Irish-American hip-hop artist, lyricist, famous actor, gambler, Bostonian and professional asshole!
Life is hard for some. That much is clear. The story of Irish-America is one of success and how after years of toil and racism and bigotry against them the Irish finally lifted them selves from the ghetto’s and universal success became the order of the day. Well there are two Irish-America’s and Slaine’s, real name George Carroll, is definitly the most interesting. After all it is working class Irish-American life that Hollywood likes to make TV and movies about.
Slaine’s life reads like a novel. Born in Dorchester, home of several past and present members of The Dropkick Murphys and a large Irish community, Slaine got into hip-hop at a early age
“I started writing rhymes when I was nine years old, I use to record on my boom box with a pair of headphones plugged into the microphone jack. I felt they were just words on a page because I didn’t have an outlet to perform them”
and recognising the path to stardom lay in a move to New York he later packed his bags and moved to New York City and enrolled in school. After only seven months, an unfortunate altercation between Slaine and a school employee resulted in his expulsion. He didn’t let this set him back and he remained determined and focused. Surviving on the hard lonely streets of New York City by doing anything he could lay his hand to and eventually it paid dividend and he was introduced to Danny Boy O’Connor of House of Pain. This led to him being signed to a production deal with DJ Lethal of House of Pain which led to the release of ‘The White Man is the Devil’ (‘white man’ being a reference to cocaine, not a declaration of self hate) and touring world-wide. In a very short time he had gone from living in absolute poverty with a drug habit to traveling the globe and working with hip-hop icons such as House of Pain, Cypress Hill and a whole host of others. He became part of the mostly Irish-American hip-hop collective La Coka Nostra alongside Ill Bill and all three members of House of Pain – Everlast, DJ Lethal and Danny Boy. La Coka Nostra’s debut album, A Brand You Can Trust went straight in at #84 in the American Top 200 showing that the group’s brand of blue collar hip-hop was exactly what fans were waiting for. Slaine’s name continued to grow far past his hometown of Boston due to the exposure he was receiving but as his music career grew, so did his personal battle with drugs. Overdoses, hospital visits and a spiral of drugs and violence, continued until he finally checked himself into rehab.
“Everybody had a story to tell. That was where the idea and the hunger for ‘The White Man is the Devil’ was born”
On conquering his addiction, fellow Bostonian Ben Affleck presented Slaine with the chance of a lifetime to make his acting debut playing Bubba Rogowski in the gritty portrayal of Boston-Irish life in Gone Baby Gone. Both a critical and financial success this led to Slaine going on to star in, among others, The Town, The Crack Down and Bad Blood alongside such famed actors as Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini. While scaling the heights in the acting world he returned again and again to his hip-hop roots releasing several album’s of hard hitting lyrical content and vicious delivery. His last official release was The King Of Everything Else album back in 2014 so we have have awaiting his return with baited breathe.
The EP kicks off with ‘Slaine Is Dead (Intro)’ which is in fact part of the beautiful ‘The Ballad Of Mairead Farrell’ which tells of an IRA volunteer gunned down on active service in Gibralter in 1988. One of the saddest of all rebel songs and nails Slaine’s colours to the mast from the first few seconds. I first heard this song as played by Irish-American band Seanchai and The Unity Squad and you can find their great version here . Slaine Is Dead really starts with the title song next and Slaine’s lyrics come busting straight out of his heart into the speakers at you.
“So many dark days they have ruptured my patience
I’d like to part ways but I’m stuck in the matrix
See I’ve been out of luck, so corrupted and faithless
And now without a buck I’m like fuck it I hate this
So many close calls, all these brushes with greatness
But not enough to power my spaceship
Not enough to persuade the gods right and face where they sit
As they parade the dogs of war off fake cliff
And that’s how It felt from grace, through the winds of sin
I had to go and find my wings again
While the angel of death goes and sings the hymn
As he strangle my breath, tore me limb from limb
Well you let your soul slip to the other side
Will the caterpillar turn into the butterfly?
I can see the pain falling from my mothers eyes
But I keep on falling for these fucking lies
So my mind holding on to the liquor and coke
In my fire room it’s out but there’s a flicker of hope
In these institution walls where they kickin’ the dope
I’m reminded of the power of that shit that I wrote
I walk with the devil, talking to God
Murder stories in this purgatory, coughing up blood
But I will not break, I will not fall
This is just another rhyme that I wrote on my wall
It’s been so long, you see my face
While I come back to plead my case
When I’m gone and time comes to make a leap of faith
There’s no way to keep the secret safe
That Slaine is dead”
In a career where Slaine has achieved heights that others can only dream of his music career has been mostly based on confronting both his demons and his failures. The EP sleeve features the dates 1977-2014. That is the year he was born and the year Slaine finally threw the monkey of addiction off his back and went sober. After years of dependency he was free and music and acting became his way of ensuring he was never going to return to those days. That Slaine is dead.
His life as an addict is depicted further on ‘Nobody Prays For Me’ which features Demrick and this lyrical masterpiece continues. The dictionary definition of an ‘seanchaí’ is of a storyteller
“…were servants to the chiefs of the tribe and kept track of important information for their clan. They were very well respected and they made use of a range of storytelling conventions, styles of speech and gestures that were peculiar to the Irish folk tradition and characterized them as practitioners of their art”
and Slaine is certainly a modern age equivalent of that ancient art. In the first single from the EP ‘Pusher’ Slaine takes us into the dark and dangerous world of the drug dealer. These weren’t the times that he is proud of but he’s presenting them here as a warning to others not to follow the path he trod.
‘Just The Way You Are’ features guest vocals from fellow Mass. rapper Termanology and chronicles both his battles with addiction and the effect it had upon his family and friends. ‘Knocked Down’ features Rite Hook guesting. Rite Hook is a lost son of Massachusetts himself. Years of hard living defined his early career and in 2012, he overdosed and died. His heart stopped completely, and paramedics had to revive him. A survivor in the truest sense of the word he returned to music and like Slaine it came with a newfound focus. On ‘Legendary’ (featuring Ill Bill, Vinnie Paz and Jared Evan) we can begin to see the light, for want of a better word. He’s been to rock bottom and is starting to fight back. His drive to become ‘Legendary’ has been finally achieved so we can witness his salvation on the final track ‘Coming Home’.
Slaine’s music is hard, dark and aggressive. It always has been. Irish-American life is not always ‘Shamrocks And Shenanigans’. Sometimes its hard. We Irish come from a complicated race and it’s always been true that our worse enemy is within ourselves. Our struggles with alcoholism and drugs are well documented and often are hidden behind closed doors and though the working class life that Slaine and others come from may not be one you are familiar with but it exists. Slaine has fought hard but has never walked away from his roots. He deserves his salvation.
“I love making music that means something to me, I am grateful for all the experiences that I have had- good and bad. I am lucky to be alive, but my past also made me who I am today”
Buy The EP