live performance on stage when you’re rhyming is much more dramatic. In other words, if you’re performing in front of 4000 people or 500 people or 25,000 people you have to project. You have to relate to them in the moment at that time so you’re performing would have to be much more powerful in the fact that you have to be more exaggerated. When you’re acting, it’s when people watch you back acting, the screen is big your head fills the whole screen. If you move your head, if your eye twitches, or if you make a certain look it says something that’s as powerful as screaming into a microphone in front of 60,000 people. So you have to be more subtle in your acting.
It’s two different mediums (sic). There’s a lot of differences between the two but that’s the main difference. Acting is much more subtle. Every movement is projected by the camera and you have to be mindful of that.
Planet Ill: So acting you go within and on stage, you go without?
Planet Ill: What is the difference between rhyming by yourself and rhyming in the group dynamic and not only that, but rhyming in different groups? How do you get used to that kind of style?
Slaine: You always gotta start at the baseline that you gotta be yourself. So once you’re there, you’re pretty much good because there are different parts of yourself and I think everyone would agree with that. Put it this way. When you go and see some of your older relatives or whatever and it’s Thanksgiving, your sense of humor and your jokes and whatever is going to be different from when you go and you’re hanging out on the street corner. It’s still you, but it’s different parts of you.
I think like with the group dynamic you got a broad social experience. When you’re working in the studio with other people I think my wit, my humor might be a little bit more on point in a group dynamic. Not always but you generally stick to topics that everybody in the group can cling to. That would also be a difference from working with two different groups. The dynamic of what those individuals’ perspectives are on a certain topic dictate how the song comes out.
With Special Teamz there are certain things that are very like Boston-centric that you gotta be [from] Boston to get; that you gotta be from Boston to spit. And then there’s some things that I think that me and Bill have a similarity. There’s differences, too but there are certain similarities in our experience in Hip-Hop being kind fo hard-headed white boys. That aspect of it can come out that you wouldn’t necessarily hear when it’s me, Ed and Jay.
So there’s different experiences that can relate in different groups and you’re willing to get that in that setting. With Edo I think if Edo is doing a track with Mos Def and Common Sense and they were doing a socio-political kind of track I would expect that would be a different side of Edo G that you’d hear than Edo G with Slaine and Jaysaun. So I think sometimes that’s why people love certain groups when certain artists get together that’s just like a chemistry that they love. And that’s what it is; a personality thing.
As for my solo stuff, I say things on my solo projects that I wouldn’t burden the rest of the group with. Like there’s a joint called “Black Horses” on my last album. I wouldn’t talk about some of that stuff in a group setting because it’s so specific in my personal life that it would almost be…like if I went in and spent a verse like that and then came out of the booth, it would be like this, “Well what do you want me to say after that?” that shit is too specific. And it’s worse if someone else goes in and spits something personal and specific to themselves. It’s like where is this song going? It’s like an emotional spill. With different people, I don’t think it works like that.
A lot of the stuff that’s super ultra-personal, I put it on my solo records. You know there’s also times when I’ll try something that someone in one of the groups is not feeling beat-wise or hook-wise that I really like, then I’ll say fuck it, I’ll do it myself when I come back in.
Planet Ill: Actors get paid up front. Rappers gotta go through residuals and all kinds of other shit before they get their money. Why do you rap?
Slaine: Actually at this stage of the game I enjoy acting more. A lot more than rapping. I need Hip-Hop more than I need acting. Personally. I’ve been doing this since nine years old. I have to do it. It’s going to sound bad in print but I don’t really know how to control my emotions. You get that feeling where, like I’m going through shit with the state today. Like I’m on the road so much, things pass by and I fucking forget to pay things and then all of a sudden my license is suspended and my registration’s in danger. I’m like, “Whoa, Whoa what the fuck!”
Just little bullshit stuff. There’s a million things you’re going through with the family situation, ex-wife situation; with a sick friend or a drug-addicted friend. Or a family member that keeps getting locked up or an illness. You just keep getting that feeling. I don’t know how to deal with those feelings without writing. Without going into the studio. It’s the only thing that makes me feel better; it’s the only think that makes me be able to clean the slate and say, “Aight, I‘mma get up tomorrow and like it’s a new day. Let me move this shit out of the way. Let me figure out how I’m going to deal with this. If I didn’t’ have music, I wouldn’t know how to do that because that’s the way I’ve been coping with everything since I was nine years old so if you take that away from me then what else am I supposed to do?
Planet Ill: Masters of the Dark Arts. Is that allegory for Black music or is it something else? I don’t know if you’re a practicing Catholic, but I know some of your guys have converted to Islam, I know Lethal is Russian Orthodox…
Slaine: When Everlast was in the group we had a Muslim, two Jews and two Catholics.
Planet Ill: Sounds like the beginning of a joke. You got a Muslim, two Jews and Two Catholics…
Slaine: I know right! They walk into a bar or they start a rap group. But nah man Masters Of The Dark Arts has nothing to do with race or anything like that or religion either. I think that we’re known for is our music is dark. Not just as a group but if you listen to Ill Bill’s solo stuff, if you listen to Non Phixion’s stuff, if you listen to my stuff, it always usually has dealt with a lot of dark things. Just the answer I gave you before about dealing with the dark things and the harder things that you have to deal with in life. I think that’s kind of what we do.
I know personally, because I’ve used that as a coping mechanism, and Hip-Hop has been the thing that has propelled me. I mean you’re talking about me acting now; I would have never been in movies if it wasn’t for Hip-Hop music. I didn’t’ go and start auditioning for movies. There was an article about my music in the newspaper> Ben Affleck read a story about me. And then he called me in to audition for Gone Baby Gone. So I think really what this album is about we tackle we do a specialized kind of talking about the dark side of things in music, but really where it’s brought us to. You know we’re grown men now. Most of us with families and we have made it through a lot of difficult things through this music. And that’s where we’re Masters of the Dark Arts.
Planet Ill: Where do we go from here? What’s next?
Slaine: Well I think we all have different projects and like I said you have different chemistries with different people. Bill, I know has a solo album which is dope. Man when you hear it, he’s got production from Pete Rock, Premier, El-P, Large Professor. I mean it’s crazy. Juju from the Beatnutz. He really went in on this record. I don’t want to spoil his record with an explanation of his record but his record is really like a return to the essence in my eyes and it’s amazing man it’s a great record. Bill is just such an amazing artist.
So you’re going to go to his thing and that’s the beautiful thing about the way this business is now. You just kind of do your own shit and then you come back to the crew. Like you said formerly of Special Teamz, me and Jaysaun have been in the studio together. I’m actually like managing Jay right now and helping him put this solo album together. You know Edo’s my homie forever, he was on the last album, we just did a song together six weeks ago and it looks like we’re both doing another record so you can always go back to that dynamic.
But for me I’m finishing up this album called The Boston Project, which is almost done. Basically it’s an album. I love Boston. Coming up here in Hip-Hop is so difficult because there really hasn’t been anybody to make it. You know Edo and Guru did, but Guru was based out of New York.
Planet Ill: I talked to Edo about that a while ago, I know how it is in Bean Town.
Slaine: It’s difficult man and there’s always been a certain kind of Hip-Hop that came out of Boston and I know a lot of people in the city, especially a lot of Street rappers around here, feel neglected. A lot of the clubs haven’t allowed us to grow as artists, and that’s a fact. The clubs stay away not from just Blakc artists, but aggressive Hip-Hop music in Boston. And also Black artists. To not mention that would be a lie. So with this album basically it’s a Slaine record in the sense that I’m on every song, but every song is a collabo with different Boston artists that I think are dope that haven’t gotten a chance or haven’t been heard outside of Boston. Most of them are known in Boston and basically I just wanted to make sure when you hear this record it sounds much different than the Coka album. We recorded them at the same time, too.
I just really tried to put my sound on it but let everybody that ‘s on the songs put their stamp on it and we made all the beats in the studio form scratch with whoever was in the studio at that time. So I’m looking forward to putting that out this Fall and then I got my next solo album which I’m recording right now coming out this Spring. I’m really looking forward to it.
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