Catching up with Mavstar

BTV rapper Mavstar has a busy weekend ahead. Still hustling off the success of his Gangsta Trail Mix LP with Equal Eyes Records, he’s rocking back-to-back shows through the snow. First up, on Saturday the 17th, he’ll be appearing at Drink for Hip Hop Night with Wiki Good. That lineup includes dope new spitter Asah Mack alongside Mister Burns and Rycoon.

Then, on Sunday the 18th, he’s gathering another dope crew for Mavstar & Friends at Radio Bean. Colby Stiltz, Basic Brains and Freddie Losambe is an ideal package for a venue like Radio Bean — laid back, heartfelt, honest rap. Earlier this week, I sat down with the Czech Pilsner himself at Dobra Tea to discuss his place in the universe. What follows is a transcript.

VTHH: When I wrote about Gangsta Trail Mix back in September, I said you had "evolved into a whole new artist." Was that accurate or just some music critic wank?

Mavstar: Before I ever approached anything from an MC or a creator standpoint, I've always considered myself a connoisseur of good hip-hop, before I even ever picked up a pen.  I knew if this is something that I'm going to do, then I'm going to come full force and create the dopest music I can possibly come up with to share with the people.  When I came out with my first two joints, it was hard to fully manifest that potential because we all have to start somewhere, but Gangsta Trail Mix is exactly the album I wanted to put out in 2018.  While I can't say I'm not surprised by its success, it fully coincides with the trajectory I want to be going in right now as an artist and it's evidence that I haven't been asleep.

VTHH: The Meltdown came out in 2012, the summer before the world was going to end. What was the scene like back then? Who were you inspired by? 

Mavstar: Prior to recording The Meltdown, I was already good friends with Face One/Chris Morel, who had been putting out a steady stream of music for a while at the time, including the record with the Loose Crew cats out of Minneapolis.  He was essentially my mentor in hip-hop at the start, and we had a lot of conversations about the ins and outs of the craft. 

I was going through some dark times in the early 2010's, so he went out of his way to introduce me to a lot of his MC friends at the now defunct One Pepper Grill.  I think it was called Hot Fire Mondays- a DJ would play beats while MCs would have an old school cypher and pass the mic around.  That's where I meant Rajnii, Humble, Question, Aleck Woog, and a whole slew of other guys integral to the scene.  I didn't even know there was such a thing as the Burlington hip-hop scene prior to that, so that was definitely inspiring.  I also developed a friendly rivalry with guys like Basic Brains and Habit, who were hustling hard at the time, which was dope because we ended up doing songs together in the future. 

One night there were several homies invited to my man Mantone's spot on Manhattan drive- I had never stepped in front of a recording mic before.  For whatever reason I was encouraged to come equipped with a few verses written over industry beats.  I crushed my verses in one or two takes, and those songs are still on my Soundcloud today.  That was the jumpoff for getting started on the Meltdown album, and the rest is history.

VTHH: Were cyphers important to the development of your style? I ask because it seems like you're always up in ‘em.

Mavstar: Rap, as with any other creative pursuit, is something where you only get better with practice.  Sometimes sitting down and writing to an instrumental leads to having a blank page or coming up with a lot of bars you don't feel like using.  The thing with freestyle cyphers is that when you pick up that mic, you better be ready with something, anything, or you end up getting caught with your pants down and missing out on an opportunity to participate in the music. 

Sometimes the best approach to creativity is to force it out.  Just like lifting weights or practicing your musical scales, you're able to utilize that muscle memory when it really counts.

VTHH: Is it true that you have walk several vertical miles to a mountain shrine in order to get a guest verse from Humble?

Mavstar: Humble is an OG and I've always looked up to that guy and marveled at his freestyle prowess.  We've developed a friendship over the years, and he's always encouraged me to hone my craft.  Despite living in the prehistoric age of technology, he's an accessible dude if you get to know him.  He came through with one of the heaviest verses I've heard from him on that Dungeons and Dragons feature, which I took as a huge compliment.

VTHH: Where do you want to take your sound in 2019?

Mavstar: One thing I've noticed is that the instrumentals I use have a huge influence on the creative direction I take with my songs.  I'm heavily influenced by Wu-Tang Clan, Roc Marciano, Busta Rhymes, Canibus, and a lot of other New York cats, so if I can work with any producers that help me channel that energy, that would be dope.  I've primarily only worked with two producers, so I'm eager to experiment with more sounds to diversify my catalog.  Ultimately, I'd like to come out with more brain melting bars and diabolical rhyme schemes- maybe my style is more diverse than that, but that's what I want to do.  I'd also like to keep going heavy with live shows so I can continue to establish a loyal fan base.  

VTHH: What are the biggest lessons you've learned after playing approximately hella shows?

Mavstar: Everybody starts on the same playing field when it comes to playing live shows, and at the start, that playing field is humbling.  The money or the fame aren't going to come after a couple successful shows, and in fact, you better completely forget about the money and the fame if you want any chance at surviving in this sport. 

You have to be satisfied with very small indicators of success, and get used to that, because that's going to give you the fuel you need to keep going.  Anybody can be hot for a short period of time, but if you can keep at it for 5, 10, 15 years, that's the difference between the guys who only want to stick around for instant gratification and the guys who do this because they LOVE to do this, rain or shine.  We have to be warriors — we don't throw in the towel after just a couple fights.

Justin Boland
Catching up with Jibba "The Gent"
jibba-temp.PNG

This Saturday, Jibba “The Gent” will be doing something awesome in Springfield, VT: he’s throwing a concert / video shoot at Sheri’s Place. This promises to be very dope, both because of the lineup and because of the format. The video shoot is for Jibba’s exceptional recent single “Suite Tooth,” which features Raw Deff and New Jersey certified spitter Ren Thomas. (Mr. Thomas has been nice — just ask Pete Rock.)

Also performing: Wool See, Eyedos, and of course, Jibba “The Gent,” all hosted by partymaster DJ Buttons. Best of all, you get to enjoy all this sitting down in a New England diner having a civilized meal, since the $20 admission also covers your supper. Expect to see a lot of the 802 scene in the building representing. Also expect a cash bar.

What follows is a quick conversation with Jibba about the importance of community, friendship and one hell of a lot of hard work. Dig it.

VTHH: Making your video shoot into a proper show and serving food is an inspired idea. What has it been like pulling it all together so far?

Jibba: Kind of scary! It's new and a lot of people don't know what to think of it but, I have a great support system. All of my homies in Bad Cool-Aid (Vazy, Breeze, Raw Deff, Selfish Presley) are helping with the video aspect and Sheri's Place is my Moms’ Restaurant so that's a plus venue wise. DJ Buttons from Maine is also a close friend of mine and is going out of his way to host and blaze the music for us.

My home town community is pulling together and really supporting this idea as well, they are always amazing for me and very supportive of my ideas. It's part of the reason why so many of my ideas come to fruition and I'm still bringing hip hop artists to my small hometown.

VTHH: What are the best lessons you've learned from your previous video projects?

Jibba: Have a game plan. Planning is probably more important then the filming, without it I have wasted a lot of time trying to get things done. Have one main director to keep everybody involved in line. Take suggestions on the fly. Often times those are the best shots. Have fun with it, that will bleed through to the final production and make the viewer enjoy the music and visuals a lot more!

VTHH: Causin' Effect made a big-time return on that recent "Money" single -- is there going to be new material coming from you two?

Jibba: Well, we were headed to Vegas one summer in 2016 and we got lost along the way. It's possible there is some footage and audio recordings of our adventures, but we are still digging to find those files. Those were booze and drug infused times so we tended to hide these files and leave cryptic messages in their place. The hunt is on, and when we release what we find, it will be filled with Fear and Loathing.

VTHH: What's on the horizon for your solo work?

Jibba: Solo-wise, I still have a lot to release. I have singles stock piled and collabos that still haven’t dropped out there. I’ve been in the studio with producers Sky Splitter, Selfish Presley, Vazy and DAH Trump recently. Looking forward to spending more time with Colby Curtis (aka Flip Physics) and the fellas from Equals Eyes as well. You should see a steady stream of monthly or bi-monthly releases from me as time progresses I really need to get up with the Wombat as well.

It all goes down on Saturday, November 17th at Sheri’s Place in Springfield, VT. Doors open at 4 pm, things will wrap up by 10 pm. $20 admission includes a quality hot meal.

Justin Boland
TOMORROW: 3rd Thursdays at The Monkey House
3rd-temp.jpg

On Thursday, November 15th, the esteemed Anthill Collective will be convening once again at The Monkey House in Winooski for the latest installment of their 3rd Thursdays series. The goal has always been to build a platform for new artists, and — big picture — to help unify the 802 scene.

So it’s a milestone that the So.802 Studios crew will be headlining this time around. Symbolic, sure, but still a milestone. The lineup here is, to abuse a rasslin’ metaphor, basically the Four Horsemen of Southern Vermont rap — a super-team of seasoned vets.

Gringo Montega (f/k/a Vazy) has been running studios, hosting parties, and booking concerts for like a decade now. Yung Breeze has been repping Street Religion in style through a crushing mixtape run, and he’s putting the final touches on his debut LP. Raw Deff has been a monster for far longer than this website has existed. Selfish Presley, who got interviewed here last month, is another spooky talented student of the studio with a lot of solo work on the way.

(Side Note: that interview is now the #3 most popular post this website has ever seen, and is probably getting read by someone right now. That’s juice.)

So there’s a lot of hits between these four, a lot of bangers. There’s also a lot of other young talent on the bill, and that commitment to excellence is probably the key to the longevity of 3rd Thursdays.

Growing & cultivating a music scene is active-ass work. The many artist interviews collected here are a testament to the fact that indie artists connect with other indie artists at shows. This is a guiding principle, not a law of physics, but damn, it happens a lot.

Many of the younger artists playing tomorrow have been paying their dues already — it would be unfair to say, for instance, that Corty Booth or Stormyweather were making their “debut” in Winooski. Both of them have been hard-working soldiers in recent years, honing their sets and jumping on every opportunity they get.

On the same note, props to Rivan C and Real Ova Deceit, both of whom are taking the best approach a new artist can take: carving out their own lanes and distributing good, finished product. They may still be refining their own sound, but they sure don’t sound like anyone else, either. Expect dope sets.

As ever, the show kicks off at 9 pm with an open cypher, which should be especially popping this time. Somehow, all of this awesome music remains free.

Justin Boland
GET FAMILIAR: Ash Diggs of DIGGS
diggs-temp.PNG

On Saturday, November 17th, young BTV funk-rap band DIGGS will be playing Nectars. They’re opening for the cosmic soul heavies Lady Moon & The Eclipse, part of an ongoing hot streak of packed local shows. The 802 has had a few rappers with backup bands in recent years — Lynguistic Civilians went through a few lineups, MC B-Free still rocks with his Ice Coast crew, and most recently Mister Burns has been gigging with The Hounds.

Still, a big-band unit like DIGGS is something new. They’ve only released demos so far, but their buzz is growing fast as they hone their sound one sweaty dancefloor at a time. I caught up with rapper / frontman Ash Diggs to talk shop about how DIGGS makes it all work.

VTHH: How does such an enormous band come together? What is the origin story, here?

Ash Diggs: I moved to Burlington September '17 and through some mutual friends met Dan Maurice. Dan was in a band whose time together was coming to an end, I really enjoyed their style and he immediately struck me as a supremely talented guy. Though I didn't have much of a musical background, I'd been writing songs for years and reached out to Dan about making some music together. While I would've considered just jamming with him a few times to be a success, Dan went into Nick Fury Forming The Avengers mode.

Having been around the scene for a while and hungry to build something unique in sound and scale, Dan began reaching out. One by one he reached out to high school friends, college friends, and even posted on Facebook for horn section members. By the end of this process we ended up with Zeb Carney (Bass, Guitar), Anna Kronk (Trumpet), Michael Gordon (Keys), Deb Kraft (Trombone), Austin Pine (Drums), Julia Spelman (Vocals), and Dan (Vocals, Lead Guitar) and myself (Vocals, Songwriter). Everyone in the group is incredibly talented and works their ass off and with a little bit of luck, all the puzzle pieces fit quite well.

VTHH: Does the whole team hash out arrangements together or is there a house composer in the crew?

Ash Diggs: Every song we perform as a group is created by the group. Basically, we build from the ground up with everyone present. If someone has a specific verse or riff they've been working on, we'll take that and each member will expand upon it. Otherwise, we'll often just begin playing something to loosen up and once that wave gets going we'll ride it for a while until finding something that everyone is really rocking with. From there I'll begin writing usually right there in the moment. It's a pretty organic and collaborative process, one that I think contributed to the bond this band has developed with each other. 

VTHH: When can we expect a proper debut project from DIGGS?

Ash Diggs: We've released two songs on our Soundcloud which were recorded at Pine Street Studios, but right now we're just focusing on playing as many shows as possible and writing better and better songs. Every new track feels better than the last, from lyrics to arrangement to execution, so we're not in a rush to put out a project when we're still scratching the surface of our potential. We haven't ruled out the possibility in any way, but we're constantly reaching a larger and larger audience with the sheer amount of shows we play, so we don't plan on slowing down any time soon. 

DIGGS will be playing Nectars on Saturday, November 17th. 9 pm show. $7. 21+

Justin Boland
TONIGHT: "Hip Hop Lamp Shop"
red-handed-temp.png

Tonight at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington, the Red Handed Records team will be hosting another quality rap show. The lineup this time around features Jarv, Princess Nostalgia, Zesty Boi and The GoonZ. (I don’t know anything about The GoonZ, but they damn well better be entertaining.)

This is going to be an All Ages show — increasingly rare for the Queen City — and admission is a mere $3. Big ups to Red Handed Records for the work they’re doing.

Justin Boland
Shows, From Here to December
 Photo from the 2018  Above The Radar  wall, courtesy of  Anthill Collective .

Photo from the 2018 Above The Radar wall, courtesy of Anthill Collective.

November is going to be absolutely packed. Things kick off immediately, too. Tomorrow night, there’s a very strong lineup at Charlie-O’s, with Konflik, Mister Burns and Mavstar in the house. A free feast in one of America’s best dive bars — you can’t beat that.

Unless you’re Jarv, of course. Folks further south should go check him out at Windsor Station that same Friday night. The show will be something special: he’s going to be performing his latest LP / mixtape, Jarvage Vol. 2, front to back.

The next night, he’s taking that same show to Sweet Melissa’s in Montpelier. Kinda rare for our normally quiet capital city to be getting this much hip hop in one weekend, so make the most of it.

Also on Saturday Night, there’s the Hip Hop Show at Spanky’s Dive, a DIY performance space and local arts hub in Springfield, VT. Or as Spanky himself puts it, a “BYOB Bar / Man Cave.” The line up is headlined by Jibba “The Gent” and Yung Breeze, in addition to performances by Humble Among, HatePH34R, and the impeccably named Sheet Eater.

The 3rd Thursdays Extravaganza is coming earlier than usual this month, since November started on a Thursday. So, on November 15th at The Monkey House, the Anthill Collective will once again convene the most important, longest-running hip hop showcase in the state. These are always dope, but this month’s edition is especially strong, headlined by the So.802 Records crew of Selfish Presley, Raw Deff, Yung Breeze, and Gringo Montega (f/k/a Vazy). There’s also a cast a new names: Rivan C, Corty Booth, Real Ova Deceit, Stormyweather and Syncro.

Closer downtown, you can catch Zesty Boi performing at Radio Bean that same Thursday night. He will be celebrating the release of his funky new LP, TINY ALLIGATORS.

The next night, catch Es-K at Half Lounge on Nov. 16th doing an early beat set as part of the Phases series, curated by the crew at Church Street DJs.

Saturday, November 17th will see events popping off all across the map. Let’s start down south, where there are two dope & interesting shows going down. First up, Jibba “The Gent” will be hosting a performance — and music video shoot! — at Sherri’s Place in Springfield, VT. The music video is for his recent banger, “Suite Tooth,” featuring Ren Thomas and Raw Deff, who will also be there. This is a very cool idea, and it all kicks off at 4 pm. Tickets are $20, and this includes a meal. Which is also a very cool idea.

Just over the border in Woodsville, NH, HLR will be hosting The Mac Miller Memorial Show, a tribute to the young talent who accidentally overdosed earlier this year. Obviously that has a lot of resonance in a state being torn up by the ongoing opioid / heroin epidemic. There will be a big roster of 802 talent paying tribute. All in all, sounds like a great night.

Finally, up in BTV, Drink is the place to be once again. The collective at Red Handed Records is hosting another hip hop night, this time featuring MA collective Wiki Good. Vermont will be well-represented, too. In addition to Mavstar and Mister Burns, you’ll get to catch Asah Mack and Rycoon, both talented young artists. It’s great to have a new promoter doing quality rap shows.

Moving on, Mavstar and Friends at Radio Bean should be an excellent Sunday evening. The lineup is top-notch: Freddie Losambe, who was just featured, will be performing along side local celeb Colby Stiltz. Not only that, but Basic Brains will making a return to the stage, too. His 2017 album Dunce Cap was superb, low-key headphone food and the dude has a smooth, refined style.

On Wednesday, Nov. 21st, Brattleboro will have a heavy lineup performing for the Thanksgiving Eve Hip Hop Showcase at the Stone Church, a gorgeous venue. Stresselbee, Eyedos, Humble Among, Subtex and Jarv will be in the building alongside MC Firebomb and Ar$enal. All Ages, too.

On Friday, Nov. 23, another edition of Omega Jade’s highly successful The Rhyme And Unreason Show will return to the Light Club Lamp Shop. Tarzan Jenkins and Rajnii with both be there, along with the utterly unfiltered mind of Eyedos, so this will be a hella memorable evening — come through.

revenant-living.jpg

Finally, there’s a few notable events coming up on the horizon — and that horizon will be here very soon. First, on December 5th, VMB Productions is bringing legendary NYC lyricist Skyzoo to The Monkey House. That’s wild. Be there.

On December 30th, there’s going to be a big rap show in…Lamoille County. Yep, Mo-Vegas will be hosting a hip hop night at Moog’s Place. It’s going to be a STILTZgang affair, too. Expect Big Homie Wes, DZY, and Faded Flow — as well as Drive, Corty Booth, Ciurleo, The Big Scrilla, and of course, Colby Stiltz.

Last but not least, on January 11th of next year, 99 Neighbors is going to headline the ballroom at Higher Ground. As far as I know, that’s a first — no local rap act has ever done that. Let me know if I’m wrong.

Expect a lot more firsts from that crew in 2019. Expect a lot more everything, really: lots of other new acts are blowing up, extremely talented OG’s are making comebacks, almost every county in the state has their own mini-scene, and Equal Eyes Records has gone from startup to institution. Cheers to everyone putting in work.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: New Sounds, New Names
ted-dibiase-s.PNG

Time once again to spotlight some new names here, artists who have been unduly slept on. This month we’ve got three talented young emcees growing serious catalogs, and one group from the NEK dropping their debut album…four months ago. Maybe a better name for this series would be “The Late Pass” — either way, let’s get to it.

First up, a new project from Freddie Losambe. “Safe Spaces” is charming and funky stuff. Losambe is a thoughtful and earnest writer. He’s deeply personal, endlessly creative, and very dope. He’s also been at it for awhile, so if you dig this, his whole catalog is worth diving into. His Year of Singles Project documents a lot of artistic and technical growth, and the Dismal EP was especially good headphone food.

Up next, Rivan C, a young man of many talents and an earnest practitioner of conscious rap. Not a lot of heads are citing both J. Cole and Gil Scott-Heron as influences these days — and not a lot of rappers have websites this nice, either. Clearly this cat is off to a good start. You can also check him out live on November 15th for 3rd Thursdays at the Monkey House in Winooski, which promises to be another great one.

Tiger Fire Company No. 1 is hella decent rap name, first of all. They’re a young crew from the NEK — the Vermont of Vermont, for anyone unfamiliar — and their debut, “East Kingdom,” is a tribute to those mountains. Tonally, it’s all over the place, but there is a lot of talent and promise on tap here. Props for putting Lyndon on the map, too.

Finally, let’s cruise over to Morrisville to check in with STILTZgang affiliate DZY. He dropped “Werewolf Stench” less than an hour after I finished up the roundup of Halloween projects, and it’s a pity, because this track is pretty hot, bud. DZY goes in here, and at some length, too. If you’re digging this, check out his recent EP, The Missing Peace. STILTZgang is shaping up to be a solid unit — props to Colby Stiltz for having the vision, but props especially to these young cats taking their craft seriously.

If you missed it, check out the New Sounds from October.

Justin Boland
11/15: 3rd Thursdays at The Monkey House
3rd-temp.jpg

Straight from the Anthill team:

Generously sponsored by Switchback Brewing Company - 3rd Thursdays is Vermont’s only long-standing hip-hop showcase. Held down at The Monkey House every month by the venerable DJ Kanganade and hosted by members of the Anthill Collective, the event serves to highlight local and touring acts once a month on the… yeah, you get it.

This month we have A LOT of brand new faces. We reached out to the community via Vermont Hip-Hop Artists Collective this month and the response was overwhelming!!! Come see a ton of new, young, fresh performers brand new to the 3rd Thursday stage and welcome them into the fold. Storm LatheCorty BoothRod Realovadeceit Senter, Rivan Calderin and Syncro all hit the stage for the first time!!

We also have the return of the So.802 Studios family, which is always something special. For too many years it was as though VT had two hip-hop scenes, south and north, but over the past several years, starting with Sound Affects (big ups to Rob Mertz #spreadgoodmusic) we have united VT under one roof many times. #VThiphop is alive and well and whenever these dudes hit it up here, you can tell. We've got Yung Breeze, Gringo Montega, Selfish Presley and Raw Deff all headed up for this one. If these 4 dudes all take the stage together... danger!

Justin Boland
Getting Your Music Covered, Here and Elsewhere
boombox-temp.png

As we march towards the first year of Vermont Hip Hop having a Dot Com, a word about what gets covered here and why. This is a one man operation, so don’t expect any real policies or rules. This is just a mix of basic disclosure and friendly advice.

The distribution of the spotlight here is always going to be unequal and unfair. This is part of a larger pattern that you’re going to see a lot in your life. (If you’re curious, it’s called a Pareto Distribution, something Jesus addressed in Matthew 13:12.)

The best way to get coverage - here or anywhere - is to make waves. Now, when you’re just starting out and someone tells you “to get people talking about you, get people to talk about you,” well: that someone sounds like a real asshole. The problem is, they’re completely right.

There is no master list or super-index of Vermont hip hop artists here. If you’d like to be on a list — or do an awesome radio show — get in touch with Big Heavy World, a non-profit that does tremendous work for the 802 music scene.

VTHH is run like a news site because what you’re doing matters more than what you’ve done. The basic role of VTHH is getting 802 events, rappers and producers showing up on Google somewhere other than your own Facebook pages. This makes me, in effect, a volunteer publicist. With way too many clients.

For many of the artists covered here, this is the first “press” they’ve gotten anywhere. Hell, I’ve been doing this long enough to see my writing show up in a lot of your “bios” — which is nothing but flattering, I ain’t salty. Bear in mind, though, what I do in my free time will only take you so far…and it’s not far, bud.

Nobody is going to step in and manage your career for you, because that is not what record labels do anymore. They invest only in winners; they invest in artists who already sell albums, tickets and merch. You will need to start winning on your own. You will not be able to fake it.

So, take control of your basic assets and get them organized. You need high-res, quality photography. You need professionally mixed and mastered singles, EPs and albums. You need great-looking music videos. You need an email list, you need to put up real numbers online, and you need a good one sheet / artist bio.

If you do even half of that, you’ll find it gets a lot easier to be taken seriously. You will get coverage, you will get booked for shows. You will sleep better and feel better, too.

For anyone interested in more advice, check out “Tips for the Band(s)” by Jordan Adams from Seven Days.

For everyone else: thank you for making songs, booking shows, doing murals, showing love, buying tickets, producing beats, helping out, showing up, learning to break, learning to mix, competing, collaborating and talking shit. If there wasn’t an actual scene to report on, none of this would be worth it. Cheers.

bobby-and-gorilla.jpg
Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: All Hallows Eve
freddy-k-nyc.jpg

Happy Halloween, folks. Remember, there are hot shows popping off tonight - 99 Neighbors Graveyard Smash at Club Metronome in Burlington, Jarv and Sed One rocking Charlie-O’s in Montpelier, and the Carnival of Sins at the Essex VFW. Today’s post is all about the new releases, though. Things have been moving fast, plus we’ve got actual Halloween projects to share. Let us commence.

First up is Humble Among’s Halloween Tape, obviously. It is a densely packed, horrorcore themed EP and very clearly a labor of love. It’s also the prelude to a busy month for the rapper / producer: he’ll be playing November 10th at Spanky’s Dive Bar (really, yes) in Springfield, VT for a BYOB hip hop night alongside Jibba “The Gent,” Yung Breeze, HATEPH34R and the exquisitely named Sheet Eater. After that, he’ll be joining Stresselbee, Jarv, Eyedos and more on November 21st for a show at The Stone Church in Brattleboro, VT — an awesome venue.

Up next on the Samhain Train, Equal Eyes Records artist Agent Elsewhere drops a seasonal single for Cabbage Night, “Film This..” It’s creepy and claustrophobic, and also points to some interesting new directions for his EDM-infused style. This cut is a Jason Vorhees slice off an upcoming album that should drop by the end of the year — name and date still up in the air at this time.

Music from a brand new name: meet KPK, making his debut today with a spooky single and one hell of a guest feature from 802 heavyweight Jibba “The Gent.” How did that happen? Well, Jibba is also known, in some circles, as KPK’s older brother. It’s a story as old as time: skills run in the family. While KPK inevitably sounds young, he also definitely sounds like someone who has been doing his homework — and has a lot of potential. Props & welcome.

Finally, another new name: Moose’s single “Livin It Up” is the warning shot for both an upcoming video and a solo project. He’s part of the Hella Fader family, alongside Juni, an artist we’ve been covering a lot lately. They’re definitely on a mutual wave — smoked out, laid back, and very nicely produced. Dig it.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: The Listening Station
michael-myers-mask.png

Happy Samhain. We’re back with another roundup of quality cuts from the Vermont scene, where standards and output are at an all-time high. Seriously, this year has been insane. The music, the shows, the albums, the art, the community … well, dang. There’s a lot to celebrate — today, we’ve got four choice slices from a mix of old vets and new voices. Dig in.

First up, a serious banger from down south. The Coalition is Yung Breeze, Selfish Presley, Raw Deff and Gringo Montega — aka Vazy of So.802 Studios. That whole extended crew has been on a serious run lately, and there’s clearly a lot more to come. Especially with Jibba “The Gent” freshly signed to Maine’s 656 Records and gearing up for a very creative private show / video shoot for his “Suite Tooth” single.

After the fever dream blast of his TRIP EP, the one and only Zesty Boi is back with a new album, TINY ALLIGATORS. His early work was a lil’ rough but he’s evolved fearsomely fast since then - a cat worth keeping an eye on. Then again, as his own bio puts it, “up and coming rapper means nothing.” That’s what I’d call an educated opinion. The lad has wisdom beyond his years and energy for days. Go see him live.

Here’s another new artist with great bio copy. As Juni puts it, he’s “a simple rapping dad whose just tryna get paid doing what he loves...but i mostly need a swimming pool.” Clear, realistic goals are the key to a happy life. More importantly, though, this cat can really spit, and “Rum Drunk” is an impressive single that showcases his catchy, carefully calibrated flow. I’m expecting great things from this dude in 2019.

Finally, one from the Late Pass Department: “Too Long” features Teece Luvv over some warm, funky SkySplitterInk production. This is an outstanding piece of work with some sharp bars on deck, too. Mr. Luvv is having a great year and our world is a better place for it. As for SkySplitterInk, not only is he one of the 802’s most accomplished producers, he’s also one of the best engineers you could work with. Peace to the Skylab, and props to both of these upstanding young gentlemen.

As ever, if you’ve got recommendations, suggestions or hot mixtapes on deck, get in touch.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: Jarv - "Fine"

Given the chance, always start your music video with a slow-mo shot of a television getting smashed. This is advice that will never fail you.

In related news, Jarv is back with a brand new video for “Fine,” a single off his superb rap album, Jarvage Vol. 2. It’s tight work, like every other aspect of his album campaign so far.

Jarv will be rocking shows all weekend, too: tonight, he’s with Maiden Voyage at Windsor Station — tomorrow, opening for RJD2 at Hawks & Reed in Greenfield, MA — and returning on Sunday night to rock an opening set for Prof at Higher Ground.

Justin Boland
Shows, From Here to Halloween
vorhees.jpg

It’s time to monetize cuffing season. Despite dropping temperatures, the final stretch of October is always busy — and lucrative. That all culminates in Halloween, the biggest prestige gig this side of New Years Eve. Predictably enough, there’s plenty of competition for your money on the 31st.

First, though, we’ve gotta get there.

On Friday, Oct. 26th, the Church Street DJs team will be taking over the Blue Room at Red Square for PHASES, a series of shows they’re curating around Burlington this Fall. Friday’s edition will feature producer / DJ David Chief and DJ KermiTT. It all starts at midnight.

Further south, Maiden Voyage will be throwing a celebration that night at Windsor Station, their home turf and ol’ stomping ground. From there, Jarv has a busy weekend — first, he’s opening for legendary producer/performer RJD2 at Hawks & Reed in Greenfield, MA on Saturday night. After that, he swoops back to BTV to open for Prof at Higher Ground, alongside Mister Burns.

Awkwardly enough, Halloween itself falls on a Wednesday night. Downtown Burlington will be past capacity anyway, and the 99 Neighbors Graveyard Smash at Club Metronome will capture a lot of that human tide. They’ve got Loupo and Chyse on the bill and they’ve been preparing something special for weeks now. Expect a great time and minimal elbow room. 9 pm show. 18+ $15 adv / $20 door. 21+ $10 adv / $15 door.

Montpelier has dope options, too: Charlie O’s World Famous will be hosting Jarv, Sed One of Boomslang, and the surf-rock shred of The Tsunamibots. They’re calling it Robots vs. Hip Hop. 9 pm show. 21+. FREE SHOW.

Finally, there’s a party in Essex Junction, Carnival of Sins. As the press release puts it: “Khaosity will be bringing the rage to the Essex VFW on Halloween night.” Kosha Dillz will also be appearing, along with performances by Colby Stiltz and rising talent Corty Booth. There will be prizes and there will be tacos. 6 pm show. $5. ALL AGES.

Justin Boland
SUNDAY: Prof w/ Mister Burns and Jarv @ Higher Ground

On Sunday, Oct. 28th Rhymesayers clown prince Prof will be rocking at Higher Ground with some top notch local support. Comedy rap will only get you so far in this cold, cruel world — what keeps Prof eating is his high-energy live shows. Well, that and his bar game.

Opening up for the evening is the one-two punch of Lynguistic Civilians alumni and VT rap godfather Mister Burns, followed by Jarv, juvenile delinquent, miscreant, and allegedly “on the verge of a breakout.” See for yourself this Sunday.

$15 adv / $17 door. 8 pm show. ALL AGES.

prof-temp.PNG
Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: Fresh Local Produce
2017-samhain-awards-best-horror.jpg

One of the best things about Autumn is the horror of realizing another year of your life is gone, gone and gone. It’s the best, isn’t it? 2018 was an incredibly prolific run for rappers and producers in the state of Vermont. There’s just never been this much volume before — or this much quality, really. And it looks like we’re going to get even more new albums before the year is out. Let’s dig in.

As promised in our recent interview with THEN WHAt, there is new music coming from The Others, his project with NH spitter Raw Deff, who dropped one of 2018’s best local rap albums, Uninvited Guest. No word on a title or release date yet, but "Flip The Script” makes it clear this next album will be worth the wait.

Up next is Teece Luvv of Maiden Voyage, breaking us off with some bars. “A lot of trash-talking going on, I wish you the best, my mission is to flex on these Loony Toon flakes who wanna buy my beats but you ain’t got cake.” It would be dope to get an EP of breezy rap cuts like this, but it’s safe to bet that Mr. Luvv is cooking up something more soulful for his next meal.

Up next, BL SPITZ with a new single off the Heartless Forever mixtape, which has been downloaded almost thirty times since it dropped on Friday. “KULTURE VULTURE” may only be a minute long, but it marks the first time that Vermont Hip Hop News has gotten a shout-out on a track! Big ups and thanks for the exposure.

Finally, a new single from the team of Omega Jade (get familiar!) and Rico James. “United States of Dope Men” is a hard-hitting cut about growing up in a society run by drug dealers. As ever, this is clean writing, autobiographical rap over a dope throwback beat. Whatever these two are cooking up, it’s going to hit hard.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: New Names, New Sounds
ric-flair-as-god.jpg

Last week on The Facebooks, I put out a call for new names…artists that have been slept on. That happens, and that happens a lot. More than half of that is sheer felony negligence on my part, of course. But it’s also true that many local artists make themselves easy to sleep on. The promo grind is a shitty, thankless part-time job — it’s also non-negotiable. The 802 is not a huge scene, but it is competitive.

So: a quick roundup of artists, old and new, who deserve more shine than they’ve gotten here.

Madscatta is an old school spitter from Southern VT, all tongue twisters and internal rhymes. He had a standout appearance on the debut Jibba “The Gent” LP, The Broccoli Tree, and he’s released a few solo projects on The Soundclouds, too. Some of his recent work shows him stretching out into new flow pockets and feels over THEN WHAt production, but it’d be great to see him come back with a straight-up boom-bap throwback album of just wall-to-wall bars. Not that anyone asked me.

M. Rich is one half of the Bar None The Best team, a hardcore rap crew from Barre who’ve been on a successful underground run for awhile now. They’re not exactly slept on — not many 802 acts are debuting their singles on The Source’s website — but M. Rich’s next move is a solo project, Malcolm, with “Lord Forgive Me” serving as the lead single. This is some sharp writing and great delivery. An LP of cuts this nice would be monumental.

Juni is a new name for the emcee formerly known as Trips, who did some show-stealing work on recent Minds Eye Tribe projects. His cadence and content have always been more Bone Thugs’n’Harmony than Jedi Mind Tricks, though, so I’m looking forward to hearing what comes from this second wave of solo material. Also check out “Hecka Faded", his new single from an upcoming project with Kishawn.

Jay Jerz was a new name to me, but he’s currently in the SkyLab cooking up new material…and his demos from last year are pretty flames. Check out “ADRENALINE” — the mic quality might be iffy, but that flow shines through: dude is a natural. Looking forward to whatever comes next.

Finally, we’ve got RyCoon, with “Turn It All Around,” a big-ass, dynamic single about staying motivated. His craft is still rough around the edges, sure, but this ain’t a demo — it’s a well-paced song with a real-deal hook. It sounds like this cat has a great deal of potential to grow into, and he’s definitely working with a good team. Props.

Justin Boland
Jarv - Jarvage Vol. 2
jarv-tracklist.jpg

After an inspired promo campaign, Jarv has finally dropped the second volume of his Jarvage mixtape series. It’s a serious LP. Dude was impressive enough already, but this latest project represents some heavy growth — especially as a producer.

Jarvage Vol. 2 feels like a classic 90’s project and that’s no accident. Vol. 1 was born of necessity, a collection of tracks to sell at shows — Vol. 2 is a carefully crafted homage to his influences, overstuffed with references and samples. That’s a compliment. “Too much” is the only acceptable aesthetic for a De La Soul tribute, for example, and that’s just one of 17 cuts here.

The beats are whumping and nicely pruned, tighter than ever, but Jarv is also mastering the role of engineer. Most of these cuts have lush, layered hooks and all of his verses pop, thanks to intricate sequencing…and, you know, flawless fast-rap takes. There’s no room to fake it when you spit like this.

Thematically, sonically, everything here is on point and suitably trashy. This is 10/10 stuff. Props.

Justin Boland
GET FAMILIAR: IAME of Wool See
iame-temp.PNG

Rapper / producer Iame has been in the game for awhile now. For instance, his first solo LP dropped in 2005 — and I know that because the man has his very own Wikipedia page. A member of two legendary underground crews — Sandpeople and Oldominion — in recent years, his main project has been the “one man band” Wool See. His range is vast, veering from 90’s bangers to EDM symphonies to experimental, uh … post-hop indie ballads? Folk industrial performance art? You’ll have to listen to decide for yourself.

After getting back from a West Coast tour — and dropping a new project, Ewe Gross — he took a minute to talk turkey about his old haunts, his new process, and living in one great big small town.

VTHH: HOW WAS TOUR, MAN? Was it weird going from NEK splendor back into living gig to gig, or was it natural as could be?

IAME: It was definitely a little weird because I’ve been somewhat isolated out here in the NEK for about a year and a half, away from all my Northwest homies and with much quieter surroundings compared to how it was living in Portland. So to go back to all of that kind of felt like being reintroduced into the wild.

But I was kind of surprised at how naturally I slipped back into tour mode…you’re just on autopilot after a few days. Really, it was just a great opportunity to see some familiar faces and places. I’ve put in a lot of work and have been touring the West Coast for over a decade, so it’s always cool to see some of that lasting impact. 

VTHH: How has your process been evolving since the Wool See experiment began? Do you make albums approximately the same way Iame does/did?

IAME: On my earlier albums, I was just rapping and relying on others to make it sound good in terms of hooks, beats, and mixing…now, I do it all, for better or worse. But rapping was my first love. I didn’t start making beats until after I had put out a few albums and then it was just something I did in the background for a long time. I was working with Sandpeople and Oldominion and there was no shortage of great producers around so I left that to the professionals.

The Wool See experiment began during a weird phase of my career where I sort of hit a wall. I had put out what I felt was some of my best music to date but a lot of my previous listeners weren’t feeling it and I was constantly running into roadblocks. Plus I was becoming more interested in learning music and production than I was with writing rhymes. So I went all in with beat-making for a while with absolutely no expectations or plans other than to hoard it and see what happens... This led to me forming a band with no other members.

For a while now, the Wool See process has been to produce all the time and only write lyrics when I’m inspired. What usually inspires me the most is coming up with a theme or title for a full project. Once I can kind of see where I want to take it, I reach into the beat stash and start crafting full songs. The words just sort of pour out naturally from there. With Ewe Gross, the difference was that I didn’t want to write or say as much. My previous album ended up being very personal and the things that I had to say ended up driving the process. So I needed a change of pace this time and I thought a beat-tape type of thing mixed with some full songs could be cool.

VTHH: Do you feel like you're integrating with a Vermont "scene" or do you feel like a hermit in the woods, yelling at kids?

IAME: I’m definitely a hermit in the woods but I’m not yelling at the kids quite yet... I don’t know. I’m not super concerned with integrating into any scene at this point but I still like to pay attention to what’s happening around me. Vermont has some dope artists and this site has put me on to a handful of them….I appreciate the work you do.

Skysplitter was the first dude I met out here that was part of the scene…I only knew him because he mixed a project I was featured on, but he spread my name to Mister Burns & Anthill Collective and they’ve been very welcoming. I’ve done some shows and built with Jarv, Jibba, Boomslang to name a few. I guess I’m integrating exceptionally well for a hermit in the woods.  

Wool See will be appearing at The Monkey House in Winooski on Thursday, Oct. 18th for the latest edition of Anthill Collective’s legendary 3rd Thursday series. The bill is absolutely packed and the show, as ever, is free.

Justin Boland