Columbus musician Bruce Slaughter is looking to rewrite the DIY music code.
The 26-year-old musician, producer and manager used to handle every single aspect of his musical career until he eventually ushered up the courage to contact collaborators after flying solo since 2012.
“I knew for this new project that I wanted to definitely reach out to people and get that same kind of feeling, get that same kind of warmth that you get from live instruments and live instrumentation,” said Slaughter, a 2013 Ohio State graduate in psychology.
On Slaughter’s tribute single to the late heralded hip-hop artist J Dilla, “Everlasting,” he collaborated for the first time, linking up with Rob Mason and Faheem Najieb, two jazz-minded members of local ensemble and Columbus’ Own alumni Osage. The track encapsulates a changing wave in hip-hop music; a shift away from the hard-edged street demeanor toward emcees who aren’t afraid to open up about their vulnerabilities.
Up until the release of “Everlasting,” Slaughter didn’t let any other musicians grace the soundscapes of his beats. It wasn’t because he sensed an air of superiority within his music but more so because of the fear of rejection via collaboration, the musician said.
Upon putting out the “No Crowns” EP, which also served as his first official project, Slaughter said he realized that he needed to interact with other musicians to achieve his personal goals as an artist.
“(‘Everlasting’) was my first time working with musicians at all, and I realized that when you work with musicians, they kind of feed off of your energy,” Slaughter said. “You have to give them some energy, and then once you give them energy and they give it back to you, everybody’s feeding off each other’s energy.”
Because of the incorporation of Mason’s keys and Najieb’s soothing saxophone, the evolution from “No Crowns” to “Everlasting” is evident. The latter of the two mixes a live audience clapping between short acts such as a soulful solo from Najieb or an existential verse from Slaughter.
The instruments that Slaughter was sampling in his music before using live musicians were ones that are seldom used to construct rap beats, but the genre’s shift toward the freeform spirit of jazz is a wave that the Columbus rapper has already caught onto.
Slaughter’s latest offerings represent the musicality he wants represented in his music, but they also signify his victory over the fear of rejection.
“(Mason and Najieb) taught me that when you’re willing to speak up for yourself and expose yourself and really just put yourself out there, that really the other side is not really as bad as you thought it was,” Slaughter said.
Working with artists like the musicians from Osage is something that Slaughter has been considering for a long time. His style — a melodic voice with flows that keep his verses connected at the end of each line — resembles that of an instrument itself.
On the unreleased track “Dancing On The Moon,” which will appear on his EP “Dancing Silhouettes,” set to be released in May, the Columbus rapper drops overarching lyricisms that can easily relate to struggles that an average listener might go through.
“I think my motivation to do that constantly and to always push myself and challenge myself in my music is what sets me apart, along with the fact that I’m trying to say things that are positive and say things that are good,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter said a lot of his apprehensions about becoming a rapper stemmed from the support he garnered from his family and home community upon heading off to OSU to become a psychologist. The budding musician said he thought his support system would thin out upon graduating with a degree in psychology and pursuing a career in music with no outside help.
Near the end of his third year at OSU, Slaughter said he began teaching himself how to construct beats, mix songs, create album artwork and properly record music through various books found via Amazon.
Slaughter said his perfectionist tendencies prevented him from releasing music for quite some time, and his releases over the past four years have been very infrequent. Part of the lapse in releases is because of the type of product Slaughter is trying to construct: something that he describes as intricately layered yet extremely organic.
“When you create something and you spend a year on it, you spend two years on it, months on it, in your mind it’s the best thing ever,” Slaughter said.
He then compared some of his work to rearing a child.
“I have to let my child go out into this world, I don’t know what’s about to happen to her. And you can’t hold no more; once it’s out, it’s subject to critique,” he said.
During the creation of “Dancing Silhouettes,” Slaughter mentioned that he allowed himself to be very vulnerable. On “Dancing On The Moon,” Slaughter said he wanted to go in a direction that put him in his own league of Columbus rappers.
“I really allowed myself to base the project off of feeling and how it felt to me, not off of technicalities or not off of what’s right or what’s wrong,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter will be performing at Shadowbox Live! on April 29. Tickets are $10 for general admission, with VIP seating available for $20 per seat or $80 per table. Doors open at 10 p.m.