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- Toronto's Placement in the Up-State New York Hip-Hop Scene
Toronto Hip-Hop: An Extension of Up-State New York Figure 1 L-R: Daniel Son, 6th Letter Futurewave, Daniel Son, Asun Eastwood, Lord Juco, Raz Fresco, Finn, DNTE, Falcon Outlaw, Sibbs Roc, Bozack Morris, Saipher Soze, Vic Grimes... If you have been tapped into the underground hip-hop release radar over the past few years; it's likely you are familiar with these names. Hailing from the city of Toronto, this cast of characters has contributed to the soundscapes of up-state New York's triumphing hip-hop enterprise in recent years. What's more impressive, is that unbeknownst to many, Toronto has finally achieved a long-lasting goal; for its artists to be recognized on an equal playing field with New York artists and be respected by hip-hop culture at large - detached from their Canadian identity. Contextualizing Toronto's Hip-Hop Community in Relation to New York: Ever since the inception of hip-hop in Toronto, the city has actively fought for acceptance in New York. Perhaps the earliest example of success in this regard is KRS One's introductory co-sign to Michie Mee and L.A. Luv's Elements of Style in 1987; a record which sported the instrumental pallet of the Boogie Down Production's own Scott La Rock,. Boogie Down Productions is proud to introduce Canada's greatest musically inclined - future rap representative of the rap industry on a whole. A major breakthrough for female emcees everywhere. Her name; Michie Mee. This is BDP reporting live from Canada! - KRS One, Elements of Style. Figure 2: Michie Mee & LA Luv - Elements of Style 12" In the 1990s, this effort for acceptance continued its prominence. Artists such as Citizen Kane, Da Grassroots, Da Circle, Crooks of the Round Table, Mathematik, Frankenstein, and others clearly embodied New York's signature boom-bap aesthetic and trips to the Big Apple were frequently made to seek record deals and career opportunities. The talents of these artists were undeniable. Arguably some of the best hip-hop to come out of the mid 90s featured Toronto emcees and producers. However, this fact was rarely known outside of the city of Toronto, the artist community, and the odd devoted hip-hop head that pursued independent music on a global front. Rarely were these Canadian artists successful in obtaining US-based record deals, or US-based collaborations. Even more rare, were instances of American artists paying Canadian talent for collaborations on their records. In the 2000s, though the efforts largely remained the same, the results did begin to change. Artists such as Kardinall Offishall - who began rapping in the 1990s, saw some commercial success and appeared on albums from Tony Touch, Clipse, DJ Green Lantern, Akon, among others. To a lesser extent, emcees such as K-Os, Belly (Ottawa), Saukrates and Choclair shared a similar fate; however, these artists acted as one-offs, and never allowed Toronto as a community to fully escape the trappings of a Canadian identity. The most successful Canadian rapper of all time; Drake, too has played his part in this story; transforming Toronto as a landmark within hip-hop's discourse but failing to create a meaningful path for other Toronto emcees to follow. His OVO movement is notable, as is his impact on many Toronto-based artists who have embraced Drake's signature musical aesthetics - however the fact remains that Toronto has not been accepted as equal to New York in any meaningful measure. Griselda, Up-State New York, and a new hip-hop renaissance: It's safe to say that readers will be familiar with Griselda's impact on the culture. Since 2015, the Flygod and extended family have been dominating underground hip-hop's weekly release schedule and have since changed the direction of the scene both sonically, as well incorporating business innovations largely non-existent pre-Griselda. Upon Griselda's 2018 signing with Shady Records, this reality was only exacerbated. Figure 3 Griselda. L-R: Benny the Butcher, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine Griselda's rise saw many hip-hop acts within the up-state area come out of the woodworks and receive prominent fandom as well as financial security with their art. From 38 Spesh’s TRUST label, to Rochester’s Da Cloth, to Lord Mobb's; Eto and G4Jag, among others; these artists have thrived in the scene that Griselda has pushed and helped popularize. Despite the due-focus on up-state New York, the sounds of Griselda have far surpassed this geographic region. Artists such as Red Lotus Klan's SCVTTERBRVIN from the West Coast, New York City's Flee Lord, New Orlean's Jameel Na'im X, and a plethora of overseas producers such as Superior (Germany), Giallo Point (Britain) and Big Ghost LTD (Japan), all exist within the same sonic bubble and owe - at least some of their success - to Griselda's imprint. As previously mentioned, the impact of Griselda has amounted to more than simple stylistic innovations that have permeated throughout the scene. With Westside Gunn's heavy reliance on hype-beast culture and his insistence on treating physical product (both in the form of merch and physical media) as collectible art-pieces - the way of playing the game has drastically altered from the previous generation. By producing small runs - with the guarantee of selling out - Griselda has single handily made the purchase of a cassette, or vinyl record an investment with a near guarantee of market inflation if the consumer is lucky enough to secure an order before the inevitable sell-out. As the artists grow in popularity, these runs become larger and larger, while continuing to produce less than the market demands. The latest installment of Westside Gunn's Hitler Wears Hermes series (#8 Side B) was released earlier in 2022 with over 5,000 copies pressed, priced on average at over 100 dollars per unit, and sold out in under five minutes. This sort of dominance has created an atmosphere where Conway can confidently - and truthfully - claim, "I do your streaming numbers with the vinyl and the CD." Though others in the scene lack the demand that Griselda has curated, this model of high-priced, ultra-limited vinyl, has proven to work for others that fall into the same sonic template that Griselda has developed. For fans of Griselda's sound, participating in this subcultural economy is exciting and worthwhile - even if the products are not exclusively derived from Griselda's main roster. Those who associate with Griselda either through mutual connections - geographic proximity - or sonic template - have been able to follow Griselda's business models with similar - yet scaled down - success. The Modern Toronto Connection: Although Toronto is not the only Canadian city contributing sounds to this movement - it is by far the most dominant Canadian city on the scene. An artist such as Nicholas Craven in Montreal - may be arguably more prominent with production credits for Mach Hommy, Tha God Fahim, Your Old Droog, Ransom, among others - but he has unfortunately been the sole representative for his city within this new rap renaissance. Toronto on the other hand has - in a few short years - curated a scene of rappers, producers, and DJs so synonymous with Griselda's sound that the city has arguably become an extension of the up-state New York region. It makes sense. Toronto - a mere two-hour drive from Buffalo, is the closest metropolis city to the Griselda capital; with New York City being more than three times the distance away. Those that occupy the Niagara region such as G4 Jag and Jamal Gasol, are in fact even closer to the screwface capital. So how has Toronto broken from its past to be accepted as peers south of the border? It's pretty simple; it's Griselda. This is my opinion on the hustler mindset. Seeing early - [Griselda] dropping - and they weren't big yet - they'd drop 1000 [units] and they're selling out right away. Like that's not enough? So now, this genre also creates a lot of music. One project a year? That's nothing. You can't do that in our genre. Now you look at Griselda and it's like 'oh shit, these guys are collecting that bag.' And that math isn't hard to do, that there's money to be made. - Asun Eastwood, interview with author. It is important to recognize the diversity of Toronto's hip-hop scene; and the varying origin stories that occupy the community. Some artists, such as DNTE and Bozack Morris, have been long standing members of the Toronto hip-hop community - with DNTE (previously known as Al Sham) dropping his Street Visions album in 1999 with his partner KP, and Bozack Morris occupying Toronto's airwaves as a DJ for multiple decades. Raz Fresco, a younger cat on the scene, had signed a deal with New York's Duck Down Records in 2014 and appeared on Buckshot's Backpack Travels that same year. Daniel Son; arguably one of the most prominent in the scene today; began rapping in 2015 with his Brown Bag Money (BBM) click and quickly began collaborating and building relationships with artists such as Rome Streetz, Estee Nack, Al.Divino, among others. The Belizean born Asun Eastwood immigrated to Canada at a young age and began his run of releases in 2017 with projects such as Nimbus and Hollywood Briggs. And Lord Juco has occupied a distinct market with his soccer-themed run of projects with Californian Cousin Feo as the duo Death at the Derby. Despite this complexity, there is most certainly a strengthened community of hip-hop artists within Toronto. Nearly all these artists actively collaborate with one another - and have combined their skillsets to help one another grow and succeed in this hip-hop environment. This has become more evident with labels such as Gold Era which house a large collective of Toronto producers such as Sibbs Roc, Finn and Slang Hughes. A brief look at their webstore will see full album collaborations with Daniel Son, Asun Eastwood, Family Gang Black, Saipher Soze, Lord Juco as well as a plethora of peers originating from the United States. Figure 4: L-R: Finn, Futurewave, Sibbs Roc The collaborations with their United States brethren are important. Unlike previous generations of Toronto emcees, that found it difficult to seek mutual respect with their New York counterparts - this new community is often inseparable from upstate New York. Not only do you see New York artists featured on their track listings (a feat that remains achievable by simply buying guest verses from well-respected rappers), but credible New York artists as well as overseas producers will actively feature Toronto artists within their own creations. Daniel Son for example has been featured on 38 Spesh's 1994, Rome Streetz Street Pharmacy, Estee Nack and Superiors' BALADAS, Buckwild's Music is My Religion, Al.Divino's SUNRAW, and Flee Lord's Lucky 13 just to name a few. Futurewave; one of the scenes most active producers; has full length projects with a variety of well-respected heavyweights in the up-state New York community; including Mooch, Rigz, Rome Streetz, Al.Divino as well as the most recently released MR.TEN08 with Griselda's own Boldy James. This embracement of Toronto's hip-hop community is a new phenomenon. Sure, artists like Drake have achieved one-off success in mainstream hip-hop circuits, but Toronto's hip-hop scene as a whole has never been able to compete on equal footing within hip-hop culture until now. In addition to the artist support, fans have likewise embraced Toronto's talent in a major way. Through the adoption of Griselda's hype-beast model of merchandising, the Toronto hip-hop community has succeeded to ride the wave of Griselda's extended family. One look at Futurewave's WAV.GOD storefront will cement this reality. Futurewave's last major output with Rome Streetz Razors' Edge had multiple variants of vinyl, totalling over 1,000 units produced (between both the WAV.GOD online store as well as the German vinyl distributor Vinyl Digital), and sold out within a 24-hour period. These pieces of wax were priced between 60 to 150 dollars per unit, creating significant financial incentive for each album release. Perhaps the most interesting decision made by this artist community lies within their own constructed identity. Unlike generations that came before them, or the Canadian hip-hop community at large - the artists mentioned in this article rarely portray a distinctly Canadian identity. The themes in their music are generalized, rarely devoting song topics to Canadian topics of interest. Their social media bio's rarely mention Canada. Stylistically - although original - do mimic that of a New York sound. And they refrain from collaborating with those who do hold more transparent Canadian identities. In my encounters with hip-hop heads - often fans of these artists will be oblivious to the fact that they reside in Toronto, mistakenly believing that artists such as Daniel Son or Lord Juco are from New York. This dynamic has separated the scene in question from the Canadian hip-hop community more broadly. Canada has had a rich history of hip-hop with labels such as Battle Axe Records, URBNET, Hand'Solo Records, Peanuts and Corn, Side Road Records, Clothes Horse Records, etc. however these artists have acted as family and kin to one another and portray clearly and distinct Canadian identities. There is simply no mistaking an artist such as Moka Only's nationality. In an interview I conducted with Bozack Morris he claimed: Hip-hop is like this high school shit where people sit at the table and if you're not at the table - you might go to the same school - but if you're not at the same table - people don't acknowledge it. I think that's just what it is. It sucks because I know all those dudes. I know all the people that are in this kind of "Canadian-Toronto" ecosystem and I have seen how much they embrace each other. I don't really care to sit at their table. I just want to make the music that I make. [...] It's funny how when people talk about "Who's from Toronto?" they don't mention anyone in our scene. The quote on quote "Toronto" hip-hop, they aren't mentioning us. They aren't mentioning Daniel Son or Futurewave, and those motherfuckers are putting up numbers. They are eating off this shit more than a lot of these other motherfuckers that ARE getting the props. - Bozack Morris, interview with author. Figure 5: L-R: Lord Juco, Futurewave, Daniel Son Conclusion: Toronto is at a unique place in its own history regarding hip-hop culture. For the first time, Toronto hip-hop artists have successfully blended in with a dominant hip-hop culture. These are not one-off cases such as Drake, or the occasional appearance of Kardinall Offishall on a top 40 billboard hit. This is an onslaught of artists who have commanded respect and received it from hip-hop at large. They do not prioritize their region when forming their identity, and they represent a sound that is becoming more and more associated with upstate New York. I argue that the scene comprised of Buffalo, Rochester, and Niagara Falls, must also include Toronto as an active participant in the scenes sound and success in recent years. About The Author: Alex Kuchma is an award-winning oral historian focused on the history of hip-hop in Canada. With over ten years of experience as a music journalist, Kuchma has conducted nearly a thousand interviews with hip-hop artists and members of the broader hip-hop community. In 2021, Kuchma authored the dissertation 'It's Underground Shit Fool!': The DIY Ethos of the Vancouver Island Hip-Hop Community, 1980-2000. The dissertation examined the creative and innovative techniques that the hip-hop community on Vancouver Island practiced and how the community created a distinctly unique experience for which artists could thrive. His current work through the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University examines Toronto's hip-hop community throughout the years and the social capital that individuals of the Toronto hip-hop community have garnered with New York state hip-hop scenes. Kuchma is currently working on a general audience book which will use oral histories to convey the story of Canada's participation in hip-hop culture. https://linktr.ee/AlexKuchma Photo Credits: Fig. 1: Daniel Son x 6th Letter photo by Lucas Espinola (https://www.instagram.com/lucas_espinola/) Fig. 2: Michie Mee x L.A. Luv (https://www.discogs.com/release/463959-Michie-Mee-and-L-A-Luv-Elements-Of-Style) Fig. 3: Benny The Butcher x Westside Gunn x Conway The Machine (Robert LeBlanc) Fig. 4: Finn x Futurewave x Sibbs Roc (https://www.instagram.com/p/CTushDyl6Fl/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link) Fig. 5: Lord Juco x Futurewave x Daniel Son (https://www.instagram.com/p/CQ6xPyrrJYk/)
- Kay Anthony - Color Therapy
Color Therapy by Kay Anthony is a jolt to the system. The structure is made clear from the jump: skits of his therapist asking him tough questions make way for song-length answers. It’s a simple premise, more about how its executed than the setup itself. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely due to the high-profile album it shared a release date with. But while that artist descends from the clouds every few years with the world’s expectations on his shoulders, this is the picture of an artist working his ass off to get there. Stardom doesn’t hit everyone in their youth, and tireless work doesn’t always pay dividends direct. This is the story of someone not just down to earth, but bound to it, dirt under his fingernails. He’s rapping from a position that’s far too real: where neighbourhood realities never fade away, there’s always new personal obstacles to overcome, and the people around you are depending on you now, not later. Listening through, there’s plenty of pivots sonically. He can really rap his head off, as is evident right from the start. But the blistering bars and filthy 808s give way to a spacier, warmer feel as the album goes on. Guests show up to enhance or strengthen the sentiment of songs, excelling in their specific niches, and the tapestry it weaves all together is riveting. While addressing heavy topics like talking to God, angels, relationships and self-love, he never gets anywhere near being preachy or holier-than-thou. And even though the songs are concocted as answers to specific questions, they stand alone individually. Not that he’s seeking playlisting, but concept albums usually go all in on concept and sacrifice the strength of individual songs, which is clearly not the case here. Describing this album is tough; the somber tone and difficult self-truths juxtaposed with the kaleidoscope of sounds and approaches will have you nodding your head while reflecting on your life. “That’s why we like sugar but still end up with cavities, That’s why you chasing alienation and can’t master peace, That’s why your heart is at war but you’re searching for casualties, You too busy tryna defy your limits, what you think, you Master P?” - Kay Anthony, Better Many rappers have trouble making fans understand that they are people. Too often, these brilliant artists are reduced to their symbolic celebrity and the imagined lifestyle it entails. Fans can find it hard to sympathize when their favourite drops a “it’s hard being famous” album, but that’s not what this is. Sometimes, you can have all the talent and hustle, and it still feels like you’ll never stop having to prove yourself, forever clawing for the fame you know should be yours. Kay Anthony breaks down the duality of being a rapper. He talks about the pressure he faces, about feeling hopeless but having to keep going. About the difficulty of caring for yourself. He says “I heard pressure pays”, and you know he’s pushing through it. He’s been through the petty block stuff, the family struggles, and he’s done the exhausting work of climbing those mountains to see beyond them. He’s from NYC, a cold, competitive city with young drillers and old-head billionaires all in one market. Capitalism churns, and it’s up to each person to keep pushing forward regardless, and make a lane if there isn’t one already. Mental health is a continuing and essential theme in his art, as you can see in this short film of his from 2017, DEMONS/PARANOIA. The Village Voice did an accompanying article where they discuss his childhood and familial history. It's hard to find this sort of raw honesty, even in a therapist’s office. And yet, as the voice prods him to explore all sorts of dark corners in his psyche, it doesn’t feel fragmented or disjointed. Instead, we see how all of these things tie together and shape the person we hear responding. We get into his head, feel his doubt, know the rage. In the end, the answer to the question “Will you get better Kay?" “I hope so, some day.” Heard. That song, Better, ends with sage advice from a grandmother, telling us “Baby, trouble don’t last always.” It’s thoroughly an album - a complete project, and a pointed self portrait too. A number of producers were tapped for this, and the lush sound does not let up. Truly incredible tones and textures all the way throughout. Notably, RunitupDay has credits on two of the joints. Fans of Isaiah Rashad’s The House is Burning will appreciate the dreaminess, delivery, and stunning guest vocals. But outside comparisons to his peers and contemporaries, this is an album for any of us feeling lost. If you’re looking for guidance and blessings, or at the very least a splash of color on the gray, you’ll find a kindred spirit in these songs. We’re all in this together with Kay, and you’ll come out of listening knowing you’re far from alone. NOTABLE TRACKS: "Bless Me" (ft. Dot Demo,) "Hopeful Wishing" (ft. Jai Emm,) "Better," "Lord Father Pt. 2" & "30 (Interlude)" EVERYTHING KAY ANTHONY: https://fanlink.to/ColorTherapy
- Bizarre - He Got A Gun
Let's take a trip down memory lane. The white-hot summer of 2004, gas was less than $2 a gallon and on top of the charts is probably the most iconic R&B album of a generation, Confessions also peppered in with southern club raps that followed the massive Crunk wave initiated in 2003. The Black Eyed Peas had just started their seemingly endless 2000’s commercial success run following their placement during the 2004 Pistons/Lakers finals upset. Tall tees, denim jeans, sweat suits, obnoxious sunglasses, durags and air force ones had my people in a chokehold. This was the era of Hip Hop rising up and taking over the charts for decades to come. Eminem had released 8mile, 2 years prior. His group, D-12 was on top with the best selling Rap album of the year, (until Eminem ended that with the release of Encore in the Fall that same year.) Bizarre, probably the most visible member of the group. Known for his eccentric style: rocking a shower cap, going shirtless whenever possible and his signature off-kilter shock value rhymes… was missing from the group's second and final single ‘How Come’ from the D-12 World album. If you aren't either a purveyor of the underground, or a connoisseur of horrorcore...that's where it all ended for you. Outside of the occasional blog headline about a diss record or two, one even taking aim at the suddenly beloved Arby’s fast food chain, there hasn’t been much noise on the mainstream level around Bizzy or his many projects released since. He Got A Gun is one of the most filthy, disgusting and morally bankrupt rap albums in recent history, but follow me down The Rabbit Hole for a bit, there's more to unpack here. If you can stomach references to substance abuse, murder, domestic disputes and freaky women with autism…you’ll be able to make it past 3/4th of this album unscathed. Following their successful chemistry on multiple L.A.R.S (Last American Rock Stars) projects with Fat Killaz MC King Gordy under Majik Ninja Entertainment; HGAG sees Bizarre team up with Middle Finger Music producer Foul Mouth to deliver one of Bizzy’s most cohesive solo rap records to date. Somewhere between the raw raps of Detroit Horrorcore and the banging minimalist production of Griselda. This album is for Bizarre fans but might struggle to find footing outside his core fanbase. Remaining true to his shock-value punchline style, jokes about beloved mainstream artists, describing events in gross intimate detail not unlike a grimy variant of Rick Ross…will likely not appeal to most mainstream outlets as they tend to exclude offensive “targeted” content such as, “Lil Nas X, He ain’t important especially since he didn’t get that abortion.” The opener, “Uzi (Intro)” introduces He’s Got A Gun extremely honestly, “So me and my man, Foul Mouth decided to make an album called, He Gotta Gun and I came down to his dirty, filthy basement to rap, and I'ma rap for y'all,“ that’s it, that's the concept. 20 tracks of insanity recorded in Foul’s dirty basement in River Rouge… It is an unapologetic embracement of the weirdo shit Bizarre has built his storied career on. Hard drugs, hard drums, guns and deviant sex acts riddle this acid trip of a project. Deep-cut rock and funk samples made into woozy low fidelity grooves are signature to Foul’s style and he delivers some of his best production to date on this album. Stand-out beats are on “9mm,” “FN,” “Smith & Wesson,” “AS 50,” “MG3” (featuring the most melodic chorus on the record delivered by Skyrah), and “Gauge.” The features on this album range from the Golden age of Detroit Hip-Hop with the legends Guilty Simpson and Seven the General, as well as the seemingly immortal Ty Farris. Newer upstarts like Middle Finger’s break-out new artist Kain Cole, the super smooth Mvcknyce, and the prodigious young lyricist Dango Forlaine make their presence felt in a big way on their verses. Even another King of Weirdo’s: Kool Keith himself makes an impressive appearance on track “2 Hecker.” As stated previously, this album may struggle to find new fans, but it is true to Bizzare’s special brand of making music that sounds like a bent rolling tray filled with cigarette butts on the floor of Foul's basement at 3am. Original as always, lyrically a firm move away from the more Trap/cloud rap-heavy Peter album production wise. The mixing and mastering is also on point, courtesy of Foul’s gifted ear. After months of living together and recording, they came up out of the snake pit with what can be considered their most impressive work to date. It is now available on all platforms, alongside a 3-part documentary. on the making of the album. words by Xlo Released: June 3, 2022 https://linktr.ee/bizarresworld
- donSMITH - In Loving Memory
This past March, Harlem artist donSMITH released his soulful EP, In Loving Memory. The EP features Zacchae’us Paul, Asun Eastwood, Jay Lonzo and Kapi-Ku with production from Sypooda, Lim0, Flousen, Sum Total and RanVanDam. The EP as a whole serves as a transformation of Self, a transcendence through all the obstacles and curses that ended up being blessings. I refer specifically to “curses” as when you watch the video to “To Be Grateful (Long Live)” it is represented as a play with acts. “ACT I: The Curses Become Blessings.” Content, lyrics and message wise the EP is somewhat similar to a testimony or sermon as donSMITH explores various topics that essentially point towards gratitude for the path ordained for you. It’s an EP that asks you to hone in on the beauty of you and your life; where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, where you’ll go and what you’ll do. Are you grateful for it? For the flaws, the stumbles, the losses, lessons, moments of uncertainty that kept you guessin’, riddled with anxiety and indigestion? Are you grateful for it? Could you be who you are without it? In Loving Memory begins with the track “To Be Grateful (Long Live)” that sets the tone and theme of the project. The track begins with a woman’s voice who appears to be a religious leader giving a sermon. As her voice weaves in and out of the track you hear Zacchae’us Paul singing the hook, “I spent my whole life trying to be grateful…” followed with the woman’s voice stating, “God has blessed us to be here 1 more time.” The tone is set - to be grateful. And to be grateful of what? donSMITH enters the song with his verse that highlights an array of things he’s grateful for and the moments and thoughts that tie to those things. From gratitude to patience to privacy, creation (R.I.P. imitation,) hand-me-downs, competition, Nipsey tweet, “having strong enemies is a blessing,” the mission, long live them all. Long live the lessons, blessings and everything in between and beyond. The next track, “Long Time Coming” featuring Asun Eastwood further expounds on the theme of gratitude and how it’s connected to longevity. Oftentimes, when our flowers bloom it can feel like we should’ve received the bouquets a long time ago. Both artists on this track express how they’ve been blessed along their path the whole time even if the blessings were unseen at that time. “Long time coming, in the mirror confident in GOD and the flaws I come with” - donSMITH “It’s the ones that hate complexity try to stifle my glow” -Asun Eastwood “Lonzo’s Prayer” featuring Jay Lonzo also plays into the idea that your gifts and blessings aren’t always physical form but often things that are internal and innate that we have to develop. You know, Jay Lonzo states specifically in his verse, “can’t cry at Christmas if you know your gift ain’t under a tree,” puts the cherry on top of being grateful. In this track the woman pastor is back with more soothing affirmations. She asks the audience to really reflect on where they’re at, “you may not have the Bentley yet, the BMW but BE GRATEFUL.” In Loving Memory, then moves into the 4th track, “God Knows” featuring Kapi-Ku. The song really captures the social ills and pains that donSMITH observes and experiences in his environments. There’s a want in the song to learn how to help on the day2day but also recognizing the risks and predicaments that those gestures might put you in. Initially, there’s this hook in the background that loops, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” as if donSMITH is trying to figure out why things are the way they are. Eventually, by the end of the song he comes to terms with it, maybe it was supposed to be this way actually and only GOD knows. The final track, “Still DON” ends the EP strong. It completely ties up the themes of accepting your flaws and obstacles, learning to love the journey and to not just be but become. He’s asking questions of what is legacy (that may be rhetorical to some.) Is it your name? Your lovers, kids? Where you from? What you rep? How does one secure their legacy and make sure it represents you and your mission correctly? And when you’re living your legacy what does that look like in the present tense? All questions donSMITH is asking on the personal level but also very much on a universal level as well. “Legacy got me stuck in my ancestor ways / legacy got me feeling so honored to be here” When I came across In Loving Memory, I was in the midst of reading Hip Hop’s Hostile Gospel: A Post-Soul Theological Exploration by Daniel White Hodge. It’s always a beautiful moment when studies align in real time. The text by Hodge explores over 8,500 songs throughout Hip Hop that aids in his research of where GOD is in Hip Hop, how GOD is referenced, revered and etc. Without question, in another edition of the text or next volume this is an EP that needs to be referred to and in Hip Hop theology studies in general. Whether you’re religious or not, familiar with donSMITH or not this is a significant project from 2022 that shouldn’t be overlooked. EVERYTHING donSMITH: https://musaic.bio/donsmith
- UFO Fev - E Pluribus Unum
Harlem artist UFO Fev presents a representation of what it means to be influenced by where you come from but still remain original, authentic and 1 of 1 in his newest album, E Pluribus Unum. The album is solely produced by DJ J Hart and hosts features from Ace Arty and Jose Santiago. E Pluribus Unum begins with a clip of an interview where Mike Powers asking about a phone call UFO Fev received from Diddy and what that means to Fev coming from where he comes from. “I ain’t have nothin’ growing up; everything was a double team, break thru the defense, get the bucket - AND 1.” That specific clip of the interview sets up the listener/audience with the context needed to understand that UFO Fev got this shit out the mud. After "Intro" the album glides into “El Sapo” that speaks on the origins of UFO Fev the hustla and his day2day in a poetic cinematic manner. You know, this the beginning of the chapter that establishes where one came from, the root, the source. “Outside” featuring Ace Arty comes after and really is a track that expresses that UFO Fev and his crew were really outside with it. It’s not all talk and more likely than not more action and plays than actual talk about it. From “Outside” we move into the real hit of the album, “Money.” A track that needs to be spun on all radio stations mainstream, independent and underground because it’s really that g ood. From jump, you hear the infamous, “Get Money” loop that puts you in a New York state of mind. You know who he’s paying homage to but what will he do with it? UFO Fev walks us through how he made money off the origins spoken about in “El Sapo” while also reaping the benefits of “Outside” with the crew. With an infamous loop and equally infamous riff/influence of DMX, UFO Fev has the hook and song of the year, “For my next trick I make more money appear / THE RARE. THE REAL. THE CLOTH, WE WEAR.” From such a phenomenal track the album brings us to a grittier track, “Game Shifting” where UFO Fev touches on how he’s changed/shifted the game and continues to do so. The following track, “Pop Pop” featuring Jose Santiago has serious content/theme but delivered in a catchy and fun manner. Then, the album switches back to another notable song on E Pluribus Unum, “In The Rain.” Off production alone this track is gorgeous especially with the use of “In The Rain” by Bill Cooley and Alan Munson. You know, I’m sure all the tracks come from the soul but you feel the soul in this one. You hear the perseverance and feel the climb to greatness. Rain brings growth. “We the kids they never worried bout, the stories you never hear about, parents barely knew of out whereabouts / check the sole of his sneakers, I used to wear ‘em out / now the type of shit I’m doin’ is paramount” “Swish” is a track where UFO Fev is telling pieces of stories of the trenches and how he still made it out. There’s another catchy hook/chorus on this track too. The album switches to the track, “Light” which is more of a love song to friends, family and romantic lovers who have provided some kind of support, some kind of light throughout his life that helped illuminate the path. Those who have provided a source of purpose and perseverance for him. The outro of this track has another clip from Mike Power’s interview that touches on how UFO Fev was about to hang up the mic because he was investing more than he was returning before meeting Fat Joe. From there, E Pluribus Unum transitions into the final track of the album, “Business Man.” This track really captures the ascent of UFO Fev into another realm and also as a businessman. Almost like a more present feeling of the transition for him. As a whole E Pluribus Unum serves as a reflection of personal and generational plight that highlight environment, experiences and elevation from those lessons and learnings. Throughout the album there are various stories, dope hooks, poetic verses and inspiration/motivation to continue with your own craft - turnin’ the hustle to a business. E Pluribus Unum is one of the initial chapters in the story of how UFO Fev turned the hustla into a businessman. Out of one, many; the future is bright and beautiful for UFO Fev. EVERYTHING UFO FEV: https://linktr.ee/UFOFev & https://www.epluribusunum.nyc/
- Kr3wcial - Less Than Three
New Orleans and glbl wrmng artist Kr3wcial delivers his EP, Less Than Three. The EP hosts features from BLU, Mick Jenkins, Pell and Kalipop while also enlisting production from Ghazi Gamali, friendkerrek, Cronos and Kr3wcial himself. Throughout the EP, Kr3wcial fuses Hip Hop, neo-RnB with a hint of Pop to create a smooth “collection of reflections” of experiences with love, <3, Less Than Three. The intro track, “Jewelry” begins with a very calming energy that has Kr3wcial reflecting on the appearance and feeling a lover gave him, “You sure look good on me after I wear you out like jewelry / nirvana, when I feel you give me peace / there’s nowhere else I rather be.” The 2nd track of the EP, “Standards” has both Kr3wcial and Mick Jenkins speaking on some of the standards they’ve come across and employed themselves when dating or embarking on love. Standards have always been a thing but it seems as though in this current social media era that standards have been heightened to almost unrealistic expectations physically, financially, emotionally and intellectually. “Ego Trippin” is the next track of Less Than Three - and just as the title implies it’s about ego. The track expresses how ego can cause conflict in love but also can inflate situations as well. The yelling, the fighting, the lack of seeing eye2eye, needing to be right and maybe a drop of self-sabotage too. Next, the EP slides into the gem of the project, “Who Do You Call?” Off dribble, the production has this real gorgeous soulful appeal coupled with the combination of Pell and Kr3wcial’s similar content yet varying textures in voice. This is the type of song that triggers you in a good way, you know. Where you really have to sit back and assess, “who do you call?” - especially when the person you want to reach out to could have you dip back into toxicity. Or dip back to a place that you grew from or are growing from but you still need that familiar voice of encouragement despite it all. “Who do you call when that drinkin’ ain’t maskin’ the feelin’ and you wanna fix it?” The final track of Less Than Three is “Dumb Bitch Juice.” This was a solid way to end the EP because it speaks on wants, boundaries and at times getting lost in the sauce of romantic encounters. You know, do you keep sippin’ someone’s potion that is not sustainable or beneficial in the long-run? The intuitiveness that comes eventually of knowing someone has something you want but also knowing that it comes with a price and a life you’re already trying to wean yourself from. Less Than Three explores the complexities of romantic love throughout its various stages. The EP highlights how ego, standards, companionship and lack of mutual understanding/communication influence the trajectory of relationships. Even if the trajectory didn’t go as planned there’s always collections of reflections at hand. Additionally, Kr3wcial created his own universe (Kr3wniverse) for the release of Less Than Three. https://linktr.ee/ikr3wcial
- ISSUE 12
ARTISTS FEATURED: LOS, BRYCE SAVOY, AJ SNOW, MALZ MONDAY, BUCKWILD, JAMEEL NAIM X, JOHNNY UNITEUS, JODY JOE, $HRAMES, KAMEO, T.Y., AROOMFULLOFMIRRORS, RAHIEM SUPREME, OHBLIV, KAI CASH, REGGIE RARE, REY MORADO, JAVION BISHOP, CHE NOIR, BANCO, NUKE FRANKLIN, MACC, RU$H, JAY NICE, NICK GRANT, RALFY THE PLUG, KAREEM LEDELL, OSBE CHILL, PHILTHY RICH,
- ISSUE 12 REVIEWS
King Diamond by Bryce Savoy “& just to clarify I was never in them streets but tell me what’s the difference when ya niggas in it deep” Oakland’s Bryce Savoy delivers his album and 4th quarter trophy, King Diamond. The album has a lot of dope attributes that allow the listener/supporter into a deeper glimpse of Bryce Savoy and the environments and events that allows such a poet to flourish, express and inspire. From jump Bryce uses a piece of “Ocean Views” by the late Nipsey Hussle to grasp attention, set the tone and show how he’s carrying on Nipsey’s legacy in his own way - or even the ways in which he was influenced by Nip. Additionally, in “Forever Oakland” Bryce uses a clip of Tupac talkin’ about the importance of Oakland to him and from there the track turns into a beautiful ode to Oakland full of love and experiences. King Diamond in entirety is a well rounded album that displays variety, versatility and vulnerability. From love to independence to growth, goals, aspirations and manifestations King Diamond is undoubtedly a momentous project in Bryce Savoy's catalog. If ya ain’t had a listen yet you’re definitely missing out. Notable Songs: "Heavy Head," "On the Phone," "Alotta That" & "Forever Oakland" Don't Pop Pills, Pop Champagne by Aj Snow “lately I’ve been blessed because I haven’t been movin’ out of fear / the main goal is to double up from last year” Dallas artist Aj Snow delivers his first project of the year, Don’t Pop Pills, Pop Champagne. Aj Snow is an artist I make sure to always to stay current because he’s creating his own lane while simultaneously maintaining a similar lane/tradition of playa, suave music that you might hear from the likes of Dom Kennedy, Larry June, LE$ and more. Some coin it “car raps,” “cruisin’ music” but truly at the root of it, it’s good music created by an innovative mind. Besides a fly and statement making title (in a time where pills and opioids are at an all time high) the content and sonics are real suave and real playa. Don’t Pop Pills, Pop Champagne serves as a playa’s manual/huster’s manual that focuses on leveling up, celebrating accomplishments or redirections, lifestyle changes and keeping your soul, body and mind aligned. Notable Songs: "What's Happenin'," "Hustlers Need Love Too" & "Evening Cocktail" Super Heroes Don't Exist by Malz Monday “they see I’m ridin’ clean, they tryna throw dirt on my name/I can’t let them trick me out of positions I worked hard to claim” New York MC, Malz Monday delivered and lyrical manifesto, Super Heroes Don’t Exist. The album art and title of the album make it seem as though it could be more than an audio album but could be a cartoon series that illustrates each song further. Each track is an episode. Throughout Super Heroes Don’t Exist, Malz Monday is a very humble yet confident lyricist who is proving to be well-versed in his craft. The album in totality is about recognizing you’re your own hero and finding the strength to truly support yourself. Malz Monday is definitely a true lyricist, poet and independent. Super Heroes Don’t Exist could easily go down as not only a classic in his discography but really in this specific time period of underground/independent releases. If you seek motivation and a blueprint of how to actualize your dream(s) and goal(s) - this is a good one to start with. Notable Songs: "Mother Nature," "Circadian Rhythm," "One Day Never Comes" & "Father Time" Diggin' in the Tuff Kong Crates by Buckwild “every speech meant to motivate / don’t let the weight of the world make your shoulders shake” Bronx artist/producer/curator, Buckwild crafts a sonic symphony for some of Hip Hop's most seasoned independents from the underground. His new album, Diggin’ in the Tuff Kong Crates hosts features from the likes of Boldy James, Lord Jah Monte-Ogbon, CRIMEAPPLE, Guilty Simpson, Lauren Mayhem and more. The album seems to be part of a series Buckwild created. In 1998, he released an album called Still Diggin’ and in 2007 released an album called Diggin’ in the Crates. 2022 he’s Diggin’ in the Tuff Kong Crates. If you love sounds that fuse traditional Hip Hop with modern innovation of the art form, spin this one. Notable Songs: “Savage Monks,” “The Ghost” & “Co-Op” 12:29 in Boston by Jameel Na'im X “I’m so ahead of my time I reminisce about the future” In all honesty, Jameel Na’im X is one of the best in the game right now. By the time you hear the bar set up and process it he’s already on his 3rd set up; his wit and knowledge is unmatched. His recent release 12:29 in Boston only further shows his versatility in his artistry. This is an album that you’ll love instantly but also will love even more over time. Initially, there was one song I wasn’t too fond of and it was probably because I wasn’t really listening, but it ended up being one of my favorites after the 10th listen. Every release has me in awe when it comes to his lyricism but also how he’s able to create a sacred atmosphere through his music; there are some tracks that have looped mediation samples and even a track that samples what sounds like the Islamic Call To Prayer. And of course, with ease he raps over them as well as trap beats, boom bap beats and soulful beats. 12:29 in Boston is an un-skippable album full of everything that’s important and necessary in a Hip Hop album. Notable Songs: "Wicker Chair," "Joe Jackson," "Bleek & Beans" & "Bitter Sweet" 4daFree #Sorry4daDelay by JohnNY UniteUs “like why was I stressin’ / made it work in time, work for mine / learned workin’ for others wasn’t worth a dime” Brooklyn native and one of Hip Hop’s chosen, JohnNY UniteUs drops off a 4th quarter album, 4daFree #Sorry4daDelay. As with all his drops JohnNY has a real talent for creating thought-provoking bodies of work that left me pondering and further researching the significance of 4. Throughout the album JohnNY uses the number 4 in multiple of the titles. The number 4 is symbolic of many things that tie into the content and themes presented in 4daFree #Sorry4daDelay such as self-expression and self-fulfillment thru one’s own passion(s) and purpose(s). What echoed after hitting pause on the album was finding peace and stability within one’s self while also making those dreams tangible. If you enjoy music that balances fun, intent, motivation and inspiration then head over to Bandcamp and cop the project. Notable Songs: “4ward (So Far So Good),” “4orce of Nature” & “You’re Worth A 4Tune / 400 Acres” Jody Ca$h by Jody Joe x $hrames “I’m married to the game, I jumped the broom, got eloped / sacrificed my life for this - shit, I took an oath” Nashville artists Jody Joe and $hrames team up for their album, Jody Ca$h. Throughout the project $hrames provides productions that not only shows off his versatility but also his trap and tropical sonics influences - he always manages to create production that allows the body to move. Alongside $hrames versatile production is Jody Joe bringing raps that boast his mathematician skills as well as his ability to create his own plays and provide for him and his. Jody Joe touches on topics involving an array of women and his connections to them as well as how he’s living out his plans and goals. Jody Ca$h overall, is about Jody Joe getting to the dough, how he does it, who he does it with, what he does with it and how the business ventures will grow. Notable Songs: "Nonchalant," "Carry On" & "Guns N Butter" TRYNA TELL U HOW I FEEL by Kameo “just because you get it first doesn’t mean the money’s gonna last ya” New Jersey’s Kameo delivers his album TRYNA TELL U HOW I FEEL exclusively on his site. I found this aspect of his artistry to be really cool because it denotes the faith he has in his art to not need any DSPs but his own weblink. That’s next level independence and faith. As this was my intro to Kameo, I was genuinely blown outta the water. Kameo has this real raw, static, refined out the basement texture to his music that puts me in the mind-frame of an East Coast cypher. You can tell he’s about the knowledge, culture and expression just off the things he raps about, the way he presents his art and displays it to his audience(s). For sure an artist that I’ll be writing more about as the music presents itself. TRYNA TELL U HOW I FEEL is really for Hip Hop. Notable Songs: “Forever,” “Magnetic” & “The Essence” Live From Choppa City by T.Y. “I can’t fuck around I’m really on a mission / cut off a few niggas now shit movin’ quicker” New Orleans artist, T.Y. delivered his album Live From Choppa City this past December. The album appears to be an ode or homage to his father, B.G. who released albums with similar titles such as, Chopper City and Chopper City In The Ghetto. While T.Y. has been carrying on tradition he’s still able to put his own style and hustle in. Live From Choppa City is an album that explores the current state of hustlin’ in New Orleans from the lens of T.Y. He addresses topics of loyalty, fast life, gettin’ to the money, fake niggas, personal growth and knowing what you’re doing with your hustle. Above all, the album is a body of work that will encourage anyone to get their hustle up and really become You. Notable Songs: "Can’t Fuck Around," "Fake Niggas," "Bad Mood" & "Loyalty" Money Bags by aroomfullofmirrors "the gin and juice make my dawg so corrupt / ice lay on my tee, I'm sellin' coco and dust" T.D.E. and aroomfullofmirrors presented an EP, Money Bags that also has a visual film counterpart. The EP comes from the collective “aroomfullofmirrors” that includes: Lyric Michelle, Jrias Law, Hari, Nick Grant, Earlee Riser, Daylyt, BillyMaree, Punch and Ichiban Don. Sonically, Money Bags has a variety of production with thought-provoking content delivered from some top tier artists. What mostly caught my attention with Money Bags, is the actual name of the collective, aroomfullofmirrors and what that means as far as symbolism and music. Whatever is center in a room full of mirrors can be seen from various angles depending on light, perspective and vantage points. Whatever is not center in a room full of mirrors can only be seen from certain angles. Is it an expression of vulnerability while still recognizing the portals around you? Various portals, various angles just reflecting different aspects. Notable Songs: "Woah," "Nobody Dies" & "WestSide" Black Keys Wit Melodies by Rahiem Supreme x Ohbliv “the sauce came from home, came from where I been, sauce came from family, came from where it originated” D.C. artist Rahiem Supreme and Virginia’s Ohbliv come together for their project, Black Keys Wit Melodies. The Mutant Academy producer provides the perfect 80’s influenced sonics for Rahiem to flow over. In Black Keys Wit Melodies, Rahiem uses a modern beatnik/Gil Scott Heron type delivery; you know, real suave, real fly with it but still with purpose. These two artists make the luxuriously fly and authentic music seem easy. Black Keys Wit Melodies is thought-provoking, witty, uplifting and free in a very retro/vintage demeanor. Notable Songs: "secret sauce," hot date" & "outro" Original Since Birth by Reggie Rare “I can’t lose my assignment while the Sun still shining / GOD told me perfect timing” Palmdale artist Reggie Rare dropped off his first album of the new year, Original Since Birth. The album hosts features from the likes of Smoke DZA, A-F-R-O, Bryan Keon and JAG. What I enjoyed about this album was the story it was telling about time, what perfect timing is and how everyone experiences “perfect timing” differently. Throughout Original Since Birth, Reggie Rare expresses how he’s been authentic since he entered this world and his perseverance. He also speaks on more vulnerable topics that highlight some obstacles and trials he endured while on the route to his purpose(s). If you enjoy what you hear be sure to also spin his newest album, Not To Far Off - which I imagine I’ll be writing about if it’s anything like Original Since Birth. Notable Songs: “Timely Fashion,” “Sun Down” “Talk To Much” “O.S.B.” CA$H: The Elegant Fella by Kai Ca$h “if we goin’ head to head I”m addin’ tags to a toe / so keep it classy fosho” Brooklyn artist Kai CA$H delivers his latest EP, CA$H: The Elegant Fella. The EP is a very vulnerable project that explores a lot of personal topics that are also universal emotions and thoughts as a genuine artist and creator. The content that the project holds is impressive especially because it’s a 6 song EP but despite the length Kai is able to flow effortlessly over many topics such as mental health and social media, patience with your craft and gift and more. The EP plays like an album and Kai’s delivery is real suave, confident and still humble. Real inspirational and motivational EP for any creative that knows their time is coming and really are just focused on progressing the craft. Notable Songs: "7 Seater," "No Letting GO," "Round The Way" & "Time Coming" God Speech by Rey Morado x Javion Bishop “I be starving my ego to feed the soul” Rey Morado and Javion Bishop team up for their EP, God Speech. The first thing that stood out in God Speech is the texture of both their voices individually and together. Both artists on the track have thought-provoking lyrics while using different styles and flows. It was exciting to listen to because they switch each song who starts and who follows. One comes on the track and delivers a dope verse then and the song could be complete off that, but then the other one comes and lays down a verse that takes the song to another realm. The combination of the two is hazardous. Sonically, God Speech sounds raw, unedited energy and intentional and possibly even unconscious conversations with GOD. Notable Songs: "Good Sh!t," "Spreading Out," "Mazerunner" & "Ill Ones" Food For Thought by Che Noir "fuck peace, when it's time to survive, I'm with a knife / if it's war then it's eye for an eye, I went in blind" First things first, Che Noir is a talented poet and bearer of Hip Hop tradition. As far as this recent album, Food For Thought, it was a challenging listen considering how much I enjoyed her previous work. I hear her set-ups, I hear her bars, the thoughts, features, flows and productions but all of those things didn’t quite align in Food For Thought. The production fell a bit short of what I was expecting and also had me nodding off on certain songs - this could be a combination of Che’s monotone texture/delivery and the down-ridden beats. The perseverance aspects of the album are heard and related to, but the album felt colorless, dull, overcast and gray. Overall, Food For Thought wasn’t the best of her work but that doesn't mean I won’t stop listening to what she comes up with next. Notable Songs: "Eat or Starve" "Ladies Brunch" & "Table For 3" BANC by Banco "I'm obsessed with the game, I even work when I sleep" BANC is an album from Texas artist Banco who makes it clear he’s accepted his destiny and bound for greatness. BANC, gives a glimpse of what Banco’s commitment to his growth has brought him. Banco speaks on moments that express the new luxury he’s stepped into but there’s still more he aspires for. While this is one of Banco’s best projects yet it’s also unspoken in the album that this is just the brink of what he will create, express and elevate to. A very well arranged album with stories of love, goals, new experiences and the pursuit of growth and greatness. Notable Songs: "Spilt Liquor" "What About Us" & "Diamond Pumas" Runnin' With Scissors by Nuke Franklin “I’m certified at finding the pain / a ghetto rose, you know I grown in the rain” Cleveland artist Nuke Franklin allows himself space to express his vulnerabilities and reflections in his new project, Runnin’ With Scissors. Originally, “running with scissors” is an idiom that points towards recklessness, danger and often forbidden acts. A lot of the project is Nuke Franklin reflecting on how he’s been Runnin’ With Scissors his whole life. There are moments where he talks about love and learning to love oneself before you can love others. There are also moments where Nuke speaks on his ego and hurdles as an artist. Runnin’ With Scissors is a very versatile project from content to sonics; somewhere between thought-provoking and being able to dance through it. Notable Songs: “One Way St.” “OHSHEITGAWDDAMN” &“Hidden Hills” Macc Files: Case Closed by Macc “in this thing called life, you either pay your dues or you pay the price” New Orleans/Houston artist Macc releases his album, Macc Files: Case Closed. This is my intro project to Macc and with each listen I’m more impressed. Off the first listen I wasn’t sure of the region/geography he was coming out of but what I did hear was real smooth, real ridin’, playa music. It’s about grindin’, hustlin’, growin’ and aspiring for a luxurious lifestyle by any means. Similar to the title of the album, Macc Files: Case Closed - each track serves as a file about/on Macc. Each file/track is sure to be filled with Macc’s desires, goals and Macc, the mac. An artist with a lot of potential without question. Very determined but still has patience with what he’s creating/aspiring towards. Notable Songs: “Feelin Like” “Eastside Pimp” & “Champagne & Caviar” FAMILI 3 by RU$H x Jay Nice “we gonna criticize that actin’ ‘til they flip the script” Luxury raps, real cinematic, “I’m at the top of my game enjoying the benefits but still got these pains and gains to get off my chest.” Delaware artists RU$H and Jay Nice come together again for their third installment of their FAMILI series. FAMILI 3 is about the challenges and trials that RU$H and Jay Nice have traversed in order to get them at this point in their journey to where they can celebrate. FAMILI 3 has beautiful classic sounding production coupled with seasoned flows on the mice. Real fly art. Notable Songs: "Philippe Chow," "Blicks at Hot 9" & "Underground Art Legends Interlude" Welcome To Loveland by Nick Grant "we talk ideas and what happens in the afterlife / to them you public enemy but you surpass the hype" New York’s Nick Grant is one of the best current lyricists in the game right now. From his individual projects to group collaborations he’s sure to be one to stick out in terms of content and flow. Out of nowhere he dropped off a real funky, ode to love, pre-Valentine’s Day, Welcome To Loveland. Throughout this album Nick Grant expresses his sensuality, singing ability and g-funk influence. This is easily one of his more fun projects in his catalog that represents the type of versatility and variety he can provide and produce as an artist. Welcome To Loveland could easily go down as a timeless project from this current era and maybe even beyond that. Notable Songs: “Brutal Honesty” “The Simulation” “Love & Other Drugs” & “The Ingredient” Pastor Ralfy 2 by Ralfy The Plug "niggas must've been mad that our crowds are liver / Drakeo stood on 10 toes with a smile against 1000 fighters" South Central’s one and only Ralfy The Plug speaks on the recent passing of both Stinc Team members, his brother Drakeo The Ruler and Ketchy The Great in his album, Pastor Ralfy 2. The Stinc Team is notorious for creating and expressing a new way to flow and rap out of L.A. while also influencing many of the newer rappers coming out of the region. Ralfy The Plug uses Pastor Ralfy 2 to give his own personal sermons about the life he came from, the life he leads and the influence the Stinc Team has. While many of Ralfy’s raps are braggadocio he’s also a lyricist who has pretty much perfected every hook of every song. Pastor Ralfy 2 displays a more seasoned Ralfy that doesn't shy away from talking about the darkness he’s battling, grieving and also getting to the bag and continuing plays. As long as Ralfy The Plug is around, so will be the legacy of Drakeo The Ruler and Ketchy The Great. Notable Songs: "The Truth" "Bruce Lee Kick" "Keep Up" & "Being Me" D U L L by Kareem Ledell Soul Raps 2 by Osbe Chill “wasted half the time I had on learnin’ how to go all in” Tennessee artist Kareem Ledell delivers his first offering of the new year, D U L L. Kareem is a poet who is becoming more and more well versed in expressing his vulnerabilities, realities and creative endeavors. D U L L is an EP that assesses Kareem’s present moment and the darkness/dullness he experiences in the midst of creation and expression. It’s easy to listen to Kareem for his laid back demeanor and the patience he has with his flow. D U L L hosts various producers from: Plantif Earf Marow, 9thaGod and Blue Magic Beat Co. as well as a single feature from Nashville’s Ron Obasi. Overall, D U L L contains thought-provoking words and moments that aren’t afraid to acknowledge and sit with the scars of the journey. Notable Songs: “Endzone (Intro),” “Second Coming,” “Green Lady” & “Lifeline” Soul Rap 2 by Osbe Chill “I’mma keep it solid ‘til the day that I depart / but you know I’ll never die I’ll be living thru my art” Soul Rap 2 is definitely a compilation of raps from the soul. South Central artist Osbe Chill flows over many topics pertaining to the soul. Some of the things he touches on are personal but also universal; from politics, personal flaws, friends, family, generational stories and lineage. Osbe also speaks on things that he’ll have to teach his kids about environments and people. One of the reasons Soul Rap 2 is dope is that Osbe puts his family in the forefront (as shown on the album art) of his life and sheds light upon them in the project. There’s even a moment where Osbe mentions Interscope and that the family image isn't necessarily what they were trying to push. It’s refreshing seeing artists stick to truly what their soul knows is important and possible. Looking forward to any other work he decides to put out. Notable Songs: "Intro" "I Got Me" "Free Infant Pharaoh" & "No Hard Feelings" Motivational Purpose by Philthy Rich “ain’t a fan in the crowd, niggas came from nothin’” I’m always at a crossroads when it comes to supporting Philthy Rich. People who of the artist know about his past and his businesses that he runs (as a woman and having friends and family involved with sex work.) One thing I must say is that his independent grind at the level he’s at considering his city and environment he came from is motivational. Motivational Purpose and his last album, Solidified are some of his most polished and seasoned work with top tier content and features. The music are his conversations with GOD and I suppose also to provide motivational purpose for those who listen and are on their grind/hustle as well. Notable Songs: "Safe," "On Me," "My Everything" & "Leave Me Alone"
- LOS INTERVIEW
CROWNTHEM was started to highlight artists that ain’t being recognized by the mainstream and don’t need to be necessarily. It’s really gettin’ to the root of it - you know, people always talk about how there ain’t good Hip Hop and there’s plenty of it. LOS: I love that for sure and I appreciate you for that. And it’s even cooler because a lot of the new, fresh Hip Hop is coming out of the South which I know you be talkin’ bout as the “New South” and shit. LOS: Facts, I mean all the good shit comes from down here. Everything is coming from down here, if you ask me. We comin’ out the mud with it. It’s me and some more guys around my age that’s comin’ up from down here that’s goin’ to shake shit up some more again. I’m pretty excited for that. That’s real, when I was playin’ your album and shit that’s the energy that I was gettin’ with your use of so many soulful samples and stuff like that. And really, like a classic soul, really out the mud type soul. I was like, “yeah, he representing being out the mud” and really carrying on traditions and shit for real. LOS: I had to and really it was the Universe that did all that shit to be honest with you. All the sequencing and everything, that’s all the Universe. So, I had to and we’re goin’ to continue to. That’s what matters. Yeah, yeah… So, tell me a bit about you. Where does your name come from? Where are you and your people from? LOS: My name was formerly Carlos. Throughout growing up, well, I was named after my pops. His name is Carlos but out in the hood and everything they call him Big Los and growin’ up I was Lil Los. Clearly, it just came from not wanting to be called Carlos, so I was Lil Los then I got a little older and now I’m LOS and I feel like I’m gonna be Big Los soon. It’s on me, really the name came from my pops. And my family, I think everyone in my family is from Mississippi. Definitely goin’ way back, I have Choctaw and Chickasaw family members and ancestors who actually moved from Mobile, Alabama to Mississippi but mainly all of my family is from Mississippi. From Vicksburg, MS, Meridian, Yazoo City, but me and my immediate family and most of my nuclear family is from Jackson. Been in and out of Jackson for most of my life. It’s been years now but I was there for about 12 years then I moved to Chicago but the roots is definitely from the Jack. That’s literally where all my family is from. We the only ones that left when my pops moved to Memphis. All rooted from the city of Soul. That’s so interesting because like I have indigenous heritage as well down in Mississippi and Arkansas and just hearing your stuff and seeing some of the symbolism and using Geronimo too. I was just like, “is bruh native? He got native blood for sure.” Whether an artist is conscious of what they’re portraying or not, ancestors are still speaking through that shit. Even in your video trailer you got the Blackhawks jersey on. LOS: True, and that’s just shit that I’m doin’ it’s not even crossin’ my mind but that make a lot of sense for sure. It’s close in the family tree I believe too - my grand aunt looks like she's a full-blooded native and my great-grandma is like full-blooded Choctaw and Chickasaw on both sides. So, it’s pretty close. Yeah, man that’s beautiful for real. LOS: Fosho, fosho, I'mma dig into that. I haven’t really dug into it at all so it’s not nothing I don’t embrace but also nothin’ I’ve paid much attention to. We’ll definitely see. Going off that - the Geronimo symbolism and significance throughout your album. Where did that come from? LOS: Geronimo. Okay, so I figured I was goin’ to make this project July 2020 and I was just thinkin’, “what’s next?” So, me and my brother that I grew up with since I moved to Chicago (and he never made beats before or nothing like that, Terron Clark.) What?! LOS: I kid you not this is his first time. I’m like, “nigga, what!” So, I send him the samples that I wanted and I sent him what I wanted looped. That’s what I did for a good portion of this project; send them the sample and tell them the time marks for what I wanted looped and they just killed that shit. The name of the original intro wasn’t “Geronimo!” I don’t think, I think it was “1st Time” or some shit. It was something I made but it gave me the intro feel and what’s funny about that is I actually made the intro as a first track for My Love Is Crack and for the outro it was actually the last song that I recorded. It came together perfectly. As far as “Geronimo!” goes it was just me speakin’ about what was happenin’ around that year. One of my close friends, Mikey, had brain surgery, a tumor and everything. Of course, that 10k grant and shit that everybody was tryin’ to get with, the PPPs. It was just somethin’ I wanted to do real fast and it ended up bein’ the intro so I’m happy that happened. Yeaaah, but still at the same time of talkin’ indigneous bloodline and shit - Geronimo was one of the last noted native warriors. LOS: Facts, that makes a lot of sense. I was just thinkin’ we was gonna jump into what’s next so I named the song that. I feel like it’s just somethin’ that comes and what does come, comes naturally. Like I said I push the pen but the Universe be writin’ a lot of this shit at the same time. Then other people catch on and I, myself didn’t catch on, even talkin’ about it. It worked out well, fosho. And that’s what I felt for real. I feel like you’re really being guided bro. The soul of it really feels like you know what you doin’ and you realizing it but I don’t think you understand the depths of who is pushing you, you know? And why they pushin’ you? It’s beautiful. LOS: Thank you, thank you, we gonna get there. I’mma figure out but if not as long as everything is goin’ how it’s goin’, I’m grateful for everything. I’m grateful for it all. Super cool, but about them samples. You chose all the samples from all the tracks? LOS: Not all of them. I chose the samples for out of 14 probably 5. That’s pretty much it. Because I knew some of them but couldn’t quite catch them so I had a friend listen to it with me and she caught one of them samples on “Good & Well.” Was it “If” by Destiny’s Child? LOS: Man, yeah, it’s “It” by Destiny’s Child and it fit well because all of those samples are from the 70’s besides that one. One of my close friends, Bri, she’s a designer and everything and she love soul music almost as much as I love soul music. I don’t think anyone loves soul music as much as LOS. We were just talkin’ about music and soul and just the sounds and the ratio to the loop goes and she sent that shit. She sent that song and I was like, “bro, I gotta sample this - there’s no way I’m not.” I originally wrote “Good & Well” to another sample that would’ve fit well too but we couldn’t find that nowhere to get it put on the project. I love that sample… that’s my favorite song on the project right now, fosho. That’s a good one but I mean all of them are good. It’s cool to learn the samples and know how they play into the actual theme of your project. The waves and the relationships and shit like that. LOS: Yeah, it’s like a lot of switches in content and reasonin’ and I’m happy that I chose “Good & Well” to go before “Fornever” from “Can’t You'' because obviously goin’ from “Can’t You” to “Good & Well” was some shit right there. So, I had to make it stream well. Yeah, a lot of arrangements. So, who did you grow up on? What was your music like? LOS: Definitely Andre, well Outkast, T.I., 50 cent, UGK, 8Ball & MJG. All the Southern greats. LOS: Basically, besides 50. So, Screw, those were mainly the ones that I knew were my favorite artists. 3K, T.I. 50 and Wayne. Those are my 4,like, big inspirations of my favorite artists growin’ up. That’s dope, and as far as your soul singers? LOS: Honestly, to be real with you, my pops he always bumped rap music. He never bumped nothing else but rap music. My mom, she only bumped 90’s music, barely any 80’s music. My grandparents were some gangstas too, they wasn’t really bumpin’ no old shit either. It was really just somethin’ that came unto my soul. I heard some shit and I just fell in love with it. It was actually later on in my life, I would hear the songs at family reunions and everything but I never went deep divin’ to Soul music ‘til I was about 14, truly. So, Marvin, he’s one of my favorite artists of all time. Aretha Franklin, Al Green, The Isley’s, The Moments, I could go all day bout that. That’s the main thing I listen to when it comes to music; 70’s Soul and 70’s Reggae. Oh yeah, Reggae for sure. I love Dub, I’ll listen to Dub all day. LOS: Yeah, I gotta have the Sun. The Sun gotta be out for me to listen to Reggae. Man, sometimes I gotta make the Sun. LOS: Facts, especially during these winters you definitely got to. Man, when I moved down here I didn’t think it would ever be this cold in the winter time. It’s so crazy. LOS: Yeah, people are really surprised by that. At least you don’t gotta deal with no snow 24/7 type shit, the whooooole winter, you feel me? It’s only like a month or two out of the year. That’s real, that’s hella real. So, where did your inspiration for My Love Is Crack come from? LOS: I think that the people that paid attention thought that it was gonna be a love project because for some reason I love doing love songs. I’ve released love songs as singles before which I never thought I would do. My love life definitely inspired that a little bit and just my Blackness and findin’ myself through the readin’ and doin’ the knowledge and the wisdom and everything and of course just regular life experiences. Then I realized, when it comes to certain things that I do or I love or loves me it’s not always somethin’ good that comes out it, you know, but you love it so much that you just can’t fully let it go. So, I figure, “My Love” as in the love that I have for women, the love I have for this and that whether it’s being in dangerous environments. Like muthafuckas love that shit and don’t understand why. I feel like it’s addicting in a way. So, I said my whole first project is going to be called, “My Love Is Crack.” I don’t give a damn and that’s what I did. Mainly, I would say life experiences and that’s pretty much it. I can’t say what it would usually be or what I have planned so that’s why it caught me off guard, truly. This is so interesting because from a listener’s perspective and readin’ the interview that WavezMovement did and I experienced it in so many ways. I would say that it does feel like a love project. It just feel reflective, like a reflective love project. Because you’re talkin’ and you’re vulnerable with how you’re talkin’ about the relationships and how different things have gone with different women. You also reference family and friends in too and when you talk about shit like that, that’s natural love. LOS: That’s somethin’... facts, you’re definitely right. I get it, I just didn’t want people to think it was like a romantic love project. Like a romance. Damn, I’m happy you caught that because that was really what was on my mind throughout the pandemic and everything and while writing this album as well. I can imagine, so interesting because, “My Love Is Crack,” it’s like you’re almost talkin’ about vices or how things become vices. LOS: Yeah, for sure. When we talk about vices it did get pretty deep talkin’ bout vices. I had a lot of throwaways that was like, “shit…” when I was really speakin’ on the vices. I’m definitely speakin’ a lot about it and it’s a lot of narcissistic views that I really didn’t realize was in it. Which wasn’t on purpose but it was just an over-loving myself in certain ways is what creates tracks like, “Pick One, Get One” and “Can’t You” and pretty much the whole beginning of the project. The way I wanted to flow out from LOS to LOS Kemet it was definitely the vice part, “Can’t You” and “Pick One, Get One” fosho. Why do you say that? LOS: “Can’t you tell we love these hoes,” is just a vice in itself because niggas feel that way and women feel that way as well. And it can be a vice because not everything is good for you. Really the whole project coud reflect on the vices whether it’s someone who has dealt with me or me dealin’ with somebody else or dealin’ with a situation, anything like that. That would be a very good way to describe the project, fosho. Yeah, ‘cause you do got that little clip of Rick James too on “Pick One, Get One.” LOS: Exactly, so if I could say there was a sideseat to the project it would be the vices portion in my eyes. And you do mention too, “self-aware narcissist” within the project. Where did that come from? LOS: A few of my past relationships they would say certain things and lately (as of before 2020,) I would get that title but I didn’t realize that’s what it actually was until I started going to therapy - it flows into “We All,” so that’s the main thing. It’s not really just me callin’ it out because I felt that way about myself it took time, it took talkin’ to people and talkin’ to my therapist to know, “you are this and you’re workin’ on it and the best thing about all this is that you’re self-aware.” Self-aware enough to even talk to a therapist. Facts. That’s real, that’s hella real. That’s also another theme, it very much was about Black mental health and taking care of yourself in that way too. LOS: I had to throw those in there with the soulful samples to try and pay some type of homage to these samples. I wanted to put pieces of stuff that they would speak on so it was only right for me to do that. And, listenin’ to shit like “Dear Mama” and “Dear Mama” was a big inspiration on “We All.” Just listenin’ to certain artists and especially 70’s artists, like that’s my secret formula. I don’t really want people to know that but my secret formula is studying. That is the best formula you could have in this industry, studying. Mhm, student of everything. LOS: Fosho, gotta be, you gotta pay the homage all the time. Man, for real. I’ve realized also that you go by LOS Kemet sometimes. What’s up with that? LOS: First off, I am not Kemetic as far as the knowledge goes but as far as the original meaning of Kemet goes I have plans with that. Like, for a new Kemet to build. My name is LOS Kemet and my actual government name is turning into LOS Kemet and that’s really where I got it from was the original meanin’ and studying the knowledge but I’m not the guy that’s a Kemetic knowledge man. You know how the people be, you know, East Coast and Philly and all that, that’s not me. I wanna build a newer version of everything, that’s where it came from. “Build your own pyramids / write your own hieroglyphs” LOS: Exactly, instead of arguing over it. Who did this first and who did that first. I’m not one of those. Because there’s just some shit that you know that other people don’t. You can’t even, there ain’t no conversation to be had. LOS: Exactly, because you’re really just wasting your time. Like when it comes to some of the consciousness it’s really a lot of arguing and shit and I have no time for that. When we could all just create ideas amongst each other and build shit from there. Because who the hell is buildin’ pyramids today? Ain’t no nigga buildin’ a pyramid today. Niggas just wanna talk bout who built them first. We don’t got time for that shit. That was my whole reason, I was like I’mma go to the cout and change my name to LOS Kemet. I love that, that’s so cool. EVERYTHING LOS: https://linktr.ee/los601 PHOTOGRAPHY: CLUB GALLERIA
- PROMISE INTERVIEW
SWISS ARMY RADIO (live link): https://s2.radio.co/sf4a463e22/listen https://linktr.ee/SwissArmyRecords PHOTOS: KODAK K First things first, who are you? Where are you from and where are your people from? Promise: Promise, a producer based in Atlanta. I was born in the Bronx, New York, I was raised in Philadelphia and surrounding areas around Philadelphia… predominately this spot called, “North Town,” I guess that would be the Riverdale of Philadelphia in a sense. In about 2012, I moved to Atlanta, where I’m currently at, my senior year in high school. That’s wild, but that actually makes a lot of sense now. But I was recognizing that you’re very connected with East Coast and Midwest rappers or even rappers who are along the South but push that East Coast barrier. I always wondered how you were so connected but it makes sense because you spent time in all these different areas. Promise: Yeah and Philly it’s really knockin' on doors and standing on people’s porches type thing. So, moving down here everything is a drive. It’s not really transient like there’s not much trains and buses in the city. I just feel like that sense of pulling up, it was nothing especially once I learned how to drive. I think I got my license the day I turned 18, maybe. But I think everyone in Philly drives before they get their license, it’s like a right of passage. As soon as I got my license I was already a couple years into producing and that was really my way of building a rapport. Relationships are important, also the music is important. I always had that early on. Even when I was in Philadelphia any chance I wasn’t in school I was back in New York. It’s the same with Atlanta, anytime I wasn’t working or anytime I had a chance to take a vacay or wasn’t in school I’d go right back to Philly and New York. And I really just started putting on the shoes of like an A&R, sort of kind of due to a lot of pieces I was missing or I felt like was missing. But I’m not the type to be complacent or complain about it. I’m going to get active to it. So, that’s really how I made Swiss Army Records, in 2013/2014. Even beyond the name, the way the label functions was already preset to how I seen underground labels run whether in Philly or moving to Atlanta. But, Atlanta, this city… I wouldn’t say it’s the opposite to how the North is but it has a lot more to offer than what you see on the outside of it. I guess people see a system but deep within that system there’s a lot of different genres and communities when it comes to R&B or rap or punk, it’s a lot. There are a lot of different artists down here. Yeah, when I lived in Atlanta a couple years before coming up here to Memphis and that’s what I noticed in Atlanta. Of course on the outside people see the Trap Music influence and what not, but as I went to smaller shows and shit it was real eccentric and punk type music I kept running into. It was really cool to see. A lot of house music. It’s cool to hear you say that as well. Promise: Yeah, I’ve seen a lot here. I remember this venue called High Five which was inside a Thai restaurant with a venue in the back, it was real big. Around the middle of A$AP era. There was a lot of eclectic venues like that back in the day. I say back in the day but it was a couple years ago. It seems so long ago for Atlanta because Atlanta is really going through a big property shift. COVID really ramped that up. I just see a big opportunity for this generation to not just be consumers to what the culture is down here, but, more so to be active participants to what the culture is down here. In the amount of venues you’ve seen been taken away from Atlanta - have you seen many more pop up? Promise: Yeah, not to scale yet as the previous ones before. For obvious reasons, COVID just still is what it is and the city ain’t what it used to be but not in it’s own fault. A lot more gentrification, a lot more moving around, a lot more attacks on the homeless, the whole city is a mess in itself. But for the community, there’s definitely a lot more different scenes. Like we had a big thing down here called Controllerise, you know, weekly, lofi, anime, food, dance and music type of vibe and they’re thrown every Monday. Oh, for real? Promise: Yeah, that was pretty big down here for a couple years. I’ve been to them accidentally at an A3C afterparty. It was like an A3C pop-up, and they were like, “see y’all next week,” and I was like, “oh shit, it’s weekly.” Damn near every video game you can think of… it was a free to play. With music and shit too? Promise: With music in the background with lofi, they got like premier DJ sets, it was a real good setup. Then COVID kinda cramped things down. Yeah, stole a lot of shit. Promise: Even outside of that there’s still a lot of things the music community to get together on. The pace didn’t stop. Knowing the city I kinda know that. Before the lockdown, I felt like we were going to go through a renaissance or a speakeasy phase of some sort. Knowing Atlanta, it’s not going to stop anything it’s just going to be more intimate. Yeah, I can see more private events. Promise: Which is really how it’s turning out too. It’s not bad, a lot of curators are collabing with food bars or video game bars which is dope in itself because it gives more grassroots and builds for later on. That’s what I was gonna say, the collaborations create the community. I’m curious to know more about Swiss Army Radio, Swiss Army Records. Promise: Swiss Army Records is what I would call my tree because I got a lot of programs that run under Swiss Army Records within itself. Then you got a branch which is Swiss Army Radio which gives more of a spinout put on premiering/debuting and breaking records for the underground and records in general that aren’t targeted for billboards. Still good music in the city. That’s pretty much what I’ve been gearing up to run towards with that. To lock in a 24/7 place for videos, skate premiers, a lot of ideas, there’s a lot of contemporary art that I want to tap into. A place for all mediums structured by the programming however it may be but that’s the biggest aspect for Swiss Army Radio. We’ve worked with many different mediums. We’ve done different collabs with Dash Radio, Dash XM, we’ve done collabs with this radio station down here, “Highly Unique Radio,” monetized, weekly, 24/7 live radio. We ran through a couple different partnerships to kind of figure out what format works best for us. How do you run it now? Promise: Right now, I got the hub now for Swiss Army Records with the new office space. I’m planning on locking in something that’s more global. A site, after you lock in it’s a 24/7 thing. You know, setting up the traffic on that to really give artists the premiere they deserve, that’s needed, that’s kinda missing from videos that could put batteries in different sectors. Or put batteries in the backs of other producers, you know, get creativity flowing. Especially the art scene down here because we have a lot more resources than artists back then did on our own tangent. It’s a lot of opportunities missing, like even looking at the videos of back then and seeing the videos now… there’s a reason for the video quality now but there’s no reason for us to follow that formula. Especially when we have the same gear that the industry is running with. The industry’s downfall has nothing to do with the independent in a lot of sense. Once we wake up more to that and gear more towards that then I’ll definitely be a couple feet ahead on that race but I’m taking a lot of people with me because it’s not a private race, it’s not a private thing to win. It’s like being a missionary in the sense of that word. Just letting everyone know what all they can do once they are in this ecosystem of music. That everybody got a role. So true, so true, a unique roll too. What else do you have going on under Swiss Army Records? Promise: We’re soon to have a skate division with a couple skaters from the Southside of Atlanta and give them the proper rollouts for the things they want to do. Photoshoots, getting amateur decks, you know, seeing if they can get some fashion designers some signature shoes for people. Oh wow, that’s so cool. Promise: For years, I was on a skate team damn near tangent to me being in the music scene for so many years. There’s a lot of fields in there I know that people are missing or people are still consumers and they can be active participants. I remember there were some years where I was like how cool would a sponsorship be. We are at the age where we can sponsor any little kid with a dream that you see real potential in, you know or know what he can be. Once he’s at the age you’re at it, it does a lot for a lot of people. Yeah, so that’s SAR-SB. We have more music geared up for the FREELUNCHPROGRAM. I can give you a run down of the artists that are in the label actually. Yeah, that’s actually my next question. So, that would be great. Promise: There’s me, I fill in a lot of hats, I’m not solely the producer. There’s different artists on SAR that fill in at different times whether it be managing, going out of state or locking in a venue somewhere. Sometimes I run as manager or the money guy to see what plays fit best. I have a lot of homies that do clothing design so I do advertisements and promo work for them. So, some of the artists are: Chebba, south of Atlanta he’s a Hip Hop artist and we have a group within the label called “T’ALIIA B.” Ohhh, there was a recent project by them right? Promise: Mhm, we’re doing a catalog like demo/premiere/launch, 3 volumes worth before we start rolling out albums. Right now, we’re premiering our second volume. We have RnB artist Destiny Greene also from south of Atlanta, Fayetteville. We also have a member that’s part of SAR-SB who is an artist on SAR - so he fills in as a skater and an artist in itself, Daiiily Asè. My homie, A. Young, my mans Ryan Milla. Oh okay, I ain’t know Ryan was on it. Promise: Yeah, he’s one of the newest. He really sees the vision with SAR and we’ve locked in many times just on a personal note and sessions. I feel like there’s a lot that I can help him with and build towards, fill in some spaces he feels like he is missing. He’s an artist that believes in himself heavy, he’s cool people, he’s real solid. True, and I really like his project he just put out. His tone, he has a really cool tone. Promise: We have a single that we’re about to roll out heavy, “King Mable.” Mannn, that track go, for real. That production was so cool. It reminded me of early B.o.B. the bounce that it has to it is really cool. Promise: Thank you, my main mission with production is just to stand out from the discography in time and that’s my long goal mission. 20 years in, any artist I work with play their records but play the track produced by Promise and the production as a whole they're gonna tell you that’s the one. There will be a lot more coming with me and Ryan because he knows exactly what to do with the production. That’s exciting. Promise: We have Divine Abstract who plays the trumpet for a lot of my production. We have a group called, “Riverdale Saints” within the group where we just do free form jazz mostly. What?? Promise: It’s thru live production and thru beat machines like I have an MPC 500 that I implement in a lot of our songs. We both use SP404s back and forth in the production. We also have Horus Ra Mindset on the label, we also have the group FREELUNCHPROGRAM and we’re working on the second volume of self titled. We have a subgroup within that that he produces called iLL Mindset with the homie Ill Khalil who is also an affiliate, not a member but an affiliate of SAR. But Horus is just heavy on production with him, they’re like a Biggie/Junior Mafia. He’s getting into projects and producing and getting an ear for other folks and having an era in SAR. When he ended up going his separate ways I scooped him up quickly as far as seeing his potential and knowing how far I could take him as far as managing and having him on the label. There’s a gang of us, there’s a lot of folks but those are the folks that have debuted. There’s still artists I’m working on and with as far as developing a sound and getting them comfortable for debuting records. You know, whether they see their music long term or if they see what their character is long term as far as music. Yeah, and I know you work with Jah-Monte too. Promise: Yeaaah, that’s the cuzzo. He just stayed over at my crib like a week and a half ago. He came to a concert and he comes by pretty much anytime he’s in Atlanta we link up in some way. It may have been off of his projects but also I think I heard your production off of Mikem’s project. Did you do work with him? Promise: I did, I worked with Mikem maybe around that same time. I had a lot of records out I was producing but I remember me and Nahmir were doing a lot of records. Yeah, that’s another talented artist. Mannnn, tell me about it. Very talented. Promise: “My Black Skin” from A Moment In Time. Yeah, there we go but I think I was familiar with your work before then too. You must’ve been on that AMERIKKKA album. Promise: Yeah, I produced a lot of that. Okay, yeah. So, do you have a lot of artists outside of Atlanta that you’re working with? Promise: Oh yeah, I don’t just stick to Atlanta at all. I have a lot of artists that I produce for or have done productions with pretty much everywhere. A lot of New York, a lot of folks in the Charlotte, Raleigh and North Carolina area in general. I have a lot of respect and a lot of love for North Carolina and a lot of their different pockets. My girlfriend has family in the Rocky Mountains in a real small part of North Carolina but there’s something about the state. I hear a lot of good things about North Carolina. Promise: Their music scene is not bad at all. Me and Koncept Jack$on had work, there’s a lot of RnB artists. I got production with homie Matt McGee out in Maryland. You know, Nahmir out on the West Coast. My homie Space out in Texas. Well connected. Promise: Pretty much everywhere. I got folks out in Russia I’m trying to work with. I joke with people all the time like, “ayy, who gon’ go to Russia with me?” You know, just showing them these beats and showing him what Atlanta’s on. Yeah, because it’s the international connects that often end up having a larger impact. Promise: Facts, crazy enough I was gonna spend 2 months in Germany before I moved to Atlanta but I ended up moving to Atlanta so I didn’t get to do the foreign exchange program. Damn. Promise: Yeah, I took German for like 3 years just to go to Germany. Man, you gotta go for sure now if you ain’t been yet. Promise: Listen, listen, this passport bout to be stamped heavy, everywhere. I been out there one time and Germany is definitely a place I’d go back to. Promise: What part you go to? I was in Munich. You know, so we went to Czech Republic too because it’s like right there. But yeah, Germany is dope as fuck. If I knew German, man I wouldn’t have come back. So, as an artist I know you do more than just produce - what all exactly do you do? Promise: As far as art mediums? Yeah, all of it. Promise: I like to wear many hats. I skateboard, I’ve been skating since I was about 10 which kinda played heavy on music because there’s a lot of different genres that you’ll just catch. I used to draw since I was a kid. I actually ended up winning a NAACP award. You kidding. Promise: Yeah, I did some art shows through the library and shit and they ended up having a banquet for me and like 5 folks. That’s so crazy. Promise: Yeah, I gotta pull it out one day on MTV Cribs. For real tho. Promise: I got a hand in a project here with art development or game development and trying to figure out what’s my niche as far as making games. I know as a whole I rather one day be a part of a team that could be able to do some. There’s been games I’ve played that I thought had like a million dollar budget and really it was like 12 folks and a dream. Video games are kind of like books to me like if you get a good one it kind of takes you out of wherever you’re at. That’s something I always even as a child held onto the idea of and I’ve got way closer nowadays than when I just got my hand into it. You gotta learn like different code languages, have an actual eye for design to scope what you see fit to having around you, this that and the third. Mid-twenties I’m way closer to being down that line of doing what I need to do with it. I talk to folks here and there and different mediums I do it thru that always catch peoples’ eye. I don’t like folks to catch my different mediums outside of music when it comes to social media because they either get this idea that I’m this video game guy. Well, with pressure washing, a lot of artists that I know I’ve pressure washed their cribs and they don’t know that I do music. It won’t click until we’ll both be at a mutual friend's house and they’ll be like, “what’s the pressure washing guy doing here? He does music too?” That’s wild but that makes sense. Promise: It’s like I said, just different hats that I wear. It’s not even on purpose, it’s just always having a drive and knowing where to take that drive. Does that ever bother you to do other things for artists outside of music? Promise: Honestly I just keep it fun first and do what makes sense to me. I think about what would be the most fun in terms of partnership or a music idea and just work around that so that it can stay interesting. None of my hats that I wear I don’t wear them at the same time because I know that would burn me out quick. But I know that certain things just call at certain times. I know if sometimes I experience a music drought I know I can put that down. Last year I didn’t really produce too much music in terms of staying in the lab and chopping up beats but I had enough work to move those around and still make albums and records that are cohesive and still notable. Even when they’re small spurts like FREELUNCHPROGRAM EP we did it all in one day. Every record was built right after the next in how it’s made even when it was recorded. That was just spur of the moment/in a session type thing. I wasn’t producing heavy before and I wasn’t really producing heavy after that. It just hit. Promise: Yeah, it was just that moment in time. I don’t really run into a drought so when it’s time for it I can put on that hat. I don’t like to overuse creative muscles in certain places. Man, that’s smart. Promise: Or I don’t want to get bored too quick. I advise everybody to experience different hats. You don’t know what you don’t like until you try it. Yeah, and sometimes when you express in a different way that shit will launch different ideas for the things you’ve been working on or hit a block on or whatever. Promise: Exactly, I tell people that all the time. Like when I’m not working on music that doesn’t mean that the music isn’t still being inspired or fueled. When I’m working on video games I’m inspired to score these things or animated movie ideas that I could score. The music is always there no matter what I’m doing. If I’m eating, the music is there. When I’m working, the music is there. If I’m reading, the music is there. Even when I get back to it, like a cousin you’ve missed no matter how many years you haven’t seen them, it’s back up, y’all linked forever. That’s how it is. ‘Cause you can’t stress it that’s for sure. The last few questions. Who have been your influences? Musically or whatever. Promise: In life, my parents and even down to musically because we’re a big musical family. So, I grew up with a variety of any selection. We always had MTV Jams or 106 & Park on, there was always something musically. Music family. Promise: Yes, like the whole family. We was the family to throw cookouts and block parties. It’s similar to how I move now. I throw block parties at the park or just block parties randomly in Atlanta. Umm, musically, Marley Marl, the source. The inventor of the essence of samplin’. Uhh, Kool Herc, MF Doom, Dilla, Q-Tip, Raphael Saddiq, Stevie Wonder, a lot of folks throughout the years that have given inspiration. I’ve picked up on small aspects of all the legends. And it’s heard through your production for sure. Promise: Thank you, I still like to feel like I’m growing. I started in like ‘08/’07. Dang, that’s a long time. Promise: Yeah, I used to have a desktop and it was like dial-up era. I used to go to this Mexican supermarket and pick up the dollar demo CDs for like 30 days and get another one in 30 days. We got this small ass laptop off this Comcast deal and through that small laptop I downloaded Mixcraft, Audacity and I got to cookin’. I’ve been teaching myself since. You still have some of those tracks? Promise: Oh no, no no no. I remember my first rap song it was called, “One With The Breeze.” Oh also, that last member of SAR is Winky Wright, self alias I go under sometimes. Winky Wright? Promise: Yeah, when I feel like I gotta get the rap bag off, Winky Wright. Oh man, I’mma be looking out now. Promise: I’mma send you a few things. But as far as inspirations skateboarding, Stevie Williams. I mean shoot, black people in general. My inspiration is through my people. It’s the fashion, it’s the comedy, it’s the cool beats. The diversity of us. Promise: My people keep me going and I’d like to add to that for folks in the future. Inspired by all, that’s love. Who would you say are your Hip Hop legends? Promise: There was a DJ way back when named DJ Butterfly. He was like late 60’s/early 70’s. I heard a few tapes of him but that was like untold Hip Hop. Even in the grand scheme of things Hip Hop had a pinpoint but it’s like slang and things… when people catch on then it’s been. As far as the early early DJs he’s one of them. Kool Herc of course. Prodigy, Hip Hop legend. Ice Cube, Hip Hop legend. Run DMC, Hip Hop legends. I feel like Beastie Boys are uncrowned kings when it comes to Hip Hop legends. UGK, legends. Also, another kind of uncrowned, Ludacris. Man, I love Luda. Promise: He had Neptune beats, the craziest, next-level shit bumpin’ thru the window. That’s also really inspiring, he’s also a legend. His run in the city. Yeah, his creativity too. Promise: Yeah, Kool Keith also I feel like is an uncrowned legend. Weird enough he’s like the pioneer of porno rap. He was raunchy but lyrical in his raps but very imaginatory. Kool Keith, I’mma gonna check him out. Promise: Another legend, Missy Elliot. Me and Horus are having a fan made versus between Missy and Busta. See, I said that it should've been a Versuz a long time ago. That’s going to be the best one. Promise: I was telling Horus and he wasn’t believing it. I had to play the records like verse to verse and he was like, “yeah, you right.” Missy is fierce. Promise: Yeah, she, listen, listen - not too many can keep up with her. He didn’t even know she was in a group before all that. You know, I don’t think I knew that either. Promise: Yeah, listen - roots go deep. Who was the group? Promise: Ahh shoot, what was the group's name? I’ll have to Google that. Yeah, you can’t deny her. Promise: Then Dilla, of course. Amp Fiddler, a lot of people don’t know about Ant Fiddler. Blue Scholars, Hip Hop legends. Yeahhh, The Blue Scholars, I’m so surprised you mentioned them. Most people be forgetting about us up in the Pacific North West. Promise: You can’t forget. I feel like I more so listen to a lot of jazz or funk, I tap into a lot more of that for the things I like to sprinkle into my music. Sly The Family Stone, there’s a lot of people. Have you seen the Summer of Soul? Nah, not yet. It’s on my list to watch. Promise: Well, you gotta watch it. I kinda envy that you haven’t seen it yet so that I could watch it again for the first time. I’ll do that. I’mma do that for sure then. What did you enjoy about it? Promise: The untold history of our people. Like, a festival in Harlem, in the 60’s where everybody was either at their genesis or peak of their game - like B.B. King or they had a whole Gospel section. You just gotta watch it, it’s real good. I will, I will then. That’s definitely the type of stuff I like to watch. Promise: You should definitely watch it then. Music documentaries, oh yeah. Promise: What’s your favorite music doc? I’m about to interview you. Man, my favorite one… man, I don’t even remember the name of it but it’s telling the story of back in the 60’s with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, you know like right before they all passed. It wasn’t telling the story of Woodstock but it was kinda telling their battle with addiction, fame and shit like that. But I also like Tupac, “Resurrection,” that one’s one of my favorites. Promise: That’s a good one, yeah. Have you seen Biggie, “I Got A Story To Tell”? Yeah, I have seen it but I need to rewatch it. Promise: I really like how they did that doc. I’mma rewatch that one too. You’re just giving me a list. There’s this new one about Women In Hip Hop but there’s only been like 1 episode so far but it’s cool because they’re digging deeper. Promise: What’s that on? I believe it’s on HBO or Hulu, let me see. Promise: I definitely want to see that. I got this huge ass book. The book of Hip Hop. What? Where’d you find that? Promise: No cap, it’s probably like 10 pounds. You can probably find it at Barnes & Noble. Do they still have a Barnes & Noble? Yeah, they do, I think. Wait, I’ve found it online. It has a guy with a grill on the front? Promise: No, it’s like a huge ass leather front. It’s real deep, it’s really documented. It goes through like all fields and people, b-boying and… Wait… is it KRSONE’s book? Promise: I believe so. Yeah, yeah, I got that shit. The Gospel of Hip Hop, yeah. That shit is real cool. To be honest, when I started reading that - you know, I’ve always kind of wrote about artists and shit like that and been part of music companies when I lived out in California. I started applying to writing positions at different magazines and Hip Hop sites and shit and they were basically telling me I needed a bigger portfolio. So, that’s why I started CROWNTHEM because I was reading The Gospel of Hip Hop and it just really inspired me and was just like, “fuck it, I gotta get this shit going.” Promise: Right, right, even as a producer - there’s nothing stopping you from being an archivist or being there to play that role from a literary standpoint. Yeah, we need to. Everybody gotta archive because everybody sees the story differently anyways. Promise: Exactly, and everybody can gain something through someone who was there through the experience. Like someone who is there, an archivist, like we need a Hip Hop book. I was reading a Run DMC book the other day. It was written by someone who was off tangent but being there and that close to Russ and being there through the tours. He had stories of Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane and those are important or just important stories to just be able to tell through the years. That’s lost information, what have we done if it’s not passed on? And now we can see being part of the couple generations after how important it is to archive and keep our history because there’s so much that people don’t have access to anymore. Promise: Exactly, it’s important for us to keep up with. Well, Promise, do you have anything else to add? Promise: The interview has been a pleasure. Awesome, I’m so glad you agreed to this. Promise: I’m glad you hit me up. I’m a fan of CROWNTHEM ENT., heavy fan that’s why I genuinely support, I see what you’re doing. I appreciate that, for real. I really do.
- ISSUE 11, VOL. 1
ARTISTS FEATURED: PROMISE, SWISS ARMY RADIO, SWISS ARMY RECORDS, KODAK K, CHUCK INDIGO, KEVIN ALLEN, PHILTHY RICH, CRIMEAPPLE, SEAFOOD SAM, 3SUNZ, FEMDOT, NICK GRANT, LUTE, MIKEM NAHMIR, IRON FEATHER, NIKO G4, SOUTHSIDE HOODLUM, MARCO PLUS, LARUSSELL, TOPE, JAMEEL NAIM X, BEANZ, UFO FEV, STALLEY, APOLLO BROWN, CURREN$Y, POUYA, 100GRANDROYCE, FLIGHTEOUS, JAY PLUSS, TENTEN, RADAMIZ
- CROWNTHEM Newsletter | Issue 10, Vol. 1
ARTISTS FEATURED: KLASSIC KELL, CONNIE DIIAMOND, GRIP, PINK SIIFU, G PERICO, JA'KING THE DIVINE, BUTCH DAWSON, HBK SKIPPER, BENJAMIN EARL TURNER, BIG K.R.I.T., NAVY BLUE, PROBLEM, MALC, MAT RANDOL, GOD BODY BINGO, SMOKE DZA, MILC, INTRO, K CARBON, ANKHLEJOHN, KILLAH PRIEST, FLEE LORD, CJ FLY, RICK HYDE, AKTHESAVIOR KLASSIC KELL: https://linktr.ee/Klassickell
- KLASSIC KELL INTERVIEW
https://linktr.ee/Klassickell PHOTOS: Cymphonie Barnes & Brandon "Blue" Wilkinson Southside Atlanta artist Klassic Kell released his first full body of work in August titled, The Klassic Tape, Vol. 1. As a first release, the album is quite impressive and denotes Klassic Kell as a prominent artist on the rise. It’s apparent that the album took time to create due to the quality and cohesiveness, (Klassic Kell touches on this in the interview.) The ode to Atlanta and the variety of things in and out the city that made him is delivered in a soulful, laid back and honest manner that also has sprinkles of West Coast influence. After the first few listens of The Klassic Tape, Vol. 1 it was obvious that this album is something that is breaking new ground in Atlanta and the underground Hip Hop scene. What makes the album exciting is the ways in which Klassic Kell paints pictures for the listeners with his play-by-play storytelling. The pictures he paints for the listener comes in various flows, melodies and very intentional lyrics. The play-by-play storytelling that he uses is effective in the way that it provides a clear and concise picture while also showing his vulnerability through sight and experience. This type of play-by-play storytelling put me in the mindframe of Dom Kennedy, Curren$y and/or Larry June; motivational music for the laid-back, non-hype hustler. Play this album at a kick back, in the whip plottin’, cooking’ dinner for your person or whatever it may be, play it. Whether you’re familiar with Atlanta or not, catch the references or not it’s hard to deny The Klassic Tape, Vol. 1 as one of the notable album releases of 2021. Tap in with the interview and learn more about Klassic Kell’s creative process and trajectory. How you get your name? Where your name come from? Klassic Kell: So, I got my name in high school. My artist name, “Klassic,” when I was tryna come up with a name, really I was tryin’ to come up with a brand. You know, when I created a brand - what did I want to name my brand? That just kinda stemmed from what I wanted it to represent. From there I kinda moved into a space of everything I do, I just want it to last. I don’t want to do nothin’ that’s artificial or nothin’ that’s here today and gone next week, you know, gone next year type shit. So, I just kinda put a word on it; something that’s timeless, classy, you know. Anything you put the title “classic” on is forever, you know. Someone could say like, “dang, that’s a classic car,” you know, it’s a timeless car, or, “this is classic music.” You know, it’s like Lays or Coke, it’s a classic drink, you know what i mean. I just wanted to brand myself as something that would describe the quality in myself and what I hold myself up to. That’s where I got “Klassic” from and then the name “Kellz” came from a homie in high school back in like 2011. You know, we used to get hair cuts and my real name Donnell but niggas was gettin’ boxes and all that so I had box for the longest in high school. This was around the same time that Kendrick Lamar had broke out and he used to have the fuzzy box and my homie was like, “bruh, you look like Kendrick.” So, he just merged our names together so it was Kendrick and Donnell and started callin’ me, “Kellz.” When I started rapping I didn’t know a name to go by. He would always call me that as joke but then when I started to use it as my stage name I just put “Kell” right there and swapped the “c” out for a “k” on “classic” and I just turned that into me, you know, Klassic Kell. That’s real cool and it’s interesting. It’s interesting because listening to your album (it’s been in rotation for the last couple weeks,) and that’s very much the energy I get from it. It’s very classic, it’s very timeless and I can honestly see… like you put me in a mind frame where I went back and listened to Dom Kennedy’s whole catalogue like after listening to you. Klassic Kell: That’s hard man. That’s what the album was giving me… Dom Kennedy, Curren$y, some Kendrick. Klassic Kell: In highschool them was my guys. Spitta, you know, that was my guy. All of ‘em still but you know when you younger you’re like super fan. As I’m older now, them still my guys… Yeah, but you can get to a different level with it. Klassic Kell: Yeah, it’s a different level to it. Now, I don’t even know who I even idolize no more and maybe it’s because I’m in music. So, now I’m looking at it more from a peer stand point as opposed to like, “dang, that’s Dom, that’s Spitta,” but Dom and Nip and just all of them. Dom is just one of the flyest, it was like it was effortless to Dom. I made it my point that when I do music this is how I kinda want to mold… it’s what I wanted to mold my sound off of just real chill vibes. I definitely appreciate you noticing that. Yeah, I heard it for sure and it’s still your own thing. It’s real dope because I ain’t ever heard a sound like this out of Atlanta but it’s still Atlanta. You can hear these influences or whatever but it’s still Atlanta and I think that’s really exciting to have a different sound that you’re coming with. What’s that line you got… where you like, “how he from Atlanta rockin’ Dickies with a flannel.” Klassic Kell: I knew you was about to say that. “...wearing Dickies with a flannel.” The crazy thing is everyone is saying the same thing like it’s still so Atlanta. I guess I be trying to figure out how. It’s what you’re talkin’ about. You noted so many different things that are representative of Atlanta. I think I went through and made a list of all these key terms that was Atlanta in the album. Klassic Kell: Man, and that’s crazy because that’s where it comes out and you’re not even trying. That’s the lifestyle aspect. Yeah, this is my influence but then at the same time my everyday life is displaying something else. My influence is one thing, you know, my influence can come from the West Coast but I didn’t grow up seeing a Randy’s Donuts or Crenshaw on Sundays. I grew up on the Southside, I grew up on Old National, I grew up just goin’ and seein’ what the city had to offer you. I grew up going to Cascade, skatetown and all these little things. I can only talk about just what I know so I guess that brings the Atlanta element to it. Definitely. It’s a dope project and to me it seems like a classic project out of Atlanta for sure. Klassic Kell: Man, that’s hard. That’s something big to live up to. Ayy, not even. Just how you say it seem natural and effortless for Dom… it feel like that for you too. You know, and what I really enjoy about the album is how you storytell. It’s a different type of storytelling than what I hear coming out of your city. You’re really giving the play-by-play type storytelling… the type of shit you hear from Larry June too. Just real chill but real fly shit… real soulful (not necessarily in sound but intent.) Klassic Kell: Man, that came from Biggie. He’s like my favorite rapper. I tried to make that song, “PERFECT DAY” as real life as when I hear Biggie’s storytellin’. I can’t even think of the song off the top of my head but it’s when Biggie was tellin’ that story when they on the elevator and they gettin’ into with the Peruvians and he’s literally sayin’ what floor they got off on, what’s the door number up to the room they goin’. He’s talkin’ bout when they walkin’ in the hallway… Paintin’ the picture, for real. Klassic Kell: Yeahhhh, I’m talkin’ bout paintin’ it! Even in the background he walkin’ and he sayin’ he seein’ the people they beefin’ with walkin’ past them in the hallway and the background has some heavy breathin’ sounds. It just really sound like you can see it. You visualizing it. So, for that song I just tried to do my best to bringing that song as close to like life as I could bring a song, you know. Definitely did. I don’t know, the whole album. I wonder how other people receive it who aren’t from the West Coast and also ain’t been to Atlanta. That’d be real interesting to see how those people think about it. Klassic Kell: Yep, and yeah as a whole I wanna see how they think about it too. It’s one thing just being in Atlanta and that’s the biggest thing I be getting from everybody, “this don’t sound like something that come out of Atlanta.” But, then to the West Coast people I don’t know if they’ve heard it or not… I got a few homies out there but I ain’t like so tapped in with the West Coast that I know what they sayin’. Even with the West Coast I want to know what they feel about it because I know they can hear the influence but then I wonder if they will realize that different element. Yeah, yeah and the symbolism. Klassic Kell: You know I’m just interested in all the takes. I wanna hear what everybody think about it. It’s like an open conversation and I want the whole project to spark conversation. You know, what’s your take from it? Mhm, so outta your city who are some of your legends or musical influences? Klassic Kell: Outta my city, some of my legends man… I’mma go with Jermaine Dupri, first, I feel like he opened up a lot of doors for Atlanta. Then, I’d go to OutKast, I’d go to Goodie Mob, I’d go to LIl’ Jon, I’ll say Tip, you know, Tip a legend. It don’t matter what Tip got going on, Tip a legend. Yeah, no matter what city too. Klassic Kell: It don’t matter what city Tip a Hip Hop legend, that’s undisputed. You got Jeezy, Jeezy a legend. People don’t be wanting to give Jeezy his flowers but Jeezy had the city in a chokehold at one point. For real, I remember being in the city and seeing everyone with them snowman shirts on. I wanted a snowman shirt. I wanted one of them shirts so bad - not knowing what it meant. I remember seeing “Trap or Die” posters everywhere, I remember that. I don’t care what anybody say, you can’t ever erase that. Everybody was a Jeezy fan no matter if you pick him or Gucci. Then you got Gucci, Gucci a legend. Shawty Lo a legend to me. A lot of people forget about Shawty Lo, he a legend. Umm, Ludacris. Yeah, Luda. Klassic Kell: Ludacris another legend that’s not talked about. I don’t think people really appreciate his contribution. Going up to 2 Chainz, I feel like 2 Chainz is staple and I think because he’s still active people just like, “yeah, that’s 2 Chainz,” but if 2 Chainz were to be like, “yeah, I’m cool on music, I’m done with it,” and let his discography be what it is. I feel like a year or two later people would go back and listen and they’d just appreciate it more. You know, he put in a lot for the city too and he put on a lot for the city. G.O.O.D. Music, he took the South to G.O.O.D. Music and he rep hard for us. Yeah, that’s facts. Klassic Kell: Man, there’s a lot of people. Y’all got a lot in Atlanta, for sure. Klassic Kell: It’s way more people than I can think of. I really wanna name a few more people out the 90’s. You know, Xscape. You know, Kris Kross, just people. But yeah, I’d say those are my legends man, just one of few. Jazzy Pha. You know, Jazzy Pha actually from Memphis. Klassic Kell: I ain’t know he was from Memphis. Yeah, he from Memphis. He really put on for y’all’s city though. Klassic Kell: Oh, that’s hard. I don’t think I ever heard Jazzy Pha mention Memphis. Right, me either but he from here. Klassic Kell: That’s the craziest part. You would’ve swore Jazzy Pha from Atlanta. He a transplant. Klassic Kell: Yeah, but he real deal… it’s kinda like how Bow Wow is really from Cleveland. Yeah, yeah, like Bone Thugs N Harmony, they from Ohio but most think West Coast. Klassic Kell: Yeah, that’s dope because I think they got found by Tupac. I think they was gonna sign to Pac actually. They were on Ruthless. Klassic Kell: Oh, they was signed to Eazy E? Yeah, Ruthless Records I believe. Klassic Kell: Oh wow, that’s crazy, I ain’t have no clue of that. That’s big. But yeah, there’s really too many to name. You got Young Dro, Rich Kidz. Man, Young Dro fr though. Klassic Kell: Man, I’m tellin’ you we can have this conversation for the next 2 hours. Yeah, it could go on forever because there’s even the contemporaries like KEY!, Skooly and all them. Klassic Kell: Man, you got KEY! and KEY! Is like an underground legend. KEY! Just had a show here last week, sold out. One thing he knows is Atlanta gonna show up… which is a lot of people. Rich Kidz, Skooly could do a concert. You got K Camp, you know what I mean. Man, K Camp. Klassic Kell: That’s what I be saying there’s so many people. It’s so many people that have done so much. You can’t recognize all of them, you can try to but it be somebody out the woodworks every other month. Thug, we ain’t even mention. That’s that I’m saying… that whole scene. But, a little about your album, The Klassic Tape, Vol. 1 - how did it come together? What was your creative process? I know you mentioned you started it in quarantine. Klassic Kell: Yeah, so, I definitely started it in quarantine. I had been sittin’ on “PERFECT DAY,” I had recorded it at the top of last year. I was just sittin’ on that song, for real, and I had stopped recording for like 3 months. I don’t think I recorded at all last summer. Then I went to Tree Sound Studios and I met with the general manager and we was talkin’ and he asked me to play him some music. So, we went into one of the studios and I hooked my phone up and played him some music. The first song that I played was “PERFECT DAY,” and he liked it a lot. So, I played him the next song and the next song was a different vibe, like complete left field song. He was listening, but you can tell when somebody is uninterested. I could tell he is uninterested so I switched to something else and he was back in tune but not as in tune as when he heard “PERFECT DAY.” He told me to stop and he was talkin’ to me sayin’, “I see you can do this, I see you do that and this. I think what you need to do is create your sound that works best for you.” And, I think to this point in my career he gave me 2 of the best pieces of advice that really helped this project become what it is. One, he was like, “you need to create your sound,” and I was like, “okay, yeah that makes sense. I never really thought about it.” Then, he was like, “and in order for you to do that you gotta lock in. You gotta find 1 producer that you like and that you want to work with. You gotta lock in with that 1 producer.” When he told me that - the album is 10 songs and 6 songs are produced by 1 person. When he told me that it was just like, “oh, okay, I gotcha.” I told one of the homies, producedbyDM. I told DM, “ayy, just send me beats.” So, DM sent me a folder that had like 40 beats in it. I just went through the folder and I just started finding beats and this was all in September of last year. I started writing to them and what I felt was cohesive and I felt was me. I just started workin’ and it just went from there. That’s really how it came about. It was supposed to start off as 4 songs as a small thing to do, something to just kinda get my mind going and everything. I ended up liking the songs I was recording so instead of 4 I said I was going to do 6 songs, and I was like I’mma do 8 and then one day I was workin’ got up and peeped 10 tracks. Everything else kinda went from there. Yeah, yeah, the shit is real cohesive, very. There ain’t no skips, for real. Everytime I go through I think I know what my favorite ones are then it changes. Klassic Kell: Man, somebody was sayin’ that yesterday, “like scratch my list this is my new favorites.” Long as you playin’ it bruh, I don’t care which one as long as it’s gettin’ played. Your favorite could be the intro where we just talkin’. As long as we gettin’ spins. When you creatin’ what brings satisfaction to your craft or your art? Klassic Kell: Man, what brings satisfaction? Seein’ the vision I had in my head executed the way that I have it in my head. I can’t tell you an idea, I can try to explain the idea as best as I can to you. I can see the picture in my head and I can explain it and you can kinda get a glimpse of the picture. Me and you probably don’t have the same picture in our heads. Anytime I can execute an idea exactly to how I heard it as, the tone of voice I write it in and I just keep doin’ takes until it’s the tone that I was looking for. Once I execute it, once I’m done then I’m content. I’m good. So, your features - are they other Atlanta based artists? Klassic Kell: All of the features are based in Atlanta but they all ain’t from Atlanta. The artists from Atlanta is Korduroy, Shelly and Andy Z6. Okay, okay. So far, what has been your proudest moment in your journey? Klassic Kell; Man, finally gettin’ this project out. I had put out a little 2 song EP in 2018 and I started promoting this new project and said it was gonna come out the summer of 2019. Then, that didn’t happen because I was still working and it wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I pushed it back to the summer of 2020 but then COVID hit and I was like, “man, I’m not about to put anything out in the middle of COVID.” I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do it when people was outside. Maybe not enough attention. Klassic Kell: Absolutely, there was so much goin’ on. Now that I think about it people might have paid attention because wasn’t nobody doin’ nothin’. It might’ve been dope. It might’ve been a cool vibe. Yeah, just gettin’ it out. I had been promoting another project for like a little minute and that’s what made me stop recording last year because I had kinda just lost inspiration in making it. It take a lot of stamina and a lot of belief in something to work on it consistently for a year and half, two years. The start of The Klassic Tape gave me an opportunity to just go in a whole different direction and to get new ideas and all of this. It was just the fact of doing something from start to finish. My first attempt at it, I didn't put the project out. The project never came out. In my chapter, in my book right now it’s still an unclosed chapter but The Klassic Tape was a full body of work from start to finish and to put it out and to know how hard I worked on it. I’m cool with it, I can live with it. At the moment, this is my proudest moment. I would say so. It’s a phenomenal project, truthfully. Klassic Kell: I believe it, I put a lot into it. I’m just listenin’ to what everybody is sayin’ I’m just listenin’. I don’t think it’s really hit me. I think I gotta listen to the project in like 2 years for it to hit me. When you done worked on something for so long and you’ve just been sittin’ with something - but, I was listenin’ to the songs before the project comin’ out and I wasn’t even interested in the songs no more because I worked on them for so long. You know, sat with them for weeks and months and playin’ them over and over. Tweakin’ ‘em, doin’ edits, goin’ to the studio because something didn’t sound good, the fade is too long or the fade is too short - just being meticulous. It’s like driving yourself crazy over the songs. So, now the fact that it’s out and I get to listen to it as a whole, as a project and I don’t have to do nothin’ no more it feel good. It feel good to hear people sayin’ it’s a classic project or it’s a good project because all I know is that I put everything I had into for the most part. I can imagine that shit feel like a huge relief. Klassic Kell: It feel like now y’all can leave me alone for the next 2 years. I’m not sayin’ I’ll take that long again to do something again. But, now it feel like I can go out without people asking me, “bruh, where the project at?” I started gettin’ all them when people seein’ me out. “When’s it comin’ out? Where’s it at?” Like bruh, I don’t know so I just told everybody it’s comin’ soon. I don’t know when, what month, what time of the year but it’s comin’ soon. It’ll be here at the right time. Klassic Kell: It will be here at the right time. Man, God’s timing is always on time. You know, it came out when it was supposed to come out. Facts, so what’s next for you? You got some videos you workin’ on? Klassic Kell: Oh yeah, I’m definitely working on some videos right now. That’s a whole other process in itself just because I been realizing working with videographers is harder than working with artists. Really? Klassic Kell: Man, it’s not even that they harder to work with than artists but it’s like diggin’ for diamonds finding a videographer. Not every videographer can get the vision in our head. Not every videographer is going to be able to execute what you want. Then, some of them will say, “I’ll shoot but my budget is 2500.” So, it’s just finding that but I think I finally found one I’mma work with. I got a consultation comin’ up with him and we just gonna figure it out. I think and I’m hoping that homie is the guy that we go ahead and start rollin’ out these videos with. We gonna be linking up soon to go ahead and talk about the first video and we gonna go from there. I hope it goes well. I look forward to seeing some videos because obviously it’s your artistry but I really think that just off of that one video of yours you got up - the stories are expounded on in the video. People will see your environment like that. Klassic Kell: Absolutely, that’s how I’m tryin’ to make it in everything I do. That’s when I really think about Dom and Curren$y. Curren$y, you know the car shop he always at, he got that car shop in his videos. You know, Dom, those same places he shot his videos you can go to them. It’s like they put their real life into the music. So, I try to do the same thing with Atlanta. I don’t feel like nobody (outside from strip clubs,) really shows the day2day life of Atlanta. People show you’re either in the strip clubs or you’re in the trap house. One or the other. Nah, that’s real. I don’t know if you saw the interview another artist from Atlanta, Vega. Klassic Kell: Oh yeah, I saw. And that was my thing, like get outside because Georgia is hella beautiful and people don’t see the green they don’t think of all the green that’s down there too. Klassic Kell: Nah, that’s a fact, that’s a fact. It’s real country, for real. Klassic Kell: Man, for real and that even go back to OutKast. That was a big influence and people just really don’t understand. Shit, them Goodie Mob videos too. Klassic Kell: Yeah, for real. Goodie Mob was more frfr out there like they’d be like, “we out here on Campbellton Rd. shooting a video right here, we bout to go to JJ’s rib shack real quick. We bout to post up outside JJ’s and shoot this video.” No hype shit. Klassic Kell: Nah, nothing at all and it be people like me who be takin’ it in and idolizing it. You go to JJ’s and they done shot the video inside of it and you sittin’ at the table like, “dang, this the same table they was sittin’ at.” You know, you sayin’, “a couple years ago on Headland and Delowe,” I grew up, up the street from Headland and Delowe. So, just them talkin’ bout that intersection and you seeing the “Headland and Delowe” intersection signs right there is like, “this spot, whether they were standing here or not is exactly what they was talkin’ bout.” That picture of them just naming streets and it did something for me. That’s how I feel. I feel like, I can only do the next person who might be listening to me. That’s why, “SOUFSIDE” is the way that it is, and there’s a lot of people who know the Southside and can resonate with a lot of stuff that I said. Yeah, the shits dope and especially the symbolism you got on it is real dope. You got anything else you want to add? Klassic Kell: Go play The Klassic Tape if ya ain’t tapped in and shout out to y’all, I appreciate it.
- CROWNTHEM Newsletter | Issue 9, Vol. 1
ARTISTS FEATURED: CHELSEA PASTEL, YELOHILL, DEZZIE GEE, ROME STREETZ, BINO RIDEAUX, BLXST, BOSSMAN, MIC CAPES, KURATII, COACH TEV, BLAKE CRIS, JO8, BANCO, RANSOM, UFO FEV, G PERICO, DONTE THOMAS, BOCHA, COREY G, PAT JUNIOR, HUGH AUGUSTINE, OMB BLOODBATH, DEVY STONEZ, DAVE EAST, HARRY FRAUD, KING JAHSH, REMBLE, STEVIE CROOKS, FLY ANAKIN, SINDIAN, STALLEY, RYAN MILLA, VINCE STAPLES, BIG KAHUNA OG, UNLUCKY BASTARDS, K.A.A.N, ISAIAH RASHAD
- CHELSEA PASTEL INTERVIEW
Tell me who you are where you from and where your people from. Chelsea Pastel: Okay, I’m Chelsea Pastel. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. My people are mainly in Cleveland, I got some family in the Bahamas as well but for the most part my direct family is here in Cleveland. We kinda spread out a little bit over the country in different places. You feel you have any influence in your music from the islands? Chelsea Pastel: Not really, but at the same time I don’t know. I’m born in America, my dad was born in America too so for the most part I didn’t grow up around it. But, I notice when I actually see my cousins from there we have a lot of similar ways, it’s weird. Like, how? We even have similar features and it’s like ‘wait, what?’ You know, so, maybe underlying somewhere or subconsciously, you know… but not directly. So, growing up did your parents play music from out there? Chelsea Pastel: Nah, that’s my dad’s side but my mom she was the music person for me. My dad he played pretty much what was on the radio, you know, but my mom had the actual collection. She had an eclectic taste in music so she had everything. You know, I’m a 90’s child, she had everything from alternative rock to slow jazz to Hip Hop to RnB. You remember back in the day those slots where you could put each CD in? She had so many of those. Ohh, like those binder things? Chelsea Pastel: Nah, not even those binder things it was like a tower. She had multiple ones… she had a lot of them! And back then that’s when the sound systems had like 3 parts. You know, like the EQ and I used to play with that all the time and just play different songs she had or stuff she would already listen to that I liked. She would play some Dancehall, some reggae music every now and then but she really played so many different types of music. It was crazy, for real. That’s dope. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it is dope. I’mma be honest, she unintentionally created a musician. That’s what it sound like. That’s dope. So, who were your influences from hearing a variety of music from her? Chelsea Pastel: It’s pretty interesting. So, I first started off producing. I would kinda write my own raps every now and again but I was really into production. And, to be honest, I was obsessed with Michael Jackson like a lot of kids was… you know what I’m sayin’. But I was literally obsessed, me and my best friend (she’s still my best friend to this day.) In first grade our friendship started off of both of us being obsessed with Michael Jackson. Her mom was the same way. Her mom had records and all type of stuff. Growing up, I liked a lot of old school rap. I liked the beats though… like the words was cool but I really used to like zone in on the production. I like Dr. Dre a lot. I liked some of the New York stuff like Houdini to even like the Bad Boy era. Then, I also liked a lot of alternative music and where I’m from it’s not really a thing. So, that was stuff I mostly listened to in private. I would say I started listening to Alanis Morisette, The Cranberries and stuff like that when I was younger but it was before I started going outside and got a taste of the hood, you know what I’m saying. Plus, I liked music of the time too. I remember when Houston had that crazy wave when it was like… Houston always had a crazy wave but it was at the point where it was Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Paul Wall. That era had me like crazy I’m not even gonna lie. On the production side, I love that time period - even on the rap side, I love that time period. So, I’m kinda all over the place. On the female rapper side one of my favorite rappers is MC Lyte. I’m a little younger so a lot of people look at me crazy when I say that. My mom and my auntie, my auntie used to take us to school sometimes when my mom would have to work early. You know, they’re like a year apart and they both grew up in that Hip Hop time of the 80’s where it was crazy. So, she’d play a lot of MC Lyte before I’d go to school and I would just study her. I liked a lot of Missy Elliot growing up because I just thought she was crazy. The first verse that made me want to rap is wild though. You remember Crime Mob? Yeah! Chelsea Pastel: Diamond. ‘I come in the club shakin’ my dreads!’ I was obsessed with that. I don’t know what that shit did to me but when I heard that… There was no lady comin’ that hard. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah! Especially like 2004 or 2005 or whatever that was. That was crazy! And I was like, ‘whatever that shit is, I like that.’ She made me like, you know, girls was rappin’ but it was real slower paced and she brought back spittin’ for a second, you know what I’m sayin’. At that time I’m like 14, 15, so that made me really wanna rap. That’s so dope (representation matters.) So, is that when you started rappin’? That young? Chelsea Pastel: Man, I feel like I started rapping earlier than that. I wanna say probably like 8th grade but I really got into it around 9th grade. My mom got me a laptop with programs on it. She was just friends with some people who knew how to do all this IT stuff… so, she told them what I was tryna do and they hooked it up for her. who knew how to do all this IT stuff… so, she told them what I was tryna do and they hooked it up for her. That’s too dope! Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, and it was super crazy. I didn’t know what I was doing but at the time I didn’t know how to make beats the right way. I didn’t know about Fruity Loops and all this software. What I would do is: I would take the recording software I had and I would literally have a keyboard and I would light my keyboard up and play the same loop for like 3 minutes. Layer it. Play another loop for 3 mins and that’s how I made my beats for like a year. DAMN. Chelsea Pastel: Which is nuts. I really didn’t know no better at the time. Then, my friends, when I started tellin’ people, ‘I like making beats,’ they start putting me onto Fruity Loops and different things like that. But yeah, my first rap name was C Money and my best friend still got my rap book. I don’t know how she has it but she’s holding it hostage. She sends me pictures of verses. Maaaan, you have to get that back. Chelsea Pastel: I know, man. But if I trust anybody with it I trust her with it. So, it’s in good hands because I might fuck around and lose it or somethin’. When you write your story you’ll want that. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, that’s definitely true. I literally got a Build-A-Bear and it says, “Ayy, what’s up it’s your girl C Money,” so that’s really how long I’ve been tryna rap. To sum it up, ya know? That tells an era and everything - you got a Build-A-Bear… I ain’t been to a workshop in forever. Chelsea Pastel: Exactly, me and my mom used to take a lot of trips together. She took me to New York for my first time and there was this Build-A-Bear in Times Square, you know. That’s when they had the Toys R Us and we were there at the same time as the VMA’s and there was a red carpet there, it was crazy. But I remember gettin’ that Build-A-Bear that day. How did you come up with your current name? Chelsea Pastel: Okay, so, it’s pretty funny. My first name I told you was, “C Money.” I went through a few names but when I really got serious about making music I was really getting into production heavy my senior year of high school and freshman year or college. That’s when I was trying to buy Macbooks and stuff.I was going by ChelsLovesBeats which was cool but I was making all these beats and couldn't get anyone to buy my beats. It was slow for me. So, I started rapping over them and because I was rapping over them I didn’t want to go by “ChelsLovesBeats.” I thought back to something my mom always said and anytime I gotta pick something with colors or anything I always end up getting pastel colored things. My mom used to say, “you love them damn baby colors,” she used to always say this my whole life. That was just the color scheme I resonated with for whatever reason. Then I realized, my music, some of the beats I was making were real colorful and enchanted sounding, you know. I just went with Chelsea Pastel because I just felt like it was part of my life for whatever reason. Pastel was the vibe so we was rockin’ with it. I fuck with it. That’s real cool. So, I was reading that article that came out a couple weeks ago through the newspaper about you and they were saying you play hella instruments. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, I started in band in probably 5th grade. I started where everybody started with the recorder. I went to this real strict Catholic school and I wasn’t even Catholic that’s the crazy part but I went to this school. It was super strict and got more strict every year though. So, I saw my cousins were going to Cleveland School of the Arts and I’m like, “man, I wanna go there they’re having the time of their lives.” I talked to my mother about it and she was like, “well, what are you going to to do?” My mom used to play instruments back in her day so she had a couple saxophones around the house and she had a synthesizer always in the closet… the whole time. So, I’m like, “teach me how to play to the saxophone,” she like, “for real?” and I’m like, “yeah, teach me.” I was in 5th grade going into 6th grade and the school of arts started in 6th grade. So, she got the saxophone reconditioned and whatnot, took me to get everything I needed for it and taught me how to play it. It took about 2 weeks to play it pretty good ‘cause it was similar to the recorder so I understood it instantly. I just had to blow it differently and whatnot. I auditioned for the school of the arts. I had to hurry up and learn these things so I could make the audition. I probably started playing it in December and my audition was in March. Wow. Chelsea Pastel: I had to hurry up and learn it and I auditioned and I got in. Then I had to test in too because they were real strict about academics. I got accepted and when I got to the school it was cool but like when I played in the band I wasn’t feeling the saxophone section, for whatever reason. I was like, “I don’t wanna be over here I wanna try something different.” The teacher said he had a trombone available, 2 of them actually. So, I told my friend who played the flute to play trombone too because I didn’t want to be the only girl over there. Me and her we got into the trombones. We kinda had to teach ourselves how to play. We had a private teacher for maybe 2 days but for the most part we had to teach ourselves how to play. I was in the school from 6th - 12th grade and for whatever reason the band program didn’t have as much money unlike other programs like dance and choir. So, we had to play a lot of the same music, forever. I used to try to get out of being in band because all my friends were leaving band going into photography, visual art, digital design and stuff and my mom made me stay in band. I was like, “alright, well damn I’mma just start playing different instruments because I’m here.” I would challenge myself to learn different instruments each year or every 6 months or something like that until I graduated. That’s how I kept myself interested. You still be playing today? Chelsea Pastel: Nah, the only thing I still play is piano and I admit I been slackin’. Usually, I would practice for a long time and not necessarily play a song but just go through chords and exercises but I’ve been slackin’ just because I’ve been gettin’ back into rappin’. It’s just a lot, you know. I’ve been even out-sourcing production - I’ve just been doing a lot. I haven’t been playing like I need to but I definitely still play the keys. I don’t blow any horns anymore though. That ship has sailed… at least for now. I still play some keys. Damn, that’s dope. It sounds like you got what your momma already had. Chelsea Pastel: Pretty much, it’s interesting. I feel like she was me before me but in a different capacity. To this day if she go to any type of jazz club or jazz environment she know everybody and they know her. It’s kinda funny because it’s like, “what the hell?” But she really used to do that shit, you know. It was a weird time back then especially for women so she had to bounce. She had a hard time with me getting into it because of some of teh stuff she went through. She was a little scared for me at first but I always kinda did a lot of stuff myself. I always recorded myself for the most part. I started working with people later on but I used to record myself, I used to produce myself. I never put myself into too many crazy environments for the most part because I did it at home. When she realized that and once she came to my first show she was like, “oh okay, bet. You really doing this shit.” It took her a little second though. She liked my music a lot. I remember she came to my apartment and I was living a couple hours away for college. One of my songs came on and I definitely went old school with it; it was all 808s but used to old school regular 808 kit. I made this beat called, “Trippy Times” and I used to love rapping on it. I used to exercise on the beat. I would just freestyle for a couple hours and get lost in it. I finally recorded on it and the song happened to come on when they came to visit. And I told you, my mom and aunt they really used to listen to MC Lyte and all them people. They listenin’ and like, “this cold, who this?” and I start laughin’, they like, “this you?” I’m not known to do this publicly. I’m kinda know to be shy for the most part on a timid side. They was like, “man, stop playin’.” So, I did it in person and they were like, “omg, this is crazy.” That’s dope AF. That is so dope! Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it was crazy. I felt like they had to see it to believe it. It sounds like you really multi-talented as fuck when it come to this music shit. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, I really like making music just as simple as that. I like writing music, I like rappin’, I like playin’ music, you know what I’m saying. I like producing music, I like engineering music. I just really like it and it’s crazy because I tried to fight it for years. I even said that in the paper like I had to go to a lot of music programs and band camps that I really wasn’t too happy about back in the day. You know, you’re 16, 15, 17, you tryna kick it with your friends. I was in these programs and a lot of them were jazz music based and I used to hate jazz, to be honest. I didn’t wanna hear no more jazz. It was like, “yo, keep that shit away from me, do not play that shit around me.” I was in these programs 6th-12 grade, you know, every summer, after school, the whole 9. I don’t regret none of it now, you know, but at the time I was burnin’ out. It kinda ended up happening this way. I kinda didn’t have a choice. I done did so much music shit all these years it’s like, “how would I not be into music like I am?” The crazy thing is I went to school for pharmacy, you know. I ended up switching my major to pharmacy just because of the scholarship I got at this school. It didn’t work out because I was a musician. I was skppin’ out on class to make beats and doing all kind of ill shit. Making beats in class and just doin’ stuff like that where it was messin’ me up. But yeah, I really just like making music. I like playing with sound and I don’t like genres. Right now, I put out some rap songs but you’ll see a little later on that I don’t like genres. I feel it because the few songs that I’ve heard are hard as fuck but then you’ll hear something that’s just alternative. It reminded me of the era in the mid-2000’s, you know, like Donnis and B.o.B. They’d have these beats and they’d have these eclectic moments where sometimes it would sound like a video game sprinkled in that shit and that’s what I be hearing in yours sometimes. Chelsea Pastel: Thank you, I appreciate that. I like that because that really what’s influenced me though: TV, video games, all that. I ain’t nothin’ but a nerdy girl that make music. I like goin’ to nerdy shit and somehow that shit translate into what it translate to. I like video games and I done remade a lot of video game beats. Just for side projects and nothin’ to put out. You probably should put them out because I’m sure you’ll come across artists who’d want to rap on that. Chelsea Pastel: That’s very true. It’s interesting, I was putting out a lot of my beats. Before I used to put out my music I would just put out beats. A few people hit me up and this one person hit me up and they wanted to rap over a lot of the beats so I had taken a lot of them down and from there I had produced for him for a second and eventually transitioned into producing for myself; started getting sounds from me instead of beats. I used to put beats out on YouTube and at the time that I did it there wasn’t no women doing it and I would get all these crazy views because wasn’t anyone doing it for real. I was really into electronic music because that was like when Dubstep and all that kind of stuff started coming out. I tried to go that route with it and jus tryin’ to do a lot. Do you have any skills you’re trying to develop right now? Chelsea Pastel: Right now, I’ve definitely been experimenting with my keys. I like having my keyboard with my rap sets. That’s the thing that I’m really trying to get great at, you know. I can do it when it comes to certain chords but I’m really tryna shred that shit while I’m up there too. A lot of the songs that I’ve got lined up are more, like, they got a lot of shit going on. I’ve been tryna get good at just running my set from my laptop with the assistance of a DJ versus just playing the song as far as the track going and rapping over it. I’m trying to give you the vocal effects, I’m trying to give you the keys, I’m trying to give you the whole thing. A show, show, you know. And, how’s that coming along? Chelsea Pastel: It’s coming along good. It’s pretty hard, I’m not even gonna lie. It’s hard because I’m just now starting to get help as far as a team goes. For the longest, when I was doing this I had no help so I had nobody checkin’ to see if the venue could support this… it was just a lot on me. I stopped doing it for a second and I got a lot of expensive equipment and if the shows aren’t paying me that much yet I’m putin’ myself at a risk bringing all this equipment out. I’ve been trying to condense it but now I feel like we’re at a good pace depending on the show. I’m getting some pretty good shows and depending on the show I can bring that out and they’re better equipped to support that kind of performance. But that’s definitely something that needs to be arranged it’s not just something I can pop up with. That’s true, that is a risk and that shit sound overwhelming… that’s a lot to account for by yourself. Chelsea Pastel: It’s a whole bunch then you’re trying to make sure that it sounds right too on top of all the actual hooking stuff up, you know. A lot of the times I used to practice my sets at home and same hookup but depending on one minor thing and the venue said it can change everything. It’s like, you just wanna make sure everything sounds right, you wanna make sure you got everything memorized as far as, “what starts when, what ends where.” You wanna make sure you have your stuff labeled to a certain degree. There’s a lot, I mean people have sound people and stage producers and I’m tryin’ to do it all and rap. It’s a lot. Well, I’m glad you’re getting a team together because that’s good. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, me too. I ain’t gonna lie… it feels great. It’s been a long time coming. I already know. The Universe aligns that shit when it’s supposed to be. Chelsea Pastel: Exactly, exactly, and that’s how everything has been coming along. People I’ve been working with I didn’t search for them and they didn’t search for me - it kinda just happened. I like it, I love it actually. That’s good to hear. So, you’re from Cleveland - who would you consider your musical legends out there? Chelsea Pastel: Bone Thugs N Harmony. It’s crazy though because a lot of people don’t think that they’re from Cleveland. A lot of people be thinking they from the West Coast. Chelsea Pastel: They be thinkin’ they from L.A. Yeah, because they came up with Ruthless. But nah, Bone, hands down. There’s a couple people that deserve flowers from here too. One, Machine Gun Kelly, for sure. I watched Machine Gun Kelly the whole time and I seen it with my own eyes. It’s different when you see that. People love to hate though. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, they love to hate but I’m not gonna cap… this dude went from performing at the rec center over here to XYZ to being the #1 rock act in the country right now. You know what I’m sayin’, it’s crazy. Yeah, he got in on the rap but he’s like the top rock act right now. He cleans up at the awards; he cleaned up at the Billboard Awards in the rock category. I always thought he was dope but it took me to see him in person and a real good live show and I was like, “holy shit, this dude is crazy.” So much energy on the stage that you can’t help but to feel it when you leave. He deserves his flowers. Kid Cudi, definitely because I feel like he’s the grandfather or uncle of all these little dudes poppin’ up. As far as like that sound that different shit that people are doing. Yeah, that emo/Hip Hop type shit. Chelsea Pastel: Yeaaaah, that’s him. Those are 2 people I would say are young legends. Kid Cudi is still young in a sense but he done influenced Kanye West. That 808 Heartbreak and My Dark Twisted Beautiful Fantasy, you know what I’m sayin’. Kid Cudi played a part in those and a lot of the sounds we hear today; the Travis Scotts, the Trippie Redds. All of them will be the first ones to tell you. Yeah, those are my legends. He’s still droppin’ shit. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, and he’s droppin’ with these dudes and that’s the way to do it. A lot of these people get to a certain status on a goat side and they get real weird about working with the younger generation. I love to see the fact that he’s working with Travis Scott and he’s working with younger acts because he’s still young enough to do it. But he’s also just timeless. I can really see him in his 60s and 70s really doing the same shit. I don’t know about albums but I still see him featured on all these new artists. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, I agree. He’s like one of those alternative but that’s definitely someone else I’d say is an influence, for sure. As a black kid and you tryin’ to get into Hip Hop but you got your own twist to it, it’s hard. Especially when you ain’t doin’ exactly what everyone else is doin’ it’s real tough out here. So, you got someone who opens that door for you and he’s definitely one of the people who opens the door for acts like us who want to go the alternative route and try different things. That’s real, that’s real… So, what does your Hip Hop community look like out there in Cleveland? Chelsea Pastel: It’s interesting to say the least. It’s a little split, you know, you got different scenes. We got a lot of talent out here like a whole lot of talent but we don’t have as much cultivation. It’s like, you got this talent but it’s very few people cultivating the talent so a lot of the talent leaves. You know, that’s our scene pretty wrapped up. We had some really dope acts, we have some really dope people but like anywhere it’s a big popularity contest too. Cleveland is interesting, we done got under dogged so much to where we got a mentality a little bit to where if you ain’t outta here people don’t believe you on almost. It’s weird, it’s kinda a band-wagon thing that happens. A lot of big acts are here but because they aren’t clouted out people don’t give them the same respect and whatnot and that same act can take off real big somewhere else. That shit be confusing me because in cities like yours (Cleveland) or I’m out here in Memphis… I’m not from Memphis but I’m out here, I’m from the West Coast. Even cities like Memphis too, there’s a lot of talent here but people ain’t checkin’ for Memphis or they feel like they gotta go to Atlanta, they gotta go to L.A. You don’t really gotta do that… you can make a hub in your own city. Chelsea Pastel: You definitely can and we got the internet! It’s crazy, just work and work with intention, you know what I’m sayin’. A lot of stuff that’s been working for me I always intended for it to happen I just didn’t know how it would exactly happen. I just kept working towards it. When I first started droppin’ my songs it was late 2015/2016ish and I was received well for the most part but I just got into a lot of different managements and stuff like that that kinda slowed me up. It was learning lessons for all of us and I still got love for everybody it just didn’t work out and just kinda tripped time up a little bit. I noticed when I first started putting out music all the blogs that were covering it were from out of state but they were big blogs and that’s actually when my city started getting involved. It was kinda weird. I was here the whole time, I was trying to work with people and reach out to people… all types of stuff but nobody took me serious until they saw it somewhere else. Yo, I see that happen all the time. I ain’t that big of a platform, yet but I’ve been seeing that happen. People down in New Orleans weren’t getting covered so I covered a couple artists from down there and now there’s these platforms that are poppin’ up, you know what I’m sayin’. I just don’t know why people aren’t checkin’ for people from where they’re from already. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it’s all about clout. It’s a lot of clout game at the end of the day. One thing I’m noticing where I’m kinda in this spot where I’m in the mix right now where if stuff is usually happening’, I’m in the room. I’ve never been a clouty type chick. I’ve kinda always been myself and people learn eventually how to rock with it and I’m not necessarily out at every single thing either. You ain’t bout to see me all the time and every weekend around here. You see me when I’m out, I’ll pop up at certain things, I’ll do certain stuff but I look at it a lot different than when I was younger. At this age and at this point in my life I just wanna be able to make a living for myself and actually make some shit shake thru dope shit. I wanna make shit to make my inner child happy. So, I don’t really care about all the extra shit that seems cool ‘cause at the end of the day I want my shit to be amongst the best. Wherever that is in this country and not even limiting myself to a city. I don’t necessarily think about where I’m at as a person. I had someone tell me the other day that I’m too barred up basically. What… Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, she was like, “yo, you lowkey gotta be intellectual to understand your music,” and I’m like, “no, you don’t.” And even if that’s the case, oh well. Chelsea Pastel: Even if that’s the case, oh well. Then I had to think about it like this and this ain’t even on the city side… we just talkin’ bout rappers. A lot of rappers have a role that they play. Like maybe that’s just my role, you know what I’m sayin’. There’s a lot of female rap acts coming out and there’s a lot of different tastes and a lot of different flavors and maybe that’s just the cup of tea that I need to be. So, I’m not mad at that because I’m given’ people options. I can still chop on any beat, any type of style, trap beats, whatever I can still eat on them and I can still bring my own flavor to it. I’m not going to dumb myself down or water my lyrics down just because somebody is rappin’ about whatever. Because at the end of the day you gotta look at the spectrum; you got a Kendrick, you have a Drake, you got a 2 Chainz, you got everybody, like, everybody plays their own role. You listen to these people for different reasons. That’s so interesting because when I interviewed Vega she was sayin’ a lot of people were sayin’ like, “hey you can’t be sayin’ too much as a woman… bein’ a woman is already a lot to digest as a rapper,” and basically they were sayin’ to her to dumb down what she was sayin’ too and to make it more simple for people. Chelsea Pastel: And see, that’s the thing though… I don’t know about a lot of girls but I watch my analytics. My fanbase is mostly male so I ain’t playin’ by the same rules. I’m just keepin’ it a buck, I’m not, I look at things a lot different. My fanbase is a lot of guys, some girls and they get their friends, sisters, and cousins hip. A lot of guys and a lot of people listen to my music and they tap in because I come with a different approach. Why would I dumb it down? I’m going to still get fans and it’s crazy because the female fanbase still shows up at the end of the day. It’s just different, it start with males and a lot of the time it starts with female then trickles down to the males but mine is the opposite. With that being said I think I’m doing pretty good because I know there’s a lot of guys that will play a female artist and they’ll want to change the song. They got a problem with it and they instantly get irritated by it. I just watch it (that’s a whole different conversation,) but the fact that I’ve watched dudes that listen to my music and don’t know I made the song and I watch how they respond and I’m like, “oh shit, they vibing out to it.” Sometimes I rap about things from a woman’s point of view but at the same time I just rap about relatable shit. If you a human you pretty much going to relate to it. That’s my whole thing… so when she said I was too hard I don’t know about all that shit and I’m just like, “oh well, whatever maybe that’s just what I’m supposed to be.” Sometimes shit just be envy and sometimes people just say shit to slow down your progress. Chelsea Pastel: I think a lot of times people who are real close to you they see you everyday and they see you differently than an actual rap business. As an artis t. They see me everyday so they’re comparing me from a different space. I think she’s just comparing me from a different point of view versus are you actually somebody that don’t know me personally and listens to my music they’ll chop you up. A few people chopped her up when she said it. She said she gotta listen to my songs too hard, that’s the exact words. Certain songs, yeah but certain songs it’s a vibe. “Stop Askin” is a vibe but you happen to catch the bars when you’re listenin’ to it. It’s going to take some folks close to you to see it on TV, to see you in the same nominations with their favorite artist to be able to get it and understand what’s going on. It be like that sometimes. It do be, everyone is on their own time. What’s your proudest moment so far? Chelsea Pastel: Shit, recently, opening up the newspaper and seeing that big ass article. You know, Cleveland, we’re a pretty big city for the most part and that’s our big paper out here. That’s a really big paper in our state. So, when they hit me up I thought I’d have a nice write-up. But, don’t get me wrong I expected it to be pretty small, you know what I’m saying, I expected it to be a little paragraph or something but when I opened the paper I’m liking taking over a large chunk of the page and I was shook, for real. That’s crazy, and I’m at this weird point in my life where I still work and I still do a lot of things. So, I’m on the clock and I see that shit. Yeahhh, affirming some shit. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, and it’s just a crazy paradox. That’s one of my proudest moments and performing at the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. That’s one of my proudest moments. I used to work there and I used to see a lot just from working there and seeing a lot of acts, a lot of big acts, legendary acts come in and I’d see a lot. So, to perform there and not an employee is crazy. That’s real cool. When did you do that? Chelsea Pastel: Last August, yeah, it was crazy. And, you know we got the only Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in the world - so, that’s nuts. Wow, I ain’t know that. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, there’s just one. One here in Cleveland, Ohio and it’s here because a radio host named Alan Freed (and I just remember this from working there.) But yeah, radio host Alan Freed back in the 50’s was one of the first ones that coined the term “Rcok ‘N Roll” here and he had a lot of earlier acts back in the day. Chuck Berry and all them people coming in and that’s why we got the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. Woah, one of the godfathers. That’s hella dope. I’mma have to check that out for real. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, if you ever in Cleveland definitely check it out. I used to write all my music in there, like, for real. I used to go there and I used to look forward to work just to write. It was something about that shit. It’s kinda like, you ever been to a Hard Rock? It’s kinda like that. We got a lot of artifacts and things they wore and actual belongings of different artists. So, I’m in that shit looking at Michael Jackson’s shit, Quincy Jones shit, Biggie Smalls shit, like, you get what I’m sayin’? It’s hella vibes, for real. That shit used to turn me up as an artist and then I would hear different music all day. So, I’d come home with all these ideas on the production side. I can only imagine. Do you go there still? Chelsea Pastel: I haven’t been there in a minute. I’m going to go back pretty soon. They got like the Super Bowl Hall of Fame with all the players bandaged up and stuff up there… so, I do want to check that out. But I’m actually going to tap back in with them in a minute. I’ve just been tryin’ to knock out more music and just knock out more things so I can have a great summer. I feel that. So, you got Pastel Vision coming soon? Chelsea Pastel: It’s Pastelevision, like television. I’ve been working on it for a minute but I keep making more songs so that’s the problem. At this point it’s just like what’s going to be on here and what’s not. But pretty much everything is done aesthetically for it. I already got the cover art and all that but I made more songs than I planned to. I’m just trying to figure out what I want to keep. It gets tough at this point. Man, that sound like a good problem to have. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it’s a great problem and being someone who went through creative blocks and all that stuff. It’s a great problem. Just trying to figure it out. I already got a lot of content that’s already created that’s just not out yet. You know, just trying to get everything ready for release and whatnot. Got videos and all types of stuff shot and ready to go. Does the person who takes your pictures also do your videos? Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, she’s super cold. Her and I met like in February and been rockin’ ever since. It’s certain people that you meet that are part of your soul tribe, you know. Y’all just hit it off and that’s kinda how we did. I didn’t have any intention on meeting her exactly at the time that I did, you know. It just happened when it did. She came to one of my shows and she was taping the show so that’s how we pretty much met and it’s been workin’ ever since. She shot a lot of my work that’s coming out now. Dope, hella dope. When are you thinking it will be out? Chelsea Pastel: I don’t know… I’m thinking, like.. Or when are you hoping for? Chelsea Pastel: I’m hoping for the end of the summer and leading into the fall. Like back to school time period. That’s what I was hoping. I tried to do a lot of this stuff last year in 2020 but the pandemic… you already know. The pandemic is the pandemic. It did what it did. Chelsea Pastel: It did, so a lot of stuff just didn’t happen the right way and a lot of things got cancelled and a lot of stuff just got put on the back burner. Right now, I’m in a different situation where I wasn’t where I was last year. Now, I got a little more access to resources and a little more access to help. I got people who are helping me now. So, I'm trying not to take too long to put everything out but because I have different resources help ing me now. So, I”m trying not to take too long to put everything out but because I have different resources helping I wanna make sure we get everything right. We have it now when we didn’t before. Yeah, progress for real. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it’s crazy. Last year, around this time, the only thing I was trying to do was lose weight. I had gained pandemic weight. I sure needed to lose a few pounds. I gain and lost 30 pounds. Whaaaaaat. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, and nobody saw it because we were in the house. I gained hella weight, we was just in the house and we was eatin’, you know what I’m sayin’. Eatin’, drinkin’ all that. Like we just kickin’ it and my boyfriend’s a chef so it ain’t helpin’. Oh shit, so that’s just double trouble. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, so we just eatin’ and eventually it got to a point where my clothes started ripping. So, I’m like, “oh shit, this for real,” and it’s crazy (R.I.P. to my Uncle Bob,) I had walked out of this room and he didn’t know I heard him. He was like, “oh man, Chelsea been eatin’,” and I’m like ahh shit. After that, I hit up a trainer and was like, “yo, you gotta lock in now, I can’t do this.” You don’t even know it’s happening because you see yourself everyday. I definitely put them on and put them off real quick. It be hittin’ you outta nowhere. I feel it though because I went through a little something. This summer different though because I’m outside and having to get my body right. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, that’s that natural too… you on the move, you outside. Yeah, I got a regular job still too and I work in parks so I be walking like 5-6 miles a day. Chelsea Pastel: See, you good. I work from home so I be sittin’ around for the most part at a desk. It’s easy to get caught up. We went to L.A. to shoot some videos and when I was out there for 3-4 days I lost all this weight just ‘cause we were movin’ that much. Movin’ and the heat. Chelsea Pastel: Yeaah, and as soon as I got to Cleveland I gained it right back. It just goes to show when you movin’ around and you live an active lifestyle the weight kinda just falls off. Eventually, yeah. Ayy, so my last question for you is where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? Chelsea Pastel: Man, I see myself real big in the next 5 years. I see myself on some “Best Female Artist” aware, nominations, you know what I’m sayin’ and on some big ass reputable platform. I see myself on songs with some of the best of them. I see myself producing something for like a soundtrack to something really dope. I saw that you got a connection with Issa Rae’s Raedio. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, I just did some work with them over the spring. They did a collaboration with Viacom where they are their library for a certain amount of their content now. Well, they’re their direct library for their content. I did a sync agreement with about 6 songs. Oh wow. Chelsea Pastel: Yeah, it’s gonna be hella dope and then I got some stuff coming out on Love & Hip Hop too. I don’t know what episode. I don’t know when but it’s comin’ out. Ayyo, that’s big as fuck, congrats for real. That’s huge and it’s only gonna get bigger. I’m definitely excited to see and will for sure be tuned it more now. Chelsea Pastel: Thank you, thank you so much. Yeah, definitely tune in. I don’t know exactly when everything is happening. I know Viacom had me send some press pictures and a bio and all this stuff so I’m pretty sure they’re going to start doing something soon. They have a lot of channels: VH1, MTV, BET, Showtime, Nickelodeon, they have a lot of stuff. Get put into hella rotations. Chelsea Pastel: I don’t know where I’m going to end up exactly but I wanna be on somethin’. So, did they reach out to you? Chelsea Pastel: No, I actually reached out to them a long time ago. I reached out to them when they first became a thing and I just kept in touch, you know. When I was about to put out “Stop Askin” I put out a private link and sent it to people who I would consider tastemakers to check out a few days before it came out and that’s how that conversation got started. Oh okay, that’s cool. You takin’ your shots. Chelsea Pastel: Hell yeah, because who else gonna take ‘em? You right, that’s what’s up. You got anything else you wanna share? Chelsea Pastel: Pretty much just follow me at Chelsea Pastel and find everything, my music, my videos, I got some merch coming out at www.chelseapastel.com and just stay tuned man. We got a lot of good content coming out. A lotta good merch coming out. Just a lot of good things in the mix for the next few months. Stay tuned and tap in. ALL PHOTOS BY: JUST CHAZ (@DESTINYFULFILD) OR https://www.mydestinyfulfilled.com/