After years of gunning for the top rap spot in Boston, former foes-turned-allies Termanology and Slaine prove on their first joint album, Anti-Hero, that they will never shed their “Mass-hole” roots in Lawrence and Boston. Even if they’ve settled elsewhere; whether it be inside New York’s rap industry epicenter and the City of Angels for Hollywood’s calling, respectively. Their mutual malcontent of Hip Hop’s commercialization and unremitting love for street cinema shows this Beantown Irish-Latino connection to combine their individual cult followings built from their solo work and esteemed collaborative projects (e.g. Slaine’s work with rap supergroup La Coka Nostra, both of Termanology’s 1982 albums with Statik Selektah).
This 16-track project takes the two MCs from the wrong side of the tracks back to Hip Hop’s essence, which is striving for lyrical greatness and reflecting on life experiences through musical emotion. The lion’s share of the production on the album is mostly homegrown from Cambridge-based producer/engineer The Arcitype, Billy Loman, and beatsmith/turntablist extraordinaire Statik Selektah. The rest of the album gets additional heft from veteran producers DJ Premier, Evidence, Beatnuts’ Psycho Les, and DC the Midi Alien.
Termanology and Slaine vet their tenure and temerity as one of the underground’s best stalwarts with a one-two punch for the opening tracks “Still Here” and the album’s title track. The latter has a definitive Premo touch with symphonic five-note violin sample, punchy drums, and the iconic Gang Starr DJ’s signature scratches for the chorus as Term and Bun B come ready with vigor, then Slaine’s La Coka Nostra cohort Everlast plays cleanup with respectable bars. The third track is the most self-reflective from Slaine, who gives an autobiographical account of his road to sobriety on “Life Of A Drug Addict.”
Most of the album is a classic boom-bap affair, including the relaxed yet rewind-worthy track “Blink Of An Eye” featuring Ras Kass, where Term spits much chutzpah with a rookie mentality: “Hit the booth like I only got one chance/ Rhyming like my whole life depending on it/ I ain’t trying to lose one fan/ I’m killin’ em, you hopin’ the gun jam/ You know I’m a pun fan/ My Puerto Rock killers got dumb hands.” Other peak points on the album are the booming “Land Of The Lost,” the somber “It Doesn’t Matter” and “Came A Long Way” alongside fellow bar hungry MC, Conway.
The most cliché idea on the album’s tracklist comes in Slaine and Term’s “Snakes” featuring Psycho Realm’s Sick Jacken and crooner Jared Evan, who adds a moody hook over the mid-tempo, piano key-tickled beat. Slaine revisits his to-hell-and-back ethos on the song with his thickened Bostonian drawl: “Me, I’m still feeling like the Great Lake Michigan/ Late great Rocky Marciano throwing fists again/ Top make a clean break and escape it takes discipline/ Y’all make move for my cake ya ain’t listenin’/ I made a right bow in this game since I got in it/ Had that ice cold in my veins for a hot minute/ I out-maneuvered all you liars and thieves/ And dodged a couple bullets, I refuse to die in the streets.” Also, the album’s busiest production comes courtesy of “Bring Much Terror” (with Chris Rivers) , with its contrasting triangle bell and resounding 808 bass. It also features a repeated sample of Big Daddy Kane’s lyric from the 1988 Juice Crew single, “Rhyming With Biz.”
Bob Marley famously sang “sometimes your enemy can be your best friend, and your best friend your worst enemy.” Both Termanology’s linear domino effect of punchlines and wordplay and Slaine’s gruff delivery offer similar takes on how a lack of self-direction, overbearing selfishness, and anger is a path to destruction. But Anti-Hero taps the corner of your brain to still root for the villain to keep the fight going with the protagonists for your entertainment.