Meet Esoteric, a Boston-based rapper with a soft spot for dogs.
When you picture rappers and dogs together, what comes to mind? If it’s an image of a scowling guy with a mean-looking pit bull, you’re not alone. Rappers aren’t always known for being the most sensitive breed, and the stereotype of aggressive rappers brandishing aggressive dogs is all too common. But one rapper, a Boston-based rapper named Esoteric, has a devotion to dogs that should dispel some stereotypes and impress every animal lover.
Esoteric, one-half of the renowned underground duo 7L & Esoteric, is well known not only for his lyrical skills, but also for his love of canines. He has recorded several songs in honor of his own furry friends, including “The King is the Dog” and “Back to the Lab”, an ode to his Labrador retriever, Logan. He has appeared on an episode of Animal Planet’s SuperFetch with Logan, and released a solo album, Saving Seamus Ryan, that tells the loosely autobiographical story of a man saved by his dog’s love.
Esoteric (born Seamus Ryan) is also active in animal welfare. From 2008 to 2010, he worked as a primary care assistant at the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center outside Boston, helping animals who were undergoing surgical procedures such as knee replacements, hip replacements, tooth removal and spaying and neutering. Last April, he held a benefit concert called Sounds for Hounds in conjunction with the MSPCA – all proceeds from the show, held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, went to shelter dogs and homeless animals at the organization.
In short, in a genre where artists seem more likely to project cartoonish levels of toughness than display any hint of sensitivity, Esoteric stands out as a rapper willing to show a softer side.
“The relationship one has with a dog really thrives on love, compassion and nurturing,” he says. “These characteristics are typically absent in most hip-hop due to the emphasis on being ‘hardcore’. Generally speaking, the only time a dog is used in hip-hop is as an intimidation factor.”
For Esoteric, however, it was natural to pour his passion for canines into his music. “Dogs and the effortless devotion they show to humans are inspiring enough to make the songwriting come easy,” he says. “Every superhero has a weakness, and mine is dogs.”
Esoteric’s love of animals began at an early age, when he took his first steps with help from his family’s Irish setter, Boo. “He was our first family dog, and he literally taught me how to walk,” Esoteric says. “My mother still tells me how at the age of one, I would follow Boo around the house with both hands on his tail. He patiently dragged me around our little house until I could walk on my own. Also, my mother recently unearthed a photo of me at eight months old, crawling around with a litter of Labrador puppies.”
Since those early days, Esoteric has had a number of animals, including a mixed breed named Golda, cats Foxy and Meo, and a Lab/hound cross named Metz, who he and his wife rescued from Tennessee.
His current companion, Logan, who Esoteric calls his “closest four-footed friend over the past five years” was the inspiration behind Saving Seamus Ryan, in which he details how Logan enriches his life. “In the song ‘Back to the Lab’ I really try to paint a picture of just how Logan does that,” Esoteric says. “Sunsets, woods, rivers and people from entirely different walks of life were all incredibly foreign to me before I was focused on getting him exercised and socialized. Dogs really do so much for you without you knowing it. Any time I need to go out and clear my thoughts, shake a headache or relieve stress, you know who is ready to go? Logan.”
Esoteric’s two-year position at the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center had him working directly with animals in need, and relaying medicinal information and rehab steps between veterinarians and animal guardians.
“I saw so many incredible things and so many heartbreaking things,” he says. “I saw paralyzed dogs come in, and after being treated neurologically they would leave walking within a few days. I prepped dogs with cancer to undergo radiation therapy. I wrestled pills into the mouths of feisty Rottweilers. I’ve seen eleven vets working ferociously to save one dog’s life in an emergency situation. I have been slashed by cat claws and tackled by dogs.
“I was passionate about every scenario on the job,” he adds. “The hard part was trying to comfort families dealing with loss or injury to their dog or cat. After having to leave the job due to touring requirements, I organized Sounds for Hounds and gathered some of Boston’s best acts to help raise money for the organization.” The concert raised over $3,500, and Esoteric plans on making the benefit an annual affair. He hopes to partner with another Boston area shelter for the next event, with the goal of matching or topping his last fundraising total.
“I would love to work with the MSPCA exclusively, but there are a countless number of shelters out there with a lower profile that have the same ailing dogs,” he says. “After visiting with a few, I am excited about helping them meet their goals.” Selflessness seems all too rare in any sector of today’s fast-paced society, especially in the hip-hop sphere where compassion and kindness can be rare commodities. For rapper Esoteric, it’s second nature to come to the aid of his best friends.
“I have seen so many inspiring stories from a positive standpoint, and on the negative side, I’ve seen so many heinous crimes against dogs,” he says. “It was a natural progression to try and speak for those without a voice.”