“I basically put myself in the shoes of those who I’ve known that have spent time out there and told a few of the stories that just aren’t getting told.”
It’s not unusual for hip-hop artists to paint pictures of their environs, whether glamorous or tragic. From Nas brushing strokes based on scenes outside his housing project window, to any number of rap artists shouting out their block.
Methadone Myles, a new concept album from the Supervisor and produced entirely by Chairman Chow about the cycle of death, addiction, and hope for rehabilitation in the Hub, follows in that storytelling tradition, but with a rare specific focus on a certain place and time—namely, the crosshairs of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Mass Ave, which, due to its proximity to so-called recovery drug services and other contributing factors, has become Boston’s skid row and an open-air opioid market over the past decade or so.
“It’s a concept album about that infamous stretch,” the Supervisor says. “I basically put myself in the shoes of those who I’ve known that have spent time out there and told a few of the stories that just aren’t getting told. It’s an amalgamation of different people I’ve known who have been on the mile, from 2016 to this last year when the last kid I was close with finally got off. I made sure to stay in my lane to the point where I’m not talking about anything I haven’t seen with my own two eyes or heard about directly from those who have lived it.”
In time, he and Chow decided on six tracks for the final EP. The Supervisor recalls, “The structure came about just as a process of paring it down. I had 150 more bars that didn’t make it onto this record. I asked, Is this something I have seen with my own eyes? Or, Is it something someone told me? If it was just something someone told me and I didn’t know it to be true, that’s the stuff I threw away.”
Having covered hip-hop as well as the opioid epidemic in Mass for nearly two decades, I attest that Methadone Myles stacks up in both lanes. Chow’s beats are solid boom bap screwed back to minimalist perfection, making for a proper space for his MC to explore so much bleakness. Which the Supervisor does in the kind of explicit detail that only an insider could possibly be privy to, not just in his name-dropping the gamut, from trap corners to halfway houses, but in the compassion he has for the characters whose paths he crosses.
“It just comes from the position I’m in,” he says. “I’ve never lived out there, but I’ve been around it—my entire life has been shaped by this epidemic and again, I feel like a lot of these stories aren’t told. I read an article today in the Herald that was pretty much uniform in that they don’t dive too deep into the lives of the people living [on Mass and Cass]. It’s just about what action the government is taking. So what I wanted to do was point out the real life experiences people are going through and to talk about the entities down there helping.”
“The reason we chose these organizations is because they’re helping people survive, and Pine Street is a place where you can be if you want to be out of that mix,” explains the Supervisor, who himself has tried to help multiple friends battling hard addictions. “What’s going to help is getting people off the mile. You really have to traverse quite a maze. It’s not easy and there’s a lot of pitfalls along the way.”
“I’ve had the idea for this record for years,” he adds. “It’s a little more serious and it’s a different experience creatively than what I’ve done before, but in hip-hop we have all these tropes, and that shit gets tired after a while.”
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.