Last night, Richmond was hit with the news that Brian “The Honorable Sleaze” Davis, Sr., a staple of the local hip hop scene, died suddenly following complications during surgery.
Co-producer of the now-defunct Just Plain Sounds netlabel, Sleaze was known for his work as a skilled producer and artist. His most recent album, Heavenly/Devilish II: Demons, made waves in the local hip hop community after its release. Sleaze was widely regarded by fellow artists for his influence in the scene.
“I think the things he would say kept the realness in Richmond rap,” said Ant The Symbol, Sleaze’s producer and longtime friend. “It’s insane, you never think these things are going to happen until tragically, they do.”
In his music, Sleaze focused his attention on issues pressing to his community. According to his artist bio, his “everyman” quality touched on complex social issues but extended to all facets of life. His recent work addressed his personal life and its trials and tribulations.
Friends and colleagues looked to Sleaze for direction, Ant The Symbol said. His dedication to the people he held close is a sentiment that continues to be expressed.
“It was never like he was just a friend, we were family,” he said. “He never treated anybody that he was cool with as less than family. You don’t run across many like him in this city.”
“[Sleaze] surprised me every step of the way . . . most importantly as not just a friend, but a brother,” said peer artist Black Liquid in a recent post. “He believed in me. Always. He gave all of us that extra push, even if it meant having a laugh on him, and he got me through some of my most tough personal and professional times.”
Ant The Symbol came together with Sleaze in 2008 and continued on as a team, recording together through their nine-year relationship at the studio.
“Ever since then he’s been a major part of the music that we’ve created,” he said. “Every time we had a show he would always be the one to come in on stage. Even as JPS disbanded and I went over to Gritty City Records, Sleaze was the only other member that went with me. It was almost as if if he weren’t there, it wouldn’t have felt right. We had done music together for so long.”
Ant The Symbol knew Sleaze as a friend and an inspiration. The two collaborated often with local artists Black Liquid and DJ Harrison among others.
“We know that we’re all grateful to have had him around because we wouldn’t have had someone to keep us in check, ruffle some feathers when they needed to be ruffled,” he said. “We wouldn’t have had the music that we’ve had… Heavenly/Devilish II is one of the most emotionally raw albums that I’ve heard in a long time. I’ve been sitting on this album for over a year now and I still listen to it.”
Friends and peers have echoed their respect and affections for Sleaze since receiving news of the sudden loss, which has taken root throughout the community.
“It’s crazy to think I’m at a point in my life where I feel like I can’t be surprised, even though I don’t expect anything,” said Black Liquid. “. . .Last night when I left WRIR 97.3FM I wondered why he wasn’t there. . .but now I guess I know why. But what I also know is that no matter where I go or what I do, he’ll be there with me, every step of the way. . .Thanks for unapologetically never being anything more or less than you.”
To the hearts out there hurting, Ant The Symbol wants to reiterate the nature of who Sleaze was.
“He wouldn’t have wanted anybody to be sad at anything,” he said. “He’d want us to keep working hard, keep living our lives to the fullest and celebrating him in the meantime.”
To keep tuning in to The Honorable Sleaze, stream Heavenly/Devilish II: Demons here.
Photos by The Cheats Movement.