SPECIAL TEAMZ PLAYA: “I am not afraid to go to the hospital because I’ve pushed myself too hard.”
Trying to get to the bottom of one of the Boston scene’s more controversial rappers is no easy feat. Like a lot of artists, Slaine keeps odd hours. A typical day in the studio starts in the evening and doesn’t end until most people are leaving for work. He’s been known to work through the next day, and sometimes into the following one, like a maniacal professor wrapped up in a radical experiment. But, slowly, he lets the details slip.
Slaine is 28 and he hails from South Boston. With his big frame and icy stare, his shaved head, and those tattoos running up both arms, he can be intimidating. Yet there’s something calming in the storm of the eyes. He can be humble and kind, and he has a reputation for getting on well with other rappers in town. Still, the vivid detail with which he describes crime is a reflection of the world he grew up in. The streets run through his veins and his rhymes. So does his complex personality.
Lyrics are his outlet. He’s an emotional rapper. He can engage in social commentary and philosophize about the nature of the streets; he can also wax misogynistic, and violence is integral to his worldview. Did I mention he’s still dating his childhood sweetheart, a schoolteacher?
It’s a Monday night, and Slaine and High Society Recording Studio producer Matty “Trump” Harris are arriving at the Armory, a studio with top-notch amenities hidden from the street in the middle of industrial Worcester. After we’ve watched several episodes of HBO’s Entourage on the flat screen, it’s time for Slaine to finish the follow-up to his White Man Is the Devil Volume I mixtape, which sold more than 6000 copies with no distribution or marketing. He’s calling the new one White Man Is the Devil Volume II, Citizen Cain and planning to celebrate its October 12 release with a party at the Middle East.
The Budweiser flows, cigarettes smolder; Slaine is antsy, rapidly tapping his foot while Trump loads the backing. But once the beats begin, everyone’s bobbing his head, and Trump mixes tunes as they narrow down the list of tracks. “I’ve never seen someone work as hard as Slaine,” Trump says — and he’s worked with some of the best in the game, from Edo G and Krumbsnatcha to Fat Joe. “The kid has drive out his ass — at certain points it’s annoying. You just want to go to sleep and he won’t let you.”
White Man Volume I was the first in a proposed trilogy that will follow Slaine through a drug bender. Equating “white man” with “the devil” is both his metaphor for the evils of cocaine and the prejudice he’s encountered as a white man in the largely African-American world of rap. “The trilogy is focused around my life before and leading up to a bender that lands me in the Dimmock, which is a detox in Roxbury, and then what happens after I get out.” Volume I begins fast-paced and funny but gets more depressing as it goes on, much like a coke bender. Slaine says that Volume II will be the darkest of the trio. “The album starts with me still awake on this bender and getting a new bag. Toward the end it gets haywire and I end up in detox. Volume III, which is called the Unholy Progression, will be more adrenaline-filled and begins with me back out on the streets and attacking this hip-hop game. It is all a true story.”