Special Teamz: Onside Kickin’ It

    It goes unspoken that Hip-Hop has been a catalyst for breaking down many of the racial divides that exist both nationally and internationally. However, nobody will deny the stereotypes that run through even the most open-minded individuals, and Boston trio Special Teamz are no exception. Whether it’s their old neighborhoods, the upcoming presidential nominations, […]

    It goes unspoken that Hip-Hop has been a catalyst for breaking down many of the racial divides that exist both nationally and internationally. However, nobody will deny the stereotypes that run through even the most open-minded individuals, and Boston trio Special Teamz are no exception. Whether it’s their old neighborhoods, the upcoming presidential nominations, or a friendly discussion of basketball greats, the combo of La Coka Nostra’s Slaine, former front man of The Kreators’ Jaysaun, and Godfather of Boston Hip Hop Edo G, still don’t always see eye-to-eye.        But don’t get it twisted; Ed, Jay and Slaine have been riding hard together for the last three years, ensuring the Special Teamz brand is imprinted on the mind of every head they encounter on their worldly travels. And despite being different colors from different hoods, and with different projects on the side, these guys are on a three-man mission to unite everyone from Boston to Budapest under the banner of a Hip-Hop Nation.        While in the midst of some last minute promotion for their upcoming, self-described classic studio album Stereotypes, the Beantown collective spoke to AllHipHop.com about the lost art of rocking crowds, why Bill Clinton is still the man, and how if it weren’t for the music, the three may never have spoken to one another, let alone took the time to listen.    AllHipHop.com: It’s been a long road for Special Teamz, from almost inking a major label deal with Universal to signing with Dru Ha and Duck Down. What was the deciding factor in that deal?Jaysaun: We had already been talking to Dru Ha before we went on tour with Sean [Price] for a couple weeks up in Canada. We were performing every night, and the vibe was good, we was feeling it. So basically we went back to Dru Ha, told him it was official and that sealed the deal. We resumed the talks and got it done.Edo G: The Universal thing, the deal was kind of taking too long, and we weren’t sure if they’d be able to promote the record and put it in the right places that we needed it to be. Duck Down, it wasn’t no choice after that.Slaine: At the end of the day, Duck Down was just a perfect fit for our record.AllHipHop.com: It’s funny that you mention Canada because I was at the show in Ottawa, and you guys have a pretty solid following, internationally. Being heavy on the road, what’s been the highlight for each of you touring the last couple years?Edo G: We always love to get out of the country. Anytime we can get out of the country, those dates are more exciting. Not ‘cause we don’t love the States, but the vibe in Canada and Europe is a little more Hip-Hop, so it kind of fits with what we’re doing.Slaine: For me, it’s always great to go somewhere you’ve never been before and seeing a new city, whether it’s Amsterdam, Zurich or London. It’s a grind too being on tour, but it’s good to make new fans and put your music out there and perform every night.Jaysaun: We were blessed, because even before Slaine came into the mix me, and Edo were going overseas, shouting the Special Teamz name out, and we had the name in a couple of songs on the Pete Rock [& Edo G. My Own Worst Enemy] album. So we were able to tour strictly on his budget. And once we solidified the whole thing with Slaine, we were able to go out again together in Europe for a bunch of countries and shows. I think that strengthened it, and we earned a lot of fans over there ‘cause we was working hard, doing two and a half hour shows at some venues.AllHipHop.com: In the past, I heard you guys speak on the live performance as something missing in the game. What’s one of the things for you that makes a show above average, and what do you think is missing from a lot of these cats’ live shows?Edo G: For me, it all started on the stage. That’s where we started at, performing doing talent shows, all different types of shows. A lot of cats are more in they crib on their computer recording, and then when it comes to doing a live show they mimic what they see on TV, ‘cause they haven’t been there. That element of us has always been there, we do shows in Boston and the surrounding areas all the time. For other dudes, they gotta get some stage presence. They might have good records, but if you don’t have good stage presence and can’t command the audience, you’re really nowhere at the end of the day. AllHipHop.com: Getting back to the album, the first single has been out a couple years, and I’m guessing most of the tracks have been done since you were sitting down to originally sign that deal. What was the reason for waiting to secure the deal as opposed to just getting the music out there?Jaysaun: Well, that’s not true. Most of the songs on the album weren’t out, with the exception of the [DJ Premier produced track] and maybe a couple more was off the mixtape. But when we got the deal with Duck Down we recorded 14 new songs, and kept 12 of them. We weren’t really sitting on three-year-old songs waiting to get them out.Slaine: We didn’t want the record to be dated, we wanted to be excited about the record. All the recording we had done over those previous years and our former label situation just got real stale, and I know me, Edo and Jay wanted to hit the ground running with Duck Down and make a real dope record. AllHipHop.com: I know this gets brought up in every interview you guys do, but I still feel like Boston is the most slept on city in terms of breaking artists and recognizing talent. I mean, the only Beantown Hip-Hop record to ever go gold was Edo’s first release [Life of a Kid in the Ghetto], so what are your goals with this album?Edo G: The goal obviously is to sell as many records as possible, and get that national, international buzz. There’s a lot of good groups coming out of Boston with a lot of good records. I think this year, towards the tail end and at the jump of the new year, there’s gonna be a lot more records coming out of Boston that got more notoriety.Slaine: The reason Boston is the way it is, it’s not because of a lack of talent. It’s just a lack of knowledge in general by artists on how to put records out, like it takes years to learn how to do that stuff, especially in a city where there’s not really an industry with a ton of labels and a ton of venues to perform at. Whereas in New York City you almost fall into learning the business at of it when you’re younger, and there’s a whole machine there put in place already in some of these cities. In Boston there’s not a lot of people to really turn to and take your lumps and get your experience. But I think that’s changing with us coming out [Termanology] doing his thing, Akrobatik and Mr. Lif, and a whole wave of young new dudes that hopefully will establish some consistency and learn the business end of it.Jaysaun: I think on your question also, out of artist from Boston who went gold, the record Edo went gold with was a classic album. And I think this record that we did, and a lot of people’s of it so far, it’s a classic album. We worked hard on it, we think it’s strong and it shows a lot of growth as far as what we did. The songs are different, we didn’t just do a bunch of gangsta songs and slap one ballad on there or some s**t. We put the effort into it, and hopefully it reflects.AllHipHop.com: Big Shug was telling me recently that the Hip-Hop community in Boston could really do more in terms of unifying, even though it’s gotten better than it used to be. And from what I saw online of the Boston Unity show, it looks that way.Edo G: Well I actually threw that show, I put it together to kind of bring the teams all together, with the young cats, the older Gs, the in-betweens, the suburbia rappers, backpackers, thug rappers. Everybody together under one roof, and let the city know that we can come together as a Hip-Hop nation in Boston and do what every other city has done.Slaine: It’s definitely getting a lot better, people are more unified now. There’s a lot of ignorance in the past, but people are starting to think differently like, what 7L & Esoteric are doing isn’t going to affect what a dude like Frankie Wainwright or Special Teamz is doing, cause everybody’s got their own lane. There’s no reason to be mad or hating.AllHipHop.com: It’s dope to me that you guys could take the interracial aspect of the group to bridge the gap and come up with a track like “Race Riot.” The track goes from Edo talking about stomping out White boys back in high school to Slaine talking about how his son will never say the N-word. How’d that track come about?Jaysaun: Those differences are in us man. We all come from three completely different places and boroughs in Boston. Edo’s from Roxbury, I’m from Dorchester, and Slaine’s from Southie. Roxbury and Dorchester have had their problems, but they’ve both hated Southie since the dawn of time. So it’s a situation where we each had to look individually at what our stereotypes are, and being interracial. I’m half Black and half Jewish, but everybody thinks I’m Spanish, hence the stereotype cover where I’ve got the boricua with the Puerto Rican s**t on. It’s a situation where I know I never would have talked to Slaine, or kicked it with Slaine or met him, ‘cause even to this day when we started f**kin’ with him and writing these songs together, me and Ed didn’t really know how to get around Southie ‘cause we never went there. It’s borders Dorchester, but we never went there. It was like if you went to Southie, “What was you doin’ in Southie? You have no business being in Southie.”Slaine: When we were growing up in Boston, and it’s not anywhere close to as bad as it used to be, but it was really racially segregated. I didn’t really hang out with nobody that wasn’t White, that’s just how it was in my neighborhood, almost everybody I was around was White. There was a lot of racial tension dating back into the ‘70s with the bussing, and blue collar people fighting for the same crumbs and people getting mad at each other fighting amongst themselves, rather than looking at the bigger picture and the bigger enemy. When really we’re the same f**kin’ people.Edo G: It’s just different pigments and different skin tones. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t for the music, we wouldn’t know each other. So we wanted to touch upon that with “Race Riot” and let the world know it’s Hip-Hop, and this is what brought us together and this is what can bring the world together. And it has.AllHipHop.com: Now, in addition to quelling the racial and regional differences, you guys are actually speaking on socio-political issues. I was reading a previous interview where you were saying you guys can’t even agree on a presidential nominee, let alone the issues.Jaysaun: It’s true. The basis behind the whole stereotypes and racial differences and divide, they exist for us too. We’ll be in the studio arguing, and I’ll tell Slaine I think Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player, and he’s like “Screw you, it’s Larry Bird.” This is real s**t that goes on with us also, we’re not sugar coating it or using it. Well, we are using it, but we experienced it, so that’s the difference.Slaine: The interview you’re referring to, I think that was a joke about the presidential s**t.Jaysaun: No, that was true. I remember that. We were saying Barack Obama and you were saying f**kin’ Giuliani.Slaine: Naw…AllHipHop: Yeah, you did say Giuliani.Slaine: I’m the most political out of the three of us, and I would never vote for a f**kin’ Republican. Even the Democrats are too conservative for me.AllHipHop: So you’re all voting for Barack then?Slaine: I’m voting for Barack unless Gore gets involved. But I still think they’re all in the pockets of the corporations anyways, I don’t trust none of those politicians really.Jaysaun: But I’ll take Clinton back. All he was doing is getting some head, blowing some trees and playing his saxophone, so he’s good with me. We was all getting money when he was in there.AllHipHop: You think Bill will still be running it behind Hillary if she gets in there?[All agree yes, while laughing]Jaysaun: I can’t say I really like Hillary, but I mean it’s still a Clinton, and I’ll take a Clinton right now, ’cause everybody else is f**ked. With a Clinton, the drugs is getting in, everybody’s having a good time. Even people who were poor aren’t mad about being so poor cause they still getting it. When the Republicans are in it’s like a f**king concentration camp, they just suck the life out of you.