Interview: Slackjaw Trait - "I was just a kid scribbling to kill time"
By Benjamin Irons
The wealth of Bristol’s musical establishment has spanned generations and generations, making it one of the most influential cities in the country for developing artists of all descriptions. In particular, England’s west side has influenced a majority party of rap, trip-hop and hip-hop pioneers, from the likes of Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead in the 1990’s, and has since inspired the 21st century collective to retain its title as Britain’s “most musical city”. Namely, Bristol dweller Dom, aka “Slackjaw Trait”, WMD Collective’s hottest recruit, has made an impressive splash into prosperous waters since committing to music as an early teen and admits that moving to Bristol has influenced his style as an artist.
“I started writing as Slackjaw around 2014, at that time it was just a couple shitty tracks on Soundcloud and had like 5 followers but it felt good. I’d been writing way before that but never did anything with the bars, I was just a kid scribbling to kill time. I guess I started becoming musical sometime around 14 or 15 years old in secondary school. When I came to Bristol I started to jump on the musical side of things.”
As influences go, Slackjaw grew up listening to English rapper Jehst, who introduced “constant play on words and punchy deliveries”, but found that speed and flow were most present in Parisian hip-hop such as Saian Supa Crew, commenting “their ability to switch up from skippidy-lippidy to some smooth flow was too nice” – a feature which he mentions played a big part in his approach two years ago, when he first arrived in Bristol. Before his arrival however, the energy and range of style that followed Bristol acts Split Prophets and Buggsy emerged as attributers to Slackjaw’s sound. Nowadays, he prefers something a bit slower, adding: “I want people to hear what i’m saying rather than be entertained moreso by the flow.”
Among being signed to Be Ripe Records, Slackjaw is also a member of WMD collective; a union of MC’s and Producers that began in 2014, which has since landed them support from the likes of Lee Scott, Fliptrix and Split Prophets. With activity in the pipeline not going amiss, Slackjaw also landed a slot at Bristol’s All Day Block Party, alongside High Focus’ Dirty Dike and Ocean Wisdom.
“It was dope. It was my first time performing at a day event so it was definitely a different vibe - was bare nice being involved in a day that large with a line-up that serious. Big ups High Focus and shouts Flipper for setting that up, that day was ill.”
Recently, Slackjaw has decided to broaden his horizons further as a solo artist by writing and recording his debut mixtape 284. “284 is a 5-track tape entirely produced by the duo Collide. This tape was written, produced, recorded and all that in under two weeks." His latest entry adopts an extremely personal subject matter of family and growing up.
“The whole the tape is a look back at growing up with family. Each song is written for and directed to either one or more family members. You can definitely expect some serious bars on there that took a long time for me to articulate properly because of its subject. On the other hand you can hear me providing advice to a younger sibling that I would give about growing up and what should really matter to them”, adding, “I originally only planned to send the first song I wrote to my brother but when I started working on the tape with Collide I could hear how perfectly they captured the tone for each moment. That’s when we started to consider it as a multi-track tape.”
Below you can find a live recording of “21 Revolutions”, a track from 284, which will be released under Be Ripe Records in “the next couple of months” due to unforeseen circumstances pushing the record back from its original release date of the 1st July.
* Cover photo by photographer Tom Porter