A Better Rap for Dogs

Q&A with hip-hop artist MC Esoteric
By Lisa Wogan, October 2009, Updated February 2015

Seamus Ryan, a Boston-based hip-hop artist who goes by the nom de plume, MC Esoteric, dropped a concept album this fall that turns old school rap depictions of fighting dogs upside-down. Saving Seamus Ryan tells the semi-autobiographic story of a man who is redeemed by the love of a Labrador Retriever. To mark the CD debut and Esoteric’s Saturday, Oct. 24, appearance (with his dog Logan) on Animal Planet’s SuperFetch, we tracked him down in London, where he answered a few questions for us via email.

In the song “Max (Goodbye)” the singer puts his old dog to sleep--was Max your dog?
Max is a fictional character in the story Saving Seamus Ryan, but he is based on Boo, my first dog, an Irish Setter. Boo was the family dog, and he actually taught me how to walk. I’ve been told that I learned to walk by using his tail. He lived a long, long life and was such a good-natured dog. We’ve had dogs our whole life, but Logan (my Lab) was the life-changer. He had a lot of health issues as a youngster, such as pneumonia, elbow dysplasia and he impaled his throat on a stick one Easter. Dealing with these things only strengthened our relationship and made me that much more crazy about him. As my mother would say, he has a lot of spirit.
Is Logan the inspiration for “Back to the Lab” [watch video] and “The King Is The Dog”?
Yes. He has pretty much been the inspiration for most of my music for the past three years. He is a Lab in every sense of the word: Great with kids, swims like a champ and eats like a pig. Mischief is his middle name … even with an hour or two of exercise, he can still get into trouble. You could say the ghost of Marley certainly visits Logan on a weekly basis. And in the song, I mention that it “ain’t just about the Labrador Retriever” because I’m a fanatic of all things canine—from Newfies to Springers, from Vizslas to Akitas—I love them all. And Logan is nice enough to bring me out to meet a lot of them daily.

What does the cover of Saving Seamus Ryan (a yellow Lab sitting next to collapsed man) represent?
That’s a scene from the story. Everything is wrong in my life at this time: I’ve lost Max; I’ve been robbed for my long-overdue engagement ring that I was about to propose with; and my girlfriend is ready to leave me. That’s when Logan stumbles into my life and changes things. He actually helps get the ring back at the end.

Are you active in animal welfare?
Before leaving for this tour, I worked for the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center. I was seeing many hard things and many wonderful things on a daily basis, all of it being very enriching and challenging. I plan on returning there in 2010, I miss the dogs and their stories. The things a dog can bring out in people should be bottled-up and sold.


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What will you be doing on SuperFetch?
The song “The King is the Dog” from Saving Seamus Ryan is the theme of the episode, and we are shooting a video for it. Logan basically has an old school dance routine that he attempts to execute, and it is up to me to train him to pull it off. I saw the footage, and it is pretty hilarious stuff. Logan had a lot of fun learning and playing throughout the shooting of it. He loves attention.

Finally, rap and hip-hop are often criticized for glamorizing dog fighting and contributing to problems for Pit Bulls and other breeds, is this something you have in mind with your songs and videos?
Yeah, totally. My peers joke about how I’m ruining their image by being the lovey-dovey-dog-guy. Friends in the rap industry thought I was nuts, but now they call me for dog advice. Fans ask about Logan in the same breath as the music. It is amazing. On this last tour of the U.S. and Canada, people have been approaching me with pictures and stories of their dogs. They used to just come up to talk about my music. I wrote an entire song that harshly criticized Michael Vick but never released it since I have touched on him in other albums, including this new one. Dog fighting is one of the most cruel and heartless acts of violence a human can commit.