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Netflix is good at a lot of things, but ultimately, it boils down to two: providing content for damn near every niche group, and also finding ways to flip said content on its ear. Series like It's Bruno, which premieres on May 17, is one of them. The show, which comes from the mind of rapper/filmmaker/New Yorker Solvan "Slick" Naim, is about his dog, Bruno (which satisfies dog lovers and owners out there). Really, the show feels like it's about way MORE than Bruno, which is seen in the official trailer for the eight-episode series, which captures not just the world Bruno and his owner, Malcolm (portrayed by Naim), occupies, but the insanity surrounding both this chunk of New York City and their dog-owning community.
Naim might be a relatively new name to many, but he's been putting his work in as an artist and a filmmaker for a while. He got into filmmaking on a whim; as a rapper first, he'd come up with bugged out concepts for songs, and would end up turning them into intoxicating visuals on his own (just check out the video for his 2018 single "Aw Man"). That passion for visual media turned into a number of shorts, including Full Circle, which was a hit on the festival circuit. Naim's since directed episodes of a number of TV series, including Power, Snowfall, and The Blacklist, all while developing the concept for what It's Bruno turned into.
Complex recently caught up with Slick to talk about how his series—which he calls "Curb and Seinfeld with dogs in the hood" and features his new single, "Turnt Tonight"—maintaining the balance between his music career and his work as a filmmaker and more. You can al
How are you?
We out here, man. Trying to get to it.
Shit, you say you trying to get it—you're getting it. Talk about how you get the series with your dog linked up with Netflix.
It's a little crazy, you know what I mean? My whole formula to success is just going out and doing it and then pitching it after the fact. What I did, with the Bruno show, in particular, is one day I was working on something else. I was writing or editing, I was in my office working on something and I had the music playing like I always do. I took a little break and I looked to my left and I had my dog. I have three dogs, they're all starring in the show, but Bruno is the lead obviously. I looked at Bruno's face and he just started cracking me up.
Just living life with a dog in Brooklyn, you come across funny things that I kinda just take mental notes of, “Oh, that would be funny in a scene, or that would be funny in a scene.” So I started to write just a little script and me and my buddies, we just went out and started shooting. Just fucking around with our little cameras, which was essentially [became] the pilot.
Is it fair to say the series has more of a Curb Your Enthusiasm vibe to it?
I'm a huge fan of Curb and Seinfeld, so this is a version of that. It's like Curb and Seinfeld with dogs in the hood.
It's crazy to see that within the last three years while you're developing this, you've been working on all kinds of series. How did you go about casting? Were you looking for newer talent or trying to lean on some of the relationships you made previously?
I was lucky enough to not have to be scrutinized about who I cast and stuff like that, so I was able to do a nice mix of professional actors with just straight up neighborhood people who you've never seen. I got pros like Rob Morgan, who's in all the Netflix shows, and he's been doing this thing. Then I'll mix them in with neighborhood dudes; Ricky who you've never seen before, he's a guy from the hood that I always found to be a funny, interesting character, that I felt like he would be able to be comfortable on camera to see himself, he would be a character to remember. There's endless humor in that world like I haven't even barely hit the tip of the iceberg.
In the past, you talked a lot about how, as a rapper first, you got into filmmaking from developing your videos and stuff. Was there a big jump going from working on our own music and your own music videos to now directing shows and creating a series like It's Bruno?
The creative part of it, I would say is probably the least difficult for me, because, what somebody's doing, they just pop up, you know, they just come naturally, and then they'll just pop in my head. Obviously, when we start getting into the writing of it, kind of gotta buckle down, and fill in the gaps and everything like that, but by far, the production side, it's not even comparable. You can make a song, you can make ten songs, in a couple of days in the studio, and have them mixed in the same week and go perform them next week or in the coming month, you know what I mean? When it comes to like films and TV, and episodes? I like to be challenged in that aspect.
I knew I could do more than the rap or music, just as creative, competitive beings we like to challenge ourselves. How can we push ourselves to the limit, up beyond what we did before? So, the production element, definitely a whole 'nother piece, especially in my circumstance, which I wouldn't recommend to the readers is that, like, directing, starring, writing and producing your own content? It's another world. Especially when it's on a budget. You don't have all the toys, and the luxury of an A-list crew, gear, and your mind, energy, your everything is pulled in and literally turned directions. And it's kinda like wrangling wild cattle, nonstop, for 14 hours a day. So that element, it's a completely different universe than the music.
With the resume you bring to the table, there's a lot of real-world experience. From Snowfall to Power, there's a lot of stuff in there that I imagine you pick up on that can be very valuable when it comes to, I guess presenting an idea to a Netflix or somebody. You've already got the work ready, you're more ready. You're kinda living the dream that a lot of young creatives have. These people were very creative in the streets and trying to figure out how to basically do everything. Do you ever look at yourself as kinda like an influencer or an inspiration, or hope to be an influencer or inspiration?
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. It's one of those driving forces of life, you know what I'm saying? There's a lot of people at the level I'm at now, the level that I was four years ago, that's a huge part of it for me. Being able to just show people that you can do whatever you wanna do. You've heard it a million times from a million different people, but if you can show it, differently than the other millions of people that told you the same thing, then you're essentially paving a new lane, you're showing new potential, new things that people can do. Obviously, we all have our own unique way of going about it, but I definitely aspire to inspire, you know what I mean? That's part of the game.
Do you plan on continuing to be as involved in making music as your stock rises as a filmmaker and director?
Absolutely. It's been the start of everything, and you can't lose that. It's probably one of the biggest struggles that I've had. I'm making sure I'm able to do both. The amount of work that I'm having, and these opportunities I've never had before, you'd gotta start turning down opportunities that you would have killed for earlier because you need time and energy to put into the music. I gotta put in a lot of effort while not losing steam on the other side.