A vaulted dispatch from the first time Termanology and Slaine recorded together
Few people were surprised when Termanology and Slaine announced that they were finally collaborating on a full LP. Two of the undisputed kings of New England hip-hop for some time, they’ve rocked innumerable songs and shows together, always bringing out the best in each other.
Before they beasted cuts in tandem, however, Slaine and Term were rivals of some note—whose crews nearly went at it a few times. So when they met up at a studio in Lowell in 2008 to tag-team a track, it was a pivotal event in Boston hip-hop, and one that’s led to limitless inspired beats and rhymes in the time since.
I happened to have been there on that snowy evening nearly nine years ago. The story I produced, published in part below for the first time ever, was slated for a book about regional underground hip-hop that never came out. So when I heard that Slaine and Term were dropping Anti-Hero, I pulled the following out of the vault and dusted off my dispatch.
Before getting to the archives, it’s critical to acknowledge how some things have changed since the piece featured below was first written. Term and Slaine are both internationally known artists now, and they have careers that up-and-coming MCs only dream about. I’ll also note that Slaine has been sober for years and would probably be dead if he kept partying like he did back in 2008.
And with that, let’s hop in the time machine…
I must have been insane to let Slaine pick me up. He’s Boston hip-hop’s prize villainous goon, and he appears to be in the middle of some kind of drug-addled rampage. The more he swerves, the more I wonder just how much of a difference there is between Slaine, the rapper who reps South Boston and Roslindale, and Bubba Rogowski, the gun-toting Escalade-driving animal he played in the Ben Affleck film Gone Baby Gone.
“If that role wasn’t written for me, it was written about me,” he jokes.
For all his fights, drinking, and controversy, Slaine makes a point to bridge gaps on the local scene. Tonight we’re driving 40 minutes in the snow to a studio in Lowell to link with Termanology—another top area artist with whom he’s had negative rapport for years. Despite their both having success that reaches far outside of Mass, they have never collaborated on a track.
On New Year’s Eve 2006, Slaine and Termanology nearly came to blows at a pub show in North Station. For hours leading up to the near clash, some overzealous rap DVD paparazzi pitted them against each other, telling Slaine that Term’s ST. Da Squad crew popped shit and vice versa. When Slaine finally approached Term outside—with his crew of tattooed gangsters in tow to rival Term’s army from Lawrence—both parties noticed the instigator setting up to film the clash. In hip-hop, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown—whether you’re the king of New York, Boston, or Scranton for that matter.
Instead of biting at the bait, Slaine turned his knuckles on the cameraman who nearly caused a rumble for some footage. Within seconds, his comrade smashed the camcorder on the ground just as Slaine parked his fist inside the kid’s jaw.
Tonight—more than two years later—these two joke about the story. Term confirms: “He knocked that kid out mad fast.” It’s a perfect segue, and for the next hour they swap tale after tale about everything from crimes to rhymes.
The initial plan is for Slaine to add a verse on “Welcome to the Machine,” a track that Term first wrote about getting politically rejected by hip-hop’s elite star circle. For Term this is a major issue; despite his close ties to the influential likes of Statik Selektah and work with beat icon DJ Premier, he has yet to see a jackpot payday. This month alone he’s featured in XXL magazine and the tabloid Hip-Hop Weekly, and is even mentioned on the cover of the UK glossy Hip-Hop Connection, but major labels have yet to come knocking.
Though Slaine is sympathetic to the whole “Machine” angle, the pair decides that the occasion calls for something fresh. Term throws in a disc with possible beats, and a second round of drinks gets mixed. Then a third. After another two hours, they agree on a beat by Toronto producer Moss, and with another pair of cocktails poured Slaine grabs his pen and pad. Term rolls a blunt, asks his friend to make a Burger King run, and heads downstairs to polish up another track he started earlier.
“I used to do sessions like this for four days straight,” Slaine says as he rips a bump off his hand. “It would just be me and my producer with a bunch of coke and a case of beer. I haven’t gone that hard in a minute, but when I do, the verses just come to me one right after another.”
The track is a heavy East Coast-style jam with obscene horns and bass lines—familiar territory for both MCs. Brainstorming, Slaine designs a hook that interpolates a bar from Slick Rick’s “The Ruler’s Back.” His epiphany is inspired by one classic line in particular: “For jealousy and envy are dumb ones’ tools / So Ricky says nothing, he keeps his cool.”
Term agrees on the premise, and it’s on. The baseline for the chorus is simple: They each repeat the original rhyme but substitute their own names for “Ricky.” The jealousy angle fits; if either one of them reacted to a fraction of the frauds who tried to knock their hustles, they’d have to spend every day assaulting cameramen and wannabes. Neither one enjoys the luxuries that major label artists enjoy, but between album sales, tour money, and the loot that aspiring rappers pay them for guest verses, Slaine and Term are better off than most MCs.
Slaine’s verse begins with familiar material: personal struggle, addiction, pugnacity. The resounding theme, however, is the most classic topic hip-hop knows: blowing up and subsequently getting hated on. Term mixes up another vodka cranberry and starts to write; unlike Slaine, though, who at this point is polluted and repeating his verse loudly while occasionally stepping out into the snow to cool down, Term keeps relatively quiet and writes in a corner until they both decide to hit the lab downstairs.
This is Term’s turf, so Slaine goes first. From the jump, it’s clear their beef is squashed.
“You sounded drunk and lazy on that one,” Term says on the monitor. They both laugh loudly.
“Bring it back to the top then,” Slaine replies.
As the verse ends, the camaraderie registers: “Term and Slaine are the future, you’re all back in the past / It’s undeniable how we carry Mass on the crack of our backs / It doesn’t matter if you’re a cracker or you’re Latin or black.”
In his turn, Term relays a similar message: “Everybody that paid us for a verse or a show got exactly what they paid fo’ / So tell me what you gotta hate fo’.”
In the end, it’s apparent why these two are making moves—separately, and, if tonight is any indication, also together moving forward. They’re both pragmatic workhorses; so while they’re here to show each other up—it wouldn’t be rap if they weren’t—their priority is to churn out the tightest track possible.
You might say that this union happened just in time. Both guys are beyond the verge of blowing up; next week Slaine leaves for a three-month tour with Ill Bill and indie rap behemoth Tech N9ne, while Term has a gig over the weekend at the Knitting Factory in New York, where he’ll be jumping on a track with DJ Premier and Houston legend Bun B.
Seven hours after Slaine and I arrive, the song is finished, and all parties agree that any past problems they had were better off resulting in a banger than a blood bath. Clubs, bars, and raucous venues are hardly the place for feuds to flourish into friendships; there’s too much booze and far too many fans to impress. Studios, on the other hand, are rap sanctuaries. So long as Slaine (and I) get back to Boston alive, it’s highly possible that these two will be back together in the lab soon, applying their tremendous energy and talent to beats instead of beefs.
CZARFACE WITH SLAINE + TERMANOLOGY. SUN 10.8. MIDDLE EAST DOWNSTAIRS, 472 MASS. AVE., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$20. MIDEASTOFFERS.COM
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.