Solvan “Slick” Naim is a creator at heart, and right now, his heart is focused on man’s best friend.
“It’s about a man and his dog. And the crazy things that happen,” he told Variety about the premise of his upcoming Netflix comedy series “It’s Bruno.” Naim is already known as a rapper, writer and director, working on TV shows like FX’s “Snowfall” and becoming, at 22 years old, the youngest producer to register a film with the New York State Governor’s Office of Motion Picture & Television Development. But on this Brooklyn-set show, Naim is the star, playing Malcolm, while his rescue dog Bruno plays himself.
The inspiration for the show was simple — Naim’s four-legged best friend Bruno was in the studio while he was editing another project and when the dog started making silly faces in the chair next to him, the creator was inspired to set the videos he was taking of his pooch to music. The funny videos made him laugh so he decided to go bigger. Naim recruited his friends, neighbors and their dogs to shoot scenes that most dog owners can relate to, including meeting other dogs and their owners at the crosswalk and having a bit of a face off, unwanted petting of your dog, not knowing if someone is only interested in you because of your dog, etc.
A little less relatable, though, is the idea that Naim is doing it all for the eight-episode series. He’s not only the star, writer and director, but he’s also contributing original music and writing three new tracks for the show. The rapper’s latest album, titled “Proof of Concept,” debuts alongside the series on May 17 and the first single “Turnt Tonight” is available now. Variety recently spoke to the multi-hyphenate talent to get a better idea of how he’s juggling the roles, and to reflect on the man who inspired him to believe in himself, the late director John Singleton.
Most people’s dogs just have an Instagram account. When did you realize that Bruno had this kind of star quality for TV?
I always knew there was something very interesting and charismatic about the dog. Bruno always has these facial expressions and a demeanor about him that’s hilarious. He’s just a loving dog and he always wants to show you attention. He’s never angry or mad. We can all learn a little something from him.
You’re not only a writer and the star of this show, but you’re also the creator and you’re the director. You’re also a rapper, so you’re doing everything. How do you manage to do it all at once?
When you’re passionate about something, you just work at it. There’s not much downside, you just tend to work it all out. You love what you’re doing so you’re not really noticing that 23 out of 24 hours a day are spent on that. All those roles, I was always had an affinity for those roles so why not go for them. But it’s not easy, and it does get overwhelming at times, but that’s when your team comes into play. If you have a strong team behind you, you’re able to take the load off.
Which one of all of the things that you do comes the easiest to you and which one would you say you’ve had to work at the most?
Oh, rapping comes easiest to me, for sure. No doubt about it. And writing, directing those take work. At the end of the day, anyone with an iPhone can record a song at this point, it’s exponentially easier. But it’s much harder to get a movie out there — to write it and direct and get the actors, get the camera, get the crew, film it, cut it together, make sure it sounds good — it’s a whole other universe.
There are not a lot of people out there in the industry that can do all of the different things that you can do, but some multi-hyphenate stars like Will Smith do a bit of everything. Who do you aspire to be like?
I think we all look up to [Smith]. I mean look what he’s doing on social media at 50 years old, outshining these teenagers. I was influenced from filmmakers really, like the Coen brothers, [Martin] Scorsese, [Brian] De Palma, [Quentin] Tarantino, Spike [Lee], as well as rappers like Biggie and Tupac. My childhood was watching those films and listening to that music, and that culminated in what I do now.
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Man this guy right here. This was the first pic we ever got together. I remember it like yesterday. It was my first location scout on a Hollywood set. It was the first day I got to work with you. I remember seeing you at the Snowfall office thinking “oh shit there goes John Singleton” you saw me and when we were introduced said “Slick!! You the muthafucka that did Stanhope! I love that shit! Come on let’s grab lunch” and like that we was out, just me and you. Your face lit up like you knew me for years I couldn’t believe it. I remember being in video village with you hyping me up like crazy every time I got a dope shot or take you liked. The same energy and inspiration you’ve given so many other people both in and out the biz. You took care of your people too. I remember you had jobs for all of them on Snowfall. I would always get texts and calls from executives and producers saying John raves about you! You were always a champion of mine. We had plans on one my features you were producing. You gave so many people their shot. Damn ima miss you. But with all you’ve done down here I can only imagine what you’ll be doing up there. I will celebrate you not mourn you. Rest in peace king.
You posted on Instagram about your relationship with the late John Singleton. What kind of influence did he have on your career?
John was one of the brightest souls in the industry and one of the first and heaviest champions of me, since I stepped foot in Hollywood. That’s just been his M.O. for over 20 years now; he’s just about giving people shots. He’s about finding talent and uplifting and inspiring the next generation. And I’m one of those people that he took under his wing, that he was always ready to support, no matter what. He already had me on his show [“Snowfall”]. Whatever he was doing, he wanted me to be a part of, because he believed in me. And, in doing so, made me believe in myself more. Obviously, we all have to have our own level of confidence and self-belief so we can get to certain stages in life, but when you get that extra push and that extra support, it’s priceless. And that’s what John was all about.