Review Fix chats with rapper Slake Dransky, who discusses his origin in music and more.
About Slake Dransky:
Originally from Muk-el-tee-oh, Washington (a little-ish town just north Seattle), Slake Dransky makes the music that feels right to him. His rap is flecked with different shades of his favorite artists and inspirations, but there’s no doubt the music is deeply personal to him, and the product is a colorful sound with a little something for every ear. If you want to think a bit, dance a little, maybe just flail for sec, catch Slake on stage in his element where it all comes together.
With four projects under his belt, Slake can’t be stopped. His 2017 mixtape Spoonerism set the stage for his musical intuition. In 2018, he came back harder in his self-titled mixtape, the birthplace of the crowd-favorite “Yada-Yada”. In 2019, he showed his range with the harmonic stylings of Play It Loud, I’m Sleeping.
After years of dropping mixtapes and EP’s, collaborating with friends, and throwing together basement bangers, Slake Dransky will be releasing his first studio album, Colors, in 2020. Fair warning, it’s going to be a hot one.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
Slake Dransky: Back in the early high school I listened to Acid Rap and The Marshall Mathers LP within a short time of each other, and I remember they both absolutely fucked me up. I didn’t understand how people could bend words and phrases like that. I already fucked with Kendrick’s “Section 80, Cole’s “Born Sinner”, obviously Macklemore was inescapable in Seattle, but Acid Rap and MMLP genuinely sparked something in me.
I started writing bars and bars of basically nonsense just to play around with words. No hook, no intent to share. I don’t even think I realized what I was doing, it was just fun to me. I would freestyle with some friends in high school after we’d smoked a little, and sometimes we’d fuck around and write a track, but nothing ever came of it. That impetus stayed with me though. I was asked to speak at my High School graduation, and of course I wrote this whole-ass Dr. Seuss-y limerick for my speech, but people fucked with it! Looking back I’m sure it was cheesy as hell, but the response gave me this initial boost of confidence that I could actually write.
Fast forward to college, I met some creative homies who I could keep fucking around with, musically, a couple good homies and I recorded this ridiculous track called “Beyond 076” uploaded it to soundcloud, and eventually people started to know me as the acting major who could also rap. Next thing I knew I was learning how to write hooks and choruses and actual tracks as opposed to the wall of lyrics I’d always been writing. When you look back at my first mixtape I think you can definitely hear a kid who’s just trying to rap out of his shoes. The songs weren’t great, but the bars were dense. I also want to give a lot of credit to my credit to my homie Jason LoCricchio (who’s currently an artist out in Nashville). We make different music, but he always encouraged me to actually make a project and put something out. I think we pushed each other to create throughout college. I don’t know if I would have taken the leap without him and the community of artists we had around us at that time.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Dransky: It’s ever-changing pretty all over the place, but I generally try not to rush myself! I was writing my last album on and off for like 6 or 7 months, but since Colors dropped I’ve only written like three hooks and half a verse in almost two months. It’s not uncommon that I’ll take some time away from writing after I drop a project to regroup, collect my thoughts and let myself just exist for a sec. But particularly in the historical context of this moment I think it’s important, as a white dude, to kind of shut up and listen for a while. On the flip side, when I’m in the midst of working on a project and everything flows I might write for the better part of a few days straight, with a few different beats just looped in the background. Sometimes I’m singularly focused on the narrative of one track, sometimes I hop between a few. All depends how I’m feeling. I generally like writing to a beat as opposed to forming in silence, I don’t do a lot of revising, which I know might be a little weird. I’ll make edits here and there, but I’m more likely to scrap a whole verse if it doesn’t feel right than edit a chunk.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
Dransky: Fuck if I know haha. I just consume a lot of art, and when something pops out and smacks me around a little bit I pay attention. Recently I’ve been reading some great radical black literature (namely Angela Davis and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor), so a lot of what I’m listening to at the moment is informed by what I’ve been learning. I love when I can tell an artist believes in what they’re saying so strongly, but they aren’t brow beating about it. I get inspired by shit that kinda makes my head spin. Shit that either makes me wanna sit down and chew on what I’ve just watched or listened to or read, or shit that makes me wanna get out in the streets shake things up a bit. But obviously inspiration is a feeling you can’t really rationalize. When it hits it hits.
Review Fix: What does music mean to you?
Dransky: Sheesh. Um, I guess music is my way of sharing intimate details with total strangers. It’s a place of healing for me, but also a place of fuck around-ness. I come from an acting background, and for a long time my trajectory was to be a theatre and film actor, but young actors so often don’t get much of a say in the stories they tell. Someone else writes a script, someone else decides whether you’re worthy to act that script, and then you become the mouthpiece for someone else’s voice. My music is my music. It’s my narrative to express myself however I see fit, and there’s something really pure about that to me. At this point, I’d say it’s fundamental to who I am and how I navigate the world.
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Dransky: Mac Miller from the Northwest meets Travis Thompson from California ☺
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
Dransky: Oh my god they’re night and day. I’m itching for it to be safe to play shows again. I think performance is what sets me apart from other lyrical rappers. I’ve always been comfortable on a stage, and I think live performance of any sort has this incredible shared humanity to it. There’s a potential for connectedness between people at a live show that doesn’t exist in so many other mediums. I want every single person who sees me live to leave energized, uplifted; a little more free. We dance together, we scream our faces off, we learn things about each other, and then we shake the floorboards…I think my live shows fucking slap.
Review Fix: What inspired Laundry?
Dransky: The beat, mostly! It gave me “Hot Shower” vibes and I just ran with that. The hook came first. I’m, uh, a big fan of the word quandary. I think it’s hella funny for some reason, and if a line or a hook makes me laugh when it pops into my head it’s generally a keeper. Honestly I just wanted to gas some people up a little with the track! Gas myself up, gas the homies up, gas the fans up. Like, “Yo everywhere we go y’all are fresh to death and it’s fucking me up”. Some goofy shit to listen to in your car. Ramaj, of course, fucking nailed it and I’m really happy with the energy we were able to keep throughout.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the rest of 2020?
Dransky: I wish I knew! I’ve been back home in Seattle since May to spend some time with family through the pandemic, but America kinda fumbled the bag on this one so I don’t know when it will really be chill to head back to LA! I have some music homies out here I’ve been meaning to collaborate with again for a minute so I’ll be tapping in with them for sure, but other than that I’m definitely taking this time to take a step back and examine how I can grow as a person and leverage my privilege to help as many people as possible. 2020 has been nothing less than a shit show, but it’s also provided the conditions for a pretty historic collective awakening regarding the true nature of the society we live in. This isn’t a country that works for all of us, and I think it’s seriously important to recognize the urgent need for systemic change.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Dransky: Y’all can do with this what you will, but I’m tryna double down on the life-long journey that is becoming an actively anti-racist (and anti-imperialist) person. Through music, through personal growth, through grassroots political organizing, I’m all in on this. BIPOC revolutionaries have been fighting this fight in America for hundreds of years now, and I hope my white friends and supporters can use this moment as an opportunity to stand with them, listen to them, and follow their lead!