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Sullee forth (continued)

Bob nods toward his son. "He was taught. I never lied to him, and I never lied to my daughters. My kids all know my background. He donít even know the extent. But itís not really something me and him should have a conversation about. All he does know is that I was a very serious guy and meant what I said. And did what I said. And my reputation will bear that out. Anybody who knows me will say, ĎHe means what he says.í Iím not afraid of a fight. And a fight donít mean that you have to go outside and fist-fight. A fight could mean that, if someone like Sullee canít be a rapper because heís white, Iíll say, ĎOkay. Hereís a battle.í So Iím still battling as a street warrior. Iím just fighting different battles now. But this is an honorable one. Legitimate."

"His father definitely knows what it takes," says Beyonder, a Boston-based MC and producer whoís worked with 7L & Esoteric, and whoís known the Sullivans since their South End days. "He got his son into the music industry knowing nothing about it. Just knowing a basic hustle game, yíknow? And he kind of just learned it as he went. Heís doing some big things. Getting a record out, working with Teddy Riley. A lot of artists have family members helping them and working for them. But [Sulleeís] father is definitely a pretty unique character, having the history he has, and the stuff he used to do. He knows how to hustle really well. He knows how to knock doors down and get people interested and make things happen."

Riley thinks so, too. "I think the way heís pushing him, and pushing this project to be a success, is better than the ways a lot of other parents ó and record companies ó push artists. Heís doing the grinding for his son, but at the same time heís grinding for his artist."

"Iím not backing down," Bob Sullivan says. "This kid has talent. He wants to do it. And weíre taking a shot. If this thing crashes, we crash. But, hey, thatís life. You have to give it an honest shot. So itís a fight in its own way. But weíre definitely gonna win it. íCause weíre there now. Itís been a tough road. Three years. But now? Weíre there."

"I ended up getting lucky," says Sullee. "My father came home [from prison] and did the right thing with his life. A lot of people would like to say that."

SULLEE shows me downstairs to his bedroom, tricked out in grand style a year or so ago by the youth-oriented home-makeover show Knock First. He points to the large circular table they gave him, an outsize replica of the Old South End Records logo. (On the show, Sullee mused that heíd never be able to sit around lazily at that table, because his grandfather would always be looking at him, admonishing him to get back to work.) Thereís a sizable waterbed; above it hang a crucifix, some rosary beads, and a Celtic cross. Around the corner is a massive poster of Jay-Z. An assortment of trophies stands on a small shelf; boxing gloves and a basketball are strewn across the floor. Sullee points to what he calls his prize possession, a full-size Irish tricolor emblazoned with a handwritten quote from Stephen, the mad Hibernian in Braveheart. "The only way for an Irishman to speak with his equal," Sullee reads approvingly, "is to converse with the Almighty."

The pièce de résistance of the room is a curved countertop, on which sits a pair of sleek and gleaming turntables. Above are tiny blue track lights; the wall behind them is graced with a large stencil of Sulleeís stylized name. On either side hangs a different Scarface poster. Also on the counter are two deceptively small speakers. With a flip of a switch, I find out just how deceptive: a booming backing track explodes from within them; itís ear-bleedingly loud.

"[Knock First] definitely hooked me up," Sullee says with a broad grin. He shows me his CD collection. There are the usual hip-hop suspects, along with Korn and Slipknot. "But this is key," he says, snatching an emerald-green CD case from the shelf. "This is where Iím trying find some samples." He inserts the disc, and the room fills with pipes and acoustic guitars. Itís a trad Irish tune, sung in a warbly, broguey tenor: "I-I-I am a true-born Irishman ..." Sullee is a musical omnivore. "When I was in seventh grade, I had a band called Seven," he says. "We were like Linkin Park. But I ended up being a hip-hop artist."

In fact, Sulleeís been used to the spotlight since he was a five-year-old with a mike in his hand. It taught him a lot, early. "I had women trying to pull me off-stage when I was seven years old," he laughs. Indeed, itís not hard to see that this 19-year-old is wise for his years. He chalks it up not just to his early exposure to the music industry, but to growing up in hardscrabble Medford, to being the "man" of the house when his dad was on the inside, to the lessons he learned from his fatherís mistakes. That maturity marked a noticeable difference between him and his classmates, even back in grade school when he first relocated to the suburbs.

"When we moved to Hingham, I didnít like it," he says. "By the time we moved here, my head was already set about what I was gonna do. My mindset was already ready to go. But in the suburbs, they grow up a lot slower. So I was saying things and doing things that kids werenít doing or saying." He says it was an adjustment, relocating to a posh íburb where the kids were just different. "They used to call me ĎBlack Bobby,í because all the Metco kids, all the kids from Boston, they were my boys."

page 5  page 6 

Issue Date: December 17 - 23, 2004
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