What was your earliest hip hop memory?
I remember kids in my neighborhood in Dorchester break dancing on cardboard in 1983. Turns out one of them was Donnie Wahlberg. I thought that shit was cool & in the following years I would hear Run-D.M.C., but getting a copy of a Beastie Boys tape somebody had dubbed for me was what really sealed the deal. I wrote my first rhyme after listening to License to Ill.
Who’re some of your biggest influences when it comes to making music?
Well the Beasties were my first influence obviously but there were so many after. I was fascinated with all the different styles of rhyming from Slick Rick to N.W.A & Ice Cube particularly. That was just the beginning though because it would become almost an obsession to study the rhyme schemes, storytelling, mic presence and breath control of emcees like Rakim, G Rap, Big Daddy Kane & later Nas, Big, Pac, RZA, B-Real & Everlast…I loved the individuality each guy brought to the music. I also studied the structures they used & learned rules to it and when each guy would break those structures and rules effectively for a purpose. That goes for the craft anyway. My life situations & surrounding would later be my biggest influence & that is what continues to inspire & influence me today.
Where did your stage name originate?
I used to go by Jon Dough. I was given that name because I was pale & looked like a dead man. I came to find out that there were a couple other guys with the same name though. One day I showed up at the Lordz of Brooklyn studio the record & Kaves had a logo drawn up with theme Slaine. Same meaning but it was also an Irish comic book character. It’s been that ever since.
How did you get involved with La Coka Nostra?
DJ Lethal signed me to a production deal in 2003. I had met him through Danny Boy, who I had met in 1999 at CBGB’s in NYC. I went out to LA & crashed on Danny’s couch while we recorded. He had also simultaneously signed Big Left & a kid named Optimus & we kind of naturally started recording together. The name La Coka Nostra started as an inside joke. Danny put together some images & logos on Myspace & it started to catch fire. Not too long after I was recording, Everlast & Bill came into the picture & it evolved into what it became. That’s the short version anyway.
You’re also an actor as well. Is there anything that made you wanna go into that field also?
I always loved movies. I went to film school for a year in NY to study screenwriting & directing, but was forced to leave at the end of the first year. I kind of abandoned that dream after that as music began to play a big role in my life. 10 years later when the Boston Herald did a story about my music & the formation of La Coka, Ben Affleck saw me in the paper & called me in for an audition for his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone & the rest is history. I guess it was one of those things that was just meant to be.
Your 4th studio album One Day just came out recently. What was it like recording it?
It was a long process over the course of 5 plus years to get my legs underneath me in the studio again after I got sober. I struggled with my confidence for the first time in the studio & started to feel like maybe I had an issue with not having the passion I once did. There was a series of difficult events in my life this year that pushed me to write. And I started to really need to make music again. One Day started coming together in a way that I could not have foreseen. I think it’s my best work to date.
What’re your plans going into the new decade?
Oh I don’t know, man. Just trying to make it through one day at a time. That’s as much as I can handle. When I start planning & worrying about the future & my head gets going, that’s not a great place to be in. The time is now. The time is always now.