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Local musician/poet says hip hop helped get him through his issues

The number of special guests on Rick E.’s (aka The Pied Eyed Piper) new album, “Not So Slim Shady,” goes to prove that local hip hop is a community driven art form

Being the fourth in a succession of Richard MacAloneys, local hip hop artist and poet Richard MacAloney sought to create an identity of his own.

Commonly known by friends as Ricky (later morphing into Rick E.), the soon-to-be artist/poet began his path to creating a unique identity for himself early.

Originally from Bruce Mines, eventually settling in Desbarats, MacAloney was introduced into hip hop around the age of nine or ten.

“It’s hard to know what I first listened to that was hip hop as I didn't really understand it as a genre. I think it was Beastie Boys and Afroman to be honest.”

The young MacAloney was going through a rough time in his life and he discovered that music soothed him.

“It helped me get out of my funk. Anytime I had bad feelings, I would throw on hip hop and it would help me through my issues.”

When he first really fell in love with the genre was when he heard Eminem's “The Eminem Show” album.

“From there, I had to check out the producer Dr. Dre and everyone involved with the album. Then there was no stopping me.”

From Eminem and Dre, MacAloney moved on to Chamillionaire, 2 Pac, DMX, Snoop Dogg and Tech N9ne.

 “I eventually learned that writing or rapping helped clear my head instead of being depressed. I owe a lot to the genre. When I was in high school doing tests, I was able to listen to my CD player while taking the tests. It always helped me clear my mind and relax.”

MacAloney was extremely shy as a child and slowly discovered that his love for hip hop helped to bring him out of his shell.

By 15 years of age, he was freestyle rapping, but always kept it to himself.

By Grade 12, MacAloney started to share his freestyling with a few friends.

“After high school, I continued freestyling and started writing some of my freestyles down, which eventually turned into my freestyle writing. I had a few dark years where I fell off the earth, but always continued my art in secrecy.”

By the end of 2011, he accepted a job and was introduced to a new group of friends who discovered his hidden talent.

“These individuals pushed me to write more, freestyle more. One individual, named U.A., would rap text me every day.”

By 2013, MacAloney decided to enrol at Sault College, taking courses he hoped would help to improve his writing chops.

Once he decided that he was going to take a few courses, he decided he wanted to get a diploma for it.

“The only program offering creative writing, songwriting and poetry was the Liberal Arts program, so I enrolled …”

Through his classes, he discovered different techniques which would eventually help him successfully write his own songs.

“After college, I was introduced to Soo York City, the local hip hop collective in town. I started going to their regular meetings and freestyled with the other local artists. Eventually this led to writing my first official song, ‘The Pied Eyed Piper.’”

The song, which became key to his evolving identity, centred around an underground character that emerges to take over a ‘scene’ and develops a following like the famous literary character, the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

“During this time, there was a mixed genre concerts that were popular in town called the Live 705. Soo York City collective was invited to perform at this event, where it was decided that one of the songs performed would be mine.”

MacAloney decided to dress in character for the performance.

“In my mind, the Piper was a mix of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland and Willy Wonka. The song was successful [and] everyone loved the performance.”

After that song, MacAloney adopted the stage persona of The Pied Eyed Piper.

“Every time I perform, I [now] dress in a purple outfit with a top hat. It has helped people remember me on sight. I have had artists come through the Sault remember me from times before. During a concert in Toronto I was performing at, I had artists remember me as an artist they had seen in Sault Ste. Marie while touring.”

MacAloney eventually did some touring as a hip hop performer, but stopped after the birth of his first child.

“I would have started again, but COVID has stopped concerts of all sorts. I have performed all over Ontario multiple times, including Thunder Bay, Elliot Lake, Sudbury, New Market, Toronto, Kingston, and London.”

As Rick E., MacAloney has seen some early success.

His track, Rap Devil from an EP he released in 2018 has received over 60,000 streams.

The song slyly answers the question of how he began as a performer and how he adopted his specific rap style.

With that success, MacAloney decided to record a full-length album.

His upcoming release will be his first full-length album.

“I had half of it recorded by the end of 2019, with dates to record the rest in 2020.”

The pandemic caused him to cancel recording dates, although he continued to do some in-between lockdowns.

“This has been frustrating for me as an artist because I have had all this great material that I have wanted to release for over three years now.”

Despite the pause on recording, the delay of COVID has some positive benefits.

“Luckily, I was able to find a wonderful singer named T.Emlaw to perform on two tracks of mine that I would not have had prior to COVID, so I guess everything happens for a reason.”

The upcoming release contains 20 songs and 5 skits, 25 tracks in total.

Entitled, “Not So Slim Shady,” a name suggested by a friend and fellow performer named Kodex.

“During that time, I was dying my hair blond for performances. [Kodex] made a sly joke towards my style of rap and how I look like an overweight Eminem, which caught on as a perfect title for my album.”

Rick E.’s “Not So Slim Shady” will be self-released on a label MacAloney and his friends created called Sooicide Records.

This album will be the fourth release from the label. Previous releases include his “The Pied Eyed Piper” EP (2018), a 40-track album under the artist Kodex called, “Cold Steel in The Hour of Chaos,” and an EP by the artist Comniption.

Most of the songs on MacAloney’s upcoming album were recorded and mastered with Dustin Jones at Mission Control Studios.

“This was a great choice. I can't stress the countless changes or last minute recording changes. This man has put in a lot of work on to this album. Great individual …We are very satisfied with the product we have produced together.”

One of the features of the album is that it showcases a number of members of the local hip hop community on it, including Kodex, Kid Majic (True Northern Talent), Rated R (True Northern Talent), Plague Kelly, Comniption, Mickey T, T.Emlaw, S Dot 420, U.A., Oh Zee (Sound Syndrome), Chris B (Sound Syndrome), DQ, Status631, and Mic Swiff (Sound Syndrome). (Click here to read MacAloney’s description of these special guests).

“Everyone on the album except Status631 is from Northern Ontario.  Status631 is from New York and was a touring artist that came through Sault Ste. Marie a few times. I wanted to show the talent that we have within our area collectively, which is why there is so many features … we have made a work of art to be proud of.”

One of the things the artist loves about hip hop is the sense of community.

“I would never be where I am today if it wasn't for the hip hop community in town. I used to keep it to myself, but was pushed by others to come out. I used to be constantly angry all the time, but found hip hop as an outlet through the community. I was able to better my skills and learn how to express myself on paper and freestyle my thoughts to instrumentals by finding this community.”

MacAloney notes that it can be challenging for local youth who aren’t athletically inclined.

“Hip hop and music in general is a powerful outlet that can help individuals discover themselves as well is a healthy alternative to the ever rising drug use in town that people are confronted with every day.”

He notes that the hip hop artists in the community are very supportive of each other and have worked together to create a positive atmosphere for everyone.

“If I didn't have the support that I have received, I may have found a different outlet that may not be so great. I find when talking to others in the community and they are talking about their problems. I listen, but tell them to write about it. For the younger generation, this is a healthy way for them to console their issues, as well as have a sense of pride in the project that they have made. We all tend to stick together so if someone needs help recording, we can find them many different places to record that do not cost money … we stick together. We help each other with projects and support as a collective. I couldn't have made this album without the rest of the community.”

In addition to the special guests on the album, MacAloney mentions the influences of DJ Seith, who started Soo York City and has always supported local hip hop, friend Mark Dufour who has “any hip hop you can think of” and has shared the music with MacAloney, and Conika, a “well-known name across town that is a part of our FVK SXVAD crew” who has supported his project from day one and helped to develop a few of the skits that appear on the album.

Rick E’s “Not So Slim Shady” will be released on June 25 for streaming and digital purchase, as well as on CD format.

The album can be pre-ordered on the Rick E. and Sooicide Records Inc. Facebook pages or by emailing: sooiciderecordsinc@gmail.com .

The album will also be available at local stores post lockdown.

Three singles from “Not So Slim Shady” are currently available for streaming on Spotify and another available on YouTube.

Read MacAloney’s further descriptions of the special guests on the “Not So Slim Shady” album here.