Locals: Bruce Slaughter digs deeper on Dancing Silhouettes

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

By the timeDancing Silhouettes hits the five-minute mark, rapper and Columbus native Bruce Slaughter has already addressed his brother's death and the absence of his father, who left the youngster to be raised by a single mother on the city's East Side.

"I was like, 'All right, I'm charting in an area that's unknown to me," said Slaughter, 26, during a mid-May interview at a Downtown coffee shop. "The idea of letting go is something I embraced [on this project], like, 'Let's keep doing this and see where this takes us.' It made me open up and dig deep."

Slaughter described his debut EP,No Crowns, from 2013, as less personal and more technical in comparison, noting it was largely shaped by a desire to showcase his newfound craft.

"WithNo Crowns being my first project I had to prove to myself and other people I really could rap," Slaughter said. "But the sound direction for this new project was all about feeling and emotion. I didn't focus too much on the technical. I didn't say, 'Oh you're not rapping fast enough,' or 'You didn't put a punchline in there.' I just let it be whatever it was supposed to be."

The budding MC has adopted a similar ethos in his own life. For years, Slaughter, who graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in psychology, has struggled with the push and pull between the career path he set upon when he enrolled in school - "Coming from my family, and even in my community, it's rare young black men go to college, so when someone actually does the whole community embraces you," he said - and his creative pursuits.

"As I got closer to graduation, I wasn't happy with the direction things were going. I started to question the internships and the job search, and it was like, 'Why am I doing this? Is this really what I'm supposed to be doing?'" Slaughter said. "It created this tug of war in me, like, 'I can't disappoint these people, but I want to make music.'"

WithSilhouettes, Slaughter finally learned to stop worrying and love the beat, turning out casual, free-form songs that draw heavily upon elements of jazz and soul. Indeed, even when the MC delves into darker subjects, the music feels light and airy, suggesting the brighter state of mind Slaughter has adopted in recent years.

"In the past I'd say, 'That's uncomfortable. I can't put that out there yet.' There were all these road blocks and gates I put up for myself saying, 'Don't go that way,'" Slaughter said. "I was trying to create the kind of artist I wanted to be. And now I embrace the kind of artist I actually am."

Listen to Dancing Silhouettes at bruceslaughter.com