SLAINE IS ALIVE
As we noted a few weeks ago, earlier this month Boston rap big Slaine hosted a special listening party for his new project, One Day, to benefit the Dennis Messing Memorial Fund, a nonprofit “dedicated to helping alcoholics and addicts get 12-step treatment through support systems, treatment, scholarships, and other available resources.”
With a full gallery of fans, friends, and collaborators on hand in Roxbury, including the crew from STL GLD who, along with Reks and Connecticut rap legend Apathy, will join Slaine for his One Day release party this Friday at Brighton Music Hall, the MC broke down the genesis of his first full-length since Slaine Is Dead in 2016. It’s easily one of his hardest lyrical efforts to date, and so we asked him, the album’s producer, Arcitype, and STL GLD drummer Jonathan Ulman about the years-long process.
“This is the album we [began to record during the Slaine Is Dead sessions with Arcitype], then we decided that we needed to drop something right away,” Slaine said. “It’s changed a lot in direction since then; originally, it was all about getting sober, and now it’s about the passage of time. Most of it was recorded this year. I was frustrated [after getting sober] that I couldn’t write songs in a half-hour without the cocaine, but I hit a creative burst this year. I’m sharper, I’m more on top of my game.”
“With Slaine Is Dead, it was one of those things where Slaine needed to get something out quick and really wanted to make a statement [about his sobriety],” Arcitype said. “It’s almost like he needed to do it for himself. … A lot of stuff, Slaine was writing to nothing and coming in with verses, and I would make the beat to the cadence of the verse, which is kind of backwards. I would say, ‘What are you writing these to?’ And he would say, ‘Nothing.’”
The buzz growing around the project was infectious enough to bring in fellow musicians. “I sort of threatened [Arcitype] that if I couldn’t play drums on this record, I was going to be really pissed off and wouldn’t play with STL GLD anymore,” Ulman jokes. “We tried one song and it sounded really good, and then in the next session he was like, ‘I have seven or eight more for you to do.’”
“I used to always write to the beat in the studio,” Slaine added, “but now I get these little rhythms in my head and start writing lyrics, and Arcitype will build a beat around them.”
ON THE BUS
We have been meaning to acknowledge how truly outstanding and appropriate it is that so many MBTA buses have posters of Roxbury’s own Vintage Lee on the back. The past few years have been major for Lee, whose second project, DRAW2, dropped in September, and whose modeling for Nike and ’47 brand spurred viral campaigns and, yes, visibility on the T. Looking back on a piece about Lee that appeared in Vice in 2017, we couldn’t help but observe how the Boston artist went from being on the bus to being on the bus (emphasis ours):
I was at Boston rap blog Steady Leanin’s 2016 South By Southwest showcase, and I casually remarked to Cousin Stizz that I had heard his fellow Boston artist’s insanely addictive cut “Hennything’s Possible” a few weeks prior. Without hesitating, he rang her up. The conversation was nothing more than a bunch of shouting and laughter, but it was clear that there was already a kinship between Vintage Lee and the Boston rap community.
Vintage Lee pointed to her mom, who “was always playing old school jams and shit, like Rick James” as her route into music. The first hip-hop song that caught Lee’s attention was 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop.” When she got to high school, her main focus became varsity basketball, but rap was always an interest. “But if I was on a bus or in the cafeteria and there was a beat, then I would be rapping,” she says.