Jarv - Jarvage Vol. 2
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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
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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
Jazzy The Kid - Stay Pushing

Since his breakout beat tape, Cold Waves, St. Albans producer Dokowala has been more or less on fire. He followed that up with Loops 4 The Soul, a split instrumental LP with Instinct, and now, we’ve got a proper rap album.

His latest drop is another collaboration, this time with Jazzy The Kid, who is blessed with both a great voice for rappin’ and a natural, conversational flow. In fact, it’s a conversational EP, period — a slice of life, a moment in time.

The project feels so organic because it emerged from a single vacation session. As he puts it on “Those Were The Days,” one of the best cuts here: “just have a seat, we talk about how we livin’, writing a couple thoughts and spitting whatever’s written, just sounds fitting.” Amen.

Sonically, it’s as blunted as anything Quasimoto gave us, timelessly spaced-out boom bap. Dokowala did a damn fine job on the production and the engineering, here, the dude is evolving into a real threat.

There’s a whole St. Albans Wave incoming, really, between Dokowala’s projects, the upcoming mixtape from D.FRENCH, and whatever the Joint Manipulation crew are cooking up these days. It’s a beautiful thing. St. A won’t be slept on much longer.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: Fresh Local Produce
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Lazy Sunday afternoons are such a blessing. Welcome back. I’ve been catching up on new releases and prepping material for next week. Expect coverage on the new Wool See project, Dokowala’s collaboration with Jazzy The Kid, more shows and more interviews. Meanwhile, enjoy another collection of fresh singles — heavy on the raps this time — from Vermont artists.

First up, we’ve got Asah Mack, a strong young talent who has been dropping dope singles. The latest is “Air,” another lean banger with heavy 90’s flavor. Energy, charisma and bars. That’s about all you need, right? Props to David Chief and Notation for the production, grimy & detailed.

BL Spitz makes his case as Vermont’s greatest rapper on the latest single off the “Heartless Forever” mixtape — which drops October 19th. There’s going to be a release party at The Cellar that night featuring live performances from the roster and DJ Ron Stoppable holding it down.

Up next, Dolla Day is about to release a flood of new material — including a track with Fred Da Godson, one of the sharpest NYC writers alive. "Keep Calling” is a vivid, tight slice of trap lyricism. His flow is effortless as always, and every line is crystal clear. Expect to hear a lot more from him before the year is out.

Finally, another jam from Es-K is his new series - this time “Inspired By” a classic Pete Rock production. As ever, this is a re-flip from the ground-up, with Es-K on the bass. A master at work.

Justin Boland
Wikipedia Famous, Finally. Well, Sort Of.
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Every couple months I sit down with a pot of coffee and patrol the perimeter. Vermont is a small state — damn, is it ever small — but our hip hop scene is still a machine with hundreds of moving parts. I do not even pretend to keep track of them all, but I do try on occasion.

This time around, I was surprised to find out that “Rappers from Vermont” is now a category on Wikipedia — all thanks to exactly one artist: Nothing,Nowhere. How this came to pass is most instructive.

For starters, this is the first time his name has ever appeared on this website. Nothing,Nowhere is a rapper and producer. He has never done local shows, never networked with important artists in BTV, never been mentioned in Seven Days. He has broken a million plays on Soundcloud multiple times, and he’s currently off on his second, or maybe fourth, European tour.

Yet those accomplishments — which are huge — are not the reason that this young man is on Wikipedia. That would be a music critic named Jon Caramanica. He writes for a paper called The New York Times, and he’s been making people famous overnight for decades. Almost a year ago, he did exactly that for Nothing,Nowhere, dropping a detailed profile complete with a photo shoot in a State Park.

Coverage moves in cycles because writers have deadlines. The opening salvo was a short, press-release style blurb in Billboard magazine in August 2017 — then in October, Nothing,Nowhere got mentioned in both NYT and, even more importantly, Rolling Stone. He had a great hook — a new music video featuring the lead singer of superstar emo band Dashboard Confessional. That in turn promoted his next project, Reaper.

Vermont has proven to be a great hook for him, too. When Billboard first covered him, he was a “New England artist” — but after NYT’s re-branding, all of his recent coverage places him squarely in Vermont; the adopted home of a Massachusetts transplant who came here for college.

So: hopefully one of your takeaways, here, is how little your local music scene matters, outside of your local music scene. This is true in Boston and this is especially true in Burlington, which is barely even a “city” in the first place. In a state with less than one million people, what are you really going to conquer? The entire potential audience for your rap music is probably less than ten thousand Vermonters. Far less.

I won’t speculate about who will be the next breakout artist from Vermont to warrant a Wikipedia article — and in fact, I’d wager that won’t happen for another year. Here’s why: take a gander at Wikipedia’s notability guidelines. Stakes is high. The reason that Nothing,Nowhere got placement in Billboard is because Nothing,Nowhere was already on a record label owned by Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. Nobody actually gets famous overnight. There is a system, here.

So, there are ways I could be wrong, but none of them involve how hard you work this year, or how dope your next album is. Jarv could get a write up in SPIN magazine. 99 Neighbors could get signed to a (real, actual) record label — hell, so could a cool two dozen other 802 acts. But it’s wild how, despite all the promise of the internet destroying the gatekeepers, it’s still a bunch of assholes in New York and Los Angeles who truly make you famous.

Conduct yourselves accordingly. If you really want to “make it,” you’re going to have to do what Jamell NYT did: leave. If you really want to put in work for the Vermont Hip Hop scene, I have to assume that’s because, like Nothing,Nowhere, you love the mountains and you love the view. Cheers.

Justin Boland
Ciurleo - "On My Job" ft. Big Homie Wes

A fresh track from HLR artist Ciurleo, who has been pushing hard this year — and improving a great deal in the process. “On My Job” is a collaboration with Big Homie Wes, one of Vermont’s most distinctive new artists, and the contrast of styles and vocals really works here.

He also nabbed a spot on a recent Grind Mode Cypher — this one shot at the 3rd Eye Open festival in New Bedford, MA, who were celebrating their 20th year. My math may be off, but I believe that makes Ciurleo the fifth 802 emcee to score a spot on this platform…props.

Like anyone on the HLR roster, Ciurleo appreciates the importance of hard work behind the scenes — and staying true to your local fans. He’ll be rocking a Halloween house party in his hometown of Bradford, VT on Oct. 27th. After that, there’s a very interesting concert coming up November 10th at Room 111 in Woodsville, NH: Modest is curating a Mac Miller Tribute Show. More on that soon.

Ciurleo is also putting the finishing touches on his next project, an EP titled Better Late Than Never, which is currently scheduled for November.

Justin Boland
TONIGHT: Jay Critch at Higher Ground
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Being an “online superstar” used to be a joke, an insult. That was back before the entire American Universe existed online, all day, every day. Jay Critch was born at the right time, in other words — his success on Youtube and Soundcloud has translated into tours, more connections, bigger opportunities. Like “getting signed to Interscope,” for instance.

Jay Critch has clearly got a following here in the 802, considering Higher Ground moved this gig from the showcase lounge to the ballroom. DJ SVPPLY was also added to the ticket, along with King Lah, Cloud 3, Beny Bermuda.

9 pm show. ALL AGES. $35 at the door. It’s going to be a crazy night.

Justin Boland
GET FAMILIAR: THEN WHAt aka Selfish Presley
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Michael “Logik” Levesque is a hard working man. He produces as THEN WHAt and raps as Selfish Presley, and in the past year, he’s stepped up his game considerably. Both in terms of his output — a steady stream of strong singles and collaborations — and especially in terms of the sheer quality. His beats, his bars and his engineering are all impressively clean. While it’s been a great run so far, he assures me: this is only the beginning.

VTHH: You've got a lot of projects and a lot of creative outlets -- how do you juggle all that? Is there a system, or does infinite hustle just come naturally for you?

THEN WHAt: I’ve just never been the type to only have one thing going on at a time. So I guess it never seems like a lot to me. All the people I look up to always have multiple things going on, so I definitely draw from that. Why limit yourself?

VTHH: Your production game is on point - when and where did you hone your style and get the practical experience?

THEN WHAt: Well, I started producing when I was 15. Everyone I knew wanted to rap, but there were no beat makers around that I knew. So I never had anyone to learn from. I would just kind of draw from the music I was listening to at the time. Fast forward to the past few years. I sent Jibba “The Gent” that beat for Maple Syrup and soon after was recruited to the SO.802 team as an in house producer. Been working really close with Brad Vazy ever since, and he’s really helped me expand on what I already do very well.

VTHH: Are you part of the Street Religion team? Those cats really need a Wu-style poster breaking the roster down.

THEN WHAt: Yo, me and Breeze were talking about this the other day. I feel like Redman. Like the unofficial member. It’s never been discussed, honestly. Right now the roster is small. It’s Yung Breeze, Raw Deff and Jun Fargo. We family regardless though, and we’re all under the same umbrella anyway with So.802. A team poster would be dope though! 

VTHH: What was it like working on The Others with Raw Deff? Is there going to be a followup?

THEN WHAt: Man! That was a trippy experience. Me and Deff started building that project before we had even met in person. I sent him like 3 beats I thought he might like and he had full songs back to me within a day or two. At that time I was used to waiting months to get a song back. So it just became clear we had a chemistry and we should make a whole album. We ARE working on a follow up project, and I’m stoked because I’ve been waiting to get back up in the studio with Deff for 2 years. This one is gonna be special.

VTHH: You've been on a hot streak with the singles lately. Are you clearing out some archives, or prepping for a new project?

THEN WHAt: Yeah that’s actually all new stuff. I’ve been lucky recently to have full access to my friends studio space and I’ve been in a good creative zone. But I’m definitely putting a project together! I don’t think it will include any of my singles. Just wanted some material out there so I’m not forever known as just the beats guy

VTHH: What other projects are you working on now? Is there going to be a Selfish Presley album at some point? 

THEN WHAt: I’m working with a handful of artists. Got a lot of people coming to me for beats right now. Honestly the list of new songs and projects coming is too long, but we work fast and I can’t wait for it all to be heard and show people how diverse I am as a producer.

I’m definitely working on an album. It’s going to be called No Sleep. I’m taking my time on that though. I want it to be done right.

Justin Boland
GET FAMILIAR: Omega Jade

On Sunday, October 14th, the Light Club Lamp Shop will be hosting the latest edition of Rhyme & Unreason, one of the most interesting shows in the Queen City. The brainchild of writer / rapper / comedian Omega Jade, the format blends standup comedy sets with freestyle rap improv. The result is generally a wild, unpredictable evening.

Sunday’s ceremony will feature comedians Liz Scharnetzki, Nicole Sisk, Dave Anderson and Joe Gringas. After each of their sets, a rapper gets to step up and deliver a freestyle build around the same themes — those rappers being Jarv, Mister Burns, Rajnii and Sed One of Boomslang. That’s a top notch lineup, and it’s a testament to the hard work of Omega Jade that it came together.

Here, we’re talking shop about the BTV scene, her burgeoning rap career, and the teamwork that makes it all happen.

VTHH: The "Rhyme and Unreason" format is such a dope idea. How did you hammer that out? Was there some experimenting, or did it come to you in a flash?

Omega Jade: It first came to me when I put a line from my cockeyed joke in a verse I was writing. Then I remembered the Hip Hop documentary Rhyme and Reason, and adjusted the title to fit my vision. I believe I've been experimenting with it since then, to be honest. But at the same time, the people that have been a part of this really didn't have a hard time helping my dream become a reality. I think it was organized chaos that just worked itself out.

VTHH: It's a lot of stoned white dudes around here. Do you feel like the BTV scene has been welcoming?

Omega Jade: With a few exceptions, I'm actually surprised by how welcoming the Hip Hop community has been. And I look forward to collaborating with more people because of that alone. I met my producer the first time I went to a 3rd Thursday cypher and show. It took me longer to be in my first comedy show.

VTHH: You're one of the most bluntly honest rap writers in Vermont. Has hip hop always been an outlet for you to process your life? 

Omega Jade: Poetry/Spoken word has always been an outlet for me. It wasn't until I started doing comedy that I considered being an MC. But all of my poetry and even some of my comedy has been influenced by Hip Hop.

VTHH: "I Rediscovered Me" does such an excellent job blending confessional with comedy -- how much do you think your standup experience informs your bar game?

Omega Jade: Let's be honest. It's about my kids father. I think at this point in my life I use laughter and the fact that I learned a lot about from this situation as a type of motivation to keep going. But I realized that my rhymes and jokes can be merged when I wrote my joke on mental illness. Lots of word play. I think hip hop has played a large role in my stage presence in all aspects of performing. Because let's face it, I'm a jack ass of all trades.

VTHH: What are you working on for future projects?

Omega Jade: Finishing my EP that I am currently working on with Rico James. And expanding my Rhyme and Unreason show to multiple locations. And I have the help to execute that mission now that I have brought more people into the production of it. Specifically Rajnii Alexander Gibbons Eddins, King-Sha-Mecca-Blaze, and Ron Stoppable. Thanks guys!


Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: Fresh Local Produce

Fall 2018 has been packed so far. It’s hard to notice gradual changes — has it really been crazier than Summer 2018 was? — but compared to, say, five years ago, the difference is astonishing. One consequence of all that glorious noise is the fact I can do one of these “Fresh Local Produce” song roundups pretty much every damn week now.

First up, a short, sweet jam from David Chief, cooked up in collaboration with Es-K and Notation. All three are distinguished producers and the world could use more of this, ASAP.

Up next, Loupo’s got a new single that’s being featured on the Chillhop Fall Essentials 2018 mixtape, which is a good look on a huge platform. “1993” is a gorgeous track that’s about to break 3,000 plays. It’s also just the beginning of a tsunami of new Loupo material (and shows) on the way this fall. More on that soon.

Zesty Boi is a beautiful weirdo working at the forefront of the BadArt movement — largely because he started it, true, but he’s been putting in work. A prolific organizer of underground shows in the BTV demilitarized zone, he’s also been releasing increasingly good rap music, the latest of which is a three track teaser EP for his next project, “TINY ALLIGATORS.”

D.FRENCH has been stacking tracks for his upcoming mixtape, The Highest Lows, and broke us off a sample this week - “Like Stockton” is a catchy banger over some heat by Dok Sterling (aka Dokowala). This man sounds hungry as hell and I’m looking forward to that tape dropping later this year.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: Mavstar - What's Been Going On

Brand new visuals for the lead track off Mavstar’s latest release on Equal Eyes Records. ILLu produced both the beat and the video, and the track features cuts from DJ Kanganade. It’s simple and sparse, but that’s all this track really needs. Rap hands? Check. Shots of equipment in the lab? Double check. Rap squats in the woods? You know it, bud.

You can catch Mavstar & ILLu rocking live at the next installment of 3rd Thursdays, October 18th at The Monkey House in Winooski. That’s going to be an especially impressive lineup, too — Philly-based journeyman Kuf Knotz will be headlining alongside NY up-and-comer Deuce Ellis. Somehow, 3rd Thursdays is still free. Be there.

Justin Boland
DJ Kanganade x SkySplitter - Triage

A face-melter of a single from a powerful team-up: DJ Kanganade and SkySplitterInk. Both of these young men have been tireless assets to the 802 scene, and they’re both hella talented, too. “Triage” is the opening shot for an upcoming EP project, and there’s a video on the way, courtesy of the Church Street DJs team.

In case you missed it, SkySplitterInk recently dropped a gorgeous single with Teece Luvv, “Too Long,” and DJ Kanganade was all over Mavstar and ILLu’s Gangsta Trail Mix, the latest release from Equal Eyes Records.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: Green Mountain Updates

First up, props to the 99 Neighbors team for keeping it moving. They’re fresh off another sold out show last weekend, this time at St. Lawrence. On the way, they shot a quick video featuring Sam. tearing through some light work:

Their next big gig is coming on Halloween - they’ll be taking over Metronome along with Loupo and Chyse for The Graveyard Smash on October 31st.

There’s a lot of gigs between now and the 31st, though. For starters, Maine/LA “art rap” loyalist Milo will be at ArtsRiot tonight, along with his longtime co-conspirator, producer Kenny Segal. 8:30 pm show. $15. ALL AGES.

ArtsRiot is doing back-to-back rap shows, too: the very next night (Thursday the 4th) they’ll be welcoming Chicago rapper/singer/multi-instrumentalist Nnamdi Ogbonnaya. His music is funky, catchy and deliciously weird. To sweeten the deal, HANKNATIVE of 99 Neighbors will be opening. 8:30 pm show. $10. ALL AGES.

Closer to downtown, there’s a bumping show at Sidebar that same Thursday night. DIGGS is a new band, and a damn promising new band, at that. They do big funk-rap numbers with horns, and they will be rocking with Mister Burns and The Hounds, his latest live band lineup. 10 pm show. $3. 21+.

Friday night at Club Metronome, there’s going to be a dope beats convention going down. The lineup is packed: Loupo and David Chief will be putting in work alongside JFear, Ron Stoppable and the one-man army SVPPLY. 10 pm show. FREE. 21+.

Finally, don’t forget: Atmosphere is coming to Higher Ground on October 9th. They’re legends for a reason — it’s one of the most polished live shows in hip hop. 8 pm show. $29 adv / $32 door. ALL AGES.

FRESH TRACKS

We’ve had some new names show in the past month - first up, producer THEN WHAt, who also raps as Selfish Presley, has been on a tear lately, dropping new singles and fresh beats. Check out “Don’t Speak,” a lush instrumental cut…

Another new artist from Southern VT has, in classic Randy Orton style, come outta nowhere with a fully developed sound. Humble Among is definitely some left field material, but it’s damn interesting work. His Silly Human EP is a clearly stated manifesto that speaks for itself.

Last up is 802 super-producer Es-K, who has quietly added yet another weapon to his arsenal: he’s playing his own basslines now. Check out his latest showcase, “This Is It / Hall and Oats",” a Dilla-inspired jazz meditation.

Justin Boland
Dokowala x Instinct - Loops 4 The Soul

In our recent interview with 802 beatsmith Dokowala, he announced that there was a new project right around the corner: Loops 4 The Soul, a split beat tape with Instinct. That tape dropped on Monday — and it’s a free digital download, for now. There will be actual cassette copies soon, but getting tapes duplicated is tricky.

The duo have highly complimentary styles, and this is a strong set. Any given track here could get picked up by Adult Swim — both producers have a spacious, jazzy touch. Loops 4 The Soul mines funk from unlikely sample sources, and it’s the subtle moves that really make it work. Much of the material here is primed for your next “chill beats” playlist, but there are some real burners on deck, too.

Overall, another impressive release from a producer on a hot streak, and a great opportunity to get familiar with Instinct. Dig it.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: A Weekend of Shows
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Tonight, local DJ Two Sev will be spinning vinyl at Side Bar, a superior drinking spot on Main Street. From there, though, the weekend is largely taking place in other corners of the state. Let’s take a road trip through your entertainment options:

First up, Khaosity’s Kings of the Weekend series continues at the Barre VFW on Friday night. The Eden emcee has been working on paving new platforms for unheard independent artists, and the lineup in Barre will include Corty Booth, Stormyweather, Trippie Banz, Royce Matic and Douglas Campbell. 6:30 pm show. FREE. All ages.

At Positive Pie II in Montpelier, selector Jahdan Blakkamore will convene a special edition of Dub School. Discerning heads will be most impressed. Expect a flawless evening of deep cuts and a succession of special surprise guests. 10 pm show. $10. 21+.

On Saturday night, check out the Pelpa Album Release Party at The Engine Room in White River Junction. Pelpa is a New England artist repping Jamaica, and he’ll be joined by Marquis, Cody Barton, and … the reunion of Causin’ Effect, the tag team of Vazy and Jibba “The Gent.” Gonna be a hot ticket. 9 pm show. $10. 21+.

Finally, it’s not exactly a secret show, but it doesn’t exist on Facebook: HLR Entertainment will be hosting another Hip Hop Night at Babes Bar in Bethel. It’s a stacked bill in a great little spot, and also a fundraiser for local sports. Expect to see Sircho Bangz, Omega Jade, Modest, and Ciurleo sweat it out for a good cause. Oh, and Bar None the Best will be there to destroy a set. Like I said: “stacked bill.” 9 pm show. $5. 21+.

Justin Boland
Es-K ft. Danny Whitney - "Phase"

Es-K branches out once again, debuting on Netherlands label/platform Chillhop Music. “Phases” is a gorgeous piece of work, featuring BTV keyboard auteur Danny Whitney over some timeless jazz breaks. In other words, the perfect soundtrack for a rainy fall day — dig it.

Es-K has new work on the way, as always: expect another LP, on wax this time. More news on that soon, but: that’s a huge, huge accomplishment and he’s earned it honestly. Props.

Justin Boland
KINGBREAD ft. BL SPITZ - "NYTE LIFE"

The crew at Heartless Ent. have released a new single — “NYTE LIFE” is a slice off the forthcoming HEARTLESS FOREVER mixtape. It’s an anthemic celebration of selling cocaine to college students and getting away with it.

BL SPITZ has been an outsized, caps-lock presence on social media since his return to the scene, and KINGBREAD — formerly known as Cornbread — is a BTV legend. Some of you reading this may remember him for him daily habit of stomping around town, screaming bars at the top of his lungs. It was a beautiful thing. Watching him startle the shit out of Sunday shoppers on Church St. … these are memories I will always treasure.

Naturally, their claims to be the best — and to be the true founders of “Vermont Hip Hop” — has generated a lot of online beef and a few IRL incidents, too.

The most interesting development, though, is the possibility of a live battle against the Street Religion crew. As a matchup, that makes a hell of a lot of sense. Both crews are working in similar lanes and definitely share some mutual influences. What’s more, that’s a lot of talented writers under one roof.

Straightforward thug rap might not be Burlington’s favorite flavor, but there’s no denying that BL Spitz and Kingbread are damn good at it. Up against a writer as sharp as Yung Breeze, well, it’s going to be an entertaining night. Keep your fingers crossed.

Justin Boland
Mavstar & ILLu - Gangsta Trail Mix
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Yesterday I threw on the new Mavstar & ILLu LP and hot damn, I was impressed. It’s been five years since he dropped the Even Out EP, and during that time he’s evolved into a whole new artist. On the mic, Mavstar sounds both more relaxed and more confident, and bar game has sharpened considerably. Check out the jumpoff cut, “What’s Been Going On,” where he explains his hiatus better than I could:

Turntable wizard DJ Kanga shows up on four cuts here, and that’s a very good call. Kanga should be on everyone’s albums, and I don’t understand why he isn’t. At just eight tracks, Gangsta Trail Mix still hits you like a full meal. Every song is carefully fleshed out and it all sounds professional as heck, thanks to the experienced touch of engineer Zach Crawford aka SkySplitterInk.

The album also features one of the best rap songs about roleplaying games I’ve heard - “Dungeons & Dragons” features both DJ Kanga and Bless The Child lyricist / hermit, Humble.

2018 has been full of surprises, and this project is one of them. Gangsta Trail Mix is one of the strongest releases Equal Eyes has dropped, and definitely one of my favorite albums so far this year. Props to everyone involved.

Justin Boland