For the past five months, this blog has explored multiple facets of local hip-hop. I've covered some of the biggest players on the scene that are making moves on the national stage, the producers that are critical in creating an infectious sound for rappers, and the effort that goes into making a successful music video that acts as advertising for an artist's career. Left out of this mix, thus far, has been the actual venues that host and support local music, allowing you, the fan, to experience first-hand live renditions of your favorite tracks, or to discover new tunes that you can't shake from your head. In this blog, I'll visit three distinct venues across the STL area that play host to some of the city's finest rappers.
When most people are seventeen years old, they're still trying to find their way through life, often asking themselves the questions: Who am I? Where do I fit in? What should I be doing? This process of self-discovery and experimentation in our late adolescent years is highly influential on us in our later years, and rarely do you see someone fully committed to their ambitions at such a young age. J'Demul, a kid by all means of the word, has things figured out at age seventeen, and his dedication to the craft of rapping has resulted in a quality sound that most older Saint Louis artists haven't achieved despite the extreme age difference.
In 1978 my younger brother Mike had a surprise for me. The curiosity was located in the middle of a tract of forest behind my father's house. On that warm summer day a little ways north of Collinsville, he led me alongside the rippling waters of a creek, crossed over a fallen tree, then made his way up a large hill. Shafts of light broke through the canopy above as we pushed aside weeds along the way. His recent growth spurt made it difficult for me to keep pace - he passed effortlessly through small tree branches and thistles while I struggled to keep up.
When you have a good working relationship as a director with your actors, crew, clients, etc., you look forward to creating things with them. In music videos, when you respect the work of an artist and his/her/their music gets you genuinely excited, the creative process in developing a video for that music becomes almost too easy, almost as if a vision is innately born the moment you hear the song. This is the case for all of my video work with Mvstermind, a local hip-hop producer and rapper who has been featured multiple times on this blog. After the successful release of his newest album, he eagerly wanted to complete something special visually, and thus, the music video for 80-D came into existence.
Most think of Spring as a time of warmer weather, bountiful sunshine (and in the case of Saint Louis, rain), and outdoor festivals with fresh food and jamming music. For hip-hop peeps, it's the busiest time of the year for new music releases as tons of mixtapes are hitting the web and a plethora of videos get uploaded to YouTube. Here's some of the new music to which you should be listening and a shameless plug for my latest music video.
An original -- a goal of most artists, but simply having this as a goal does not mean that you are or will ever be. Likewise, saying that you are does not translate into being. You are either original or you are not. Although simple, originality in music, in any genre, is critical. As an artist, it's never a good thing to sound like or to try to sound like someone else -- critics will compare you to others instead of others being compared to you. For Mvstermind, originality is second-nature, and in his pursuit of music, it is something for which he doesn't strive because he is: original. A.D.D. (Artistically Day Dreaming) is the fruit of Mvstermind's originality; a mixtape that sounds like nothing else you've ever heard and that exists as an introspective into the mind of a young adult in the 21st century.
Do you ever hear the first several seconds of a song on the radio and immediately know what it is? Without the chorus or certain distinguishable sounds having been played, certain artists' music is immediately recognizable, which is typically indicative of consistency. For TyLan, a Saint Louis native, music is innate, and his experience in its creation has given him a major edge over other rappers. His background in piano performance and audio engineering allows him the flexibility to compose and produce his own music, which makes his mixtape Insomnia something special.
Crews are not a new concept, they are an institution of hip-hop that have been around nearly as long as the music itself. From TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment) in the West coast to MMG (Maybach Music Group) in the East, crews are ubiquitous for a reason: they serve as a means for artists to come together to reap benefits based on a set of similarities, whether it be geographical location, style, or friendship. These benefits are vast; crews are safe havens where artists can freely express themselves to other individuals who are in the same situation, allowing an expansion of creativity in a supportive environment. They act as hype men at your concerts, give you free features and collaborate on projects, and they are group therapy for the struggle to get yourself heard. In this new blog series, I'll be highlighting several well-known crews from the Saint Louis area. First up this week is Doorway, the kings of East Saint Louis, and the light of hip-hop from the IL side.
Joy and I attended the 3rd Annual St. Louis Teen Competition at the Fabulous Fox and witnessed probably the best... show... ever. Because our child was in the show? No, our child was not in the show, nor did we personally know anyone in the show and there were no famous celebrities in the show. Just stars. All stars. We were fortunate enough to meet the winners, Two Mellow Cello Fellows, Grant Riew and Christopher Halen, when they visited the ONstl studios a few weeks ago; you can check out their private show for us right here.