VIDEO: Slaine and Ill Bill of La Coka Nostra, "It's a Beautiful Thing"
In March 2006, for the first time in years, Slaine had good reason to abstain from punishing his nostrils at suicidal rates. The then-fledgling Southie MC had spent the prior week at Lethal's crib in Los Angeles, where the House of Pain and Limp Bizkit DJ flew him to record tracks and have a break from the drug hell that he was immersed in around Southie. In years past, Slaine had fought off hepatitis-scarred junkies in detox at the Dimock Community Health Center in Roxbury. Irish hip-hop cats look out for one another; around 2000 – when he temporarily left Boston in search of a career in New York — an often-homeless Slaine (known then as John Doe) used to crash on House of Pain member Danny Boy O'Connor's couch.
On his 2006 Cali adventure, Slaine was impressed that women suddenly found his pasty round physique attractive when he climbed behind the wheel of Lethal's Beemer. But the highlight of his trip came in the studio, where Slaine's childhood rhyme hero, Everlast, was inspired to write raps for the first time since he traded his mic game for the Grammy-winning Whitey Ford persona ("It was like having a beast on each side of me at all times keeping the old man in shape," says Everlast about trading verses with Slaine and Ill Bill). Lethal laid the beats, Non-Phixion cult leader Bill jumped in the cut, Everlast lived up to his name, and Slaine — who, back home, was still squatting in a grimy Southie crack den — was on the verge of pitching for a House of Pain expansion team known as La Coka Nostra. LCN play the massive Rock the Bells tour at the Comcast Center this Saturday.
Though the crew only started recording three years ago — and took until this week to drop its debut disc, A Brand You Can Trust (Suburban Noize) — the LCN concept was born roughly half a decade ago in Danny Boy's imagination, and has since touted myriad affiliates and incarnations (past core members include Big Left and Kaves from Lordz of Brooklyn). Since conception, they've been dubbed everything from a white-rap all-star squad to a hip-hop mob of sorts. One frightening portrait features the central LCN characters surrounded by a gang of roughnecks whom Shaq wouldn't battle with a chainsaw. But despite LCN being an internationally notorious group whose members have collectively sold tens of millions of records — catalyzing an online movement that makes the 2 Girls 1 Cup phenomenon eat shit — it took more than just skills, props, and contacts to cook a convincing classic and avoid being hip-hop's answer to Rock Star Supernova.
Waking the dread
In Boston, Slaine is a hometown anti-hero; since linking with LCN, he's also dropped a money solo disc, collaborated on the critically fellated Special Teamz project with Beantown stalwarts Jaysaun and Edo G, and, as a kicker, played a substantial role in Ben Affleck's directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. Slaine also married his long-time girl and had a son, which was why the only time he could do this interview was in his car while running errands the night before jetting overseas for LCN's first European tour.
"I'm not in a good place in my head, man," says Slaine, as he honks a U-turn on Tremont Street and instructs me to listen closely to the morbid track he just mixed. "I feel like I've had my whole career stolen from me with all this digital shit. I've got the condo and the little man now — and it's hard for me to swallow what my future might hold. It's my fucking nature — when I get high I want to get higher, and when I get low I just want to get lower. I can't seem to find that place in the middle."
Unless you're familiar with his deeply disturbing solo tracks and the reliably nihilistic vitriol that LCN espouses (Everlast opens the disc by declaring that "The Pope's a pedophile with a drug habit"; on another track Bill threatens to "beat you to death with furniture"), you might expect Slaine to be a smidgen cheerier. This summer LCN smacks all five Rock the Bells dates as well as 17 European gigs, some of which are festivals that turn out crowds of more than 40,000. Locally, Slaine is a certifiable blue-collar rap star. On his errand run he picks up a pair of reserved Nike Dunks that more than 300 civilians recently waited five days in line for. Still — his pint glass is cracked, skunked, and half-empty.
"I'm a completely dysfunctional person," says Slaine. "I just don't want to ever go back to being a whore at some bullshit job. If hip-hop falls out from underneath me, then I'll fall out with it. So even if I'm about to go on the biggest tour of my life — and I might get a part in Ben Affleck's new movie — I'm not even excited. Whenever I'm doing well all I can think about are how things might get fucked up."