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

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
GET FAMILIAR: Dokowala aka Dok Sterling

Back at the beginning of September, we covered Dokowala’s beat tape, Cold Waves. Even in the middle of a strong year for instrumental hip hop in the 802, it’s a standout slice of laid-back boom bap, more jazz than funk. Here, the humble beatsmith talks shop about his process and the journey it’s brought him on.

VTHH: Really enjoyed Cold Waves, man. I'm curious if you were curating beats that nailed that particular vibe, or was that just the space you've been in lately with all your production work?

Dokowala: I'm very humbled by how well it is being perceived by people so far. Cold Waves was definitely a project that had the tracklisting switched out, rearranged - songs added or subtracted, all the way up until the release. While I want each loop to tell a story - I wanted it to be a cohesive project. Something that conveys emotion front-to-back. I only came up with the title after the majority of tracks were chosen. At least for me - every beat I make is a reflection of my current headspace as a human being. I guess the right answer would be a little bit of both.

VTHH: A lot of the producers I talk to in the 802 say they exist on the internet more than they exist in Vermont, thanks to the larger network social media provides. Is that the case for you?

Dokowala: My online presence is nothing to write home about. I really gotta give it up to my friends & family because without them it wouldn't feel like I exist at all, man. The biggest support always comes from my friends & family in Saint Albans. They've all been listening & buying music from me since I was in high school doing this on Fruity Loops. That is the big "keep going" motivation when things get tough. Anytime you get somebody who genuinely listens to your work, then approaches you in person to tell you what they enjoyed about it - that's existing to me.

VTHH: What is the scene like in Saint Albans these days?

Dokowala: I moved to Burlington because Saint Albans doesn't really have a music scene. Don't get me wrong when I say that because there are a number of dope artists in their own right that come from there. There's just not an audience to play for - much less a venue to play at. I got my people there who support but that's it. There's a small venue called The Burrow, I see them constantly trying to hold shows of all genres in their basement space. That's a start.

VTHH: What are you using for equipment these days? Do you still create in FL sometimes?

Dokowala: I haven't used FL in at least 5 years or more. The Master file always comes out of Ableton nowadays. I've used FL, Reason, Maschine & the 404. My favorite, by far, is my Ableton + APC40 setup. Everything works a little different for production so it really came down to what gave me the most sandbox approach to the work. Ableton provides that freedom.

VTHH: What do you have in the works next?

Dokowala: Actually, a cassette with my long-time friend Instinct, we just finished it & we’re waiting for it to be duplicated. It's a split beat tape of 10-tracks each. We have dubbed it "Loops 4 The Soul". This will be available for purchase soon. Instinct is a beast in his own right & has a unique sound of his own - look him up! Other than that - I'm stacking audio for another release!

Justin Boland
Fall Hip Hop Shows @ Higher Ground

Higher Ground remains one of Vermont’s most iconic venues, and they keep booking quality hip hop, too. Here’s a quick look ahead.

Sept. 23 (Sun.) - Jedi Mind Tricks and Q-Unique. A whole lot of hardcore hip hop in the building - Q-Unique was part of NYC crew The Arsonists. (Track down their LP “As The World Burns” if you’ve never heard it.) Expect to see a clinic on crowd control. All Ages. 8:30 pm show. $20 adv / $23 door.

Oct. 9 (Tues.) - Atmosphere with deM atlaS and The Lioness. Rhymesayers is a legendary label with a lot of talent, but that legend was built on the catalog — and work ethic — of Slug and Ant. They’ve evolved into one of the tightest live shows in rap. All Ages. 8 pm show. $29 adv / $32 door.

Oct. 14 (Sun.) - Watsky with Chukwudi Hodge. It’s encouraging that artists as earnestly weird as Watsky can still thrive and tour. He will be joined by the spooky talented Hodge, a budding star in his own right. All Ages. 7:30 pm show. $20 adv / $25 door / $85 VIP.

Oct. 18 (Thurs.) - Blockhead with Yppah and Arms & Sleepers. Blockhead still counts, right? No matter how left field, Ninja Tune, or EDM his sound gets, his live show has always been straightforward & entertaining. All Ages. 8:30 show. $12 adv / $15 door.

Oct. 28 (Sun.) - Prof with Mister Burns and Jarv. Prof has been a success story for the Rhymesayers label, and he’s a lot different than their usual sound — big, funny party rap. He’ll be joined by some of the 802’s finest. A tasty ticket. All Ages. 8 pm show. $15 adv / $17 door.

Justin Boland
TONIGHT: Chyse, Learic and Jarv @ Drink

Tonight at Drink, a charmingly weird spot on St. Paul facing the park, the Red Handed Records team has put together a strong-ass lineup of local hip hop. Chyse and Learic are both top talents, and spoken word artist Rivan C. is riding a big wave right now. Also, Jarv will be coming through to deliver a set. That’s a full house.

This is a 21+ affair and there will be a $5 cover. Enjoy yourselves responsibly.

Justin Boland
TONIGHT: Mister Burns Celebrates his 1000th Show

Tonight, Foam Brewers will be hosting the official Above The Radar 2018 Jump Off Party. There will be music from Jarv, somehow still humble despite being Rapper Of The Year, and Mister Burns will be headlining with his live band, The Hounds.

That’s a big enough deal already, to be sure, but: this is also the 1000th show that Mister Burns has played. That record owes a lot to his early days with Lynguistic Civilians, true, but the man has only stepped it up from there. Under the umbrella of his VMB Productions imprint, he’s been carving out New England touring circuits for independent hip hop. That’s because venues know he will bring through a top notch lineup — like his “Preceding The Warmth” tour this Spring, with none other than Masta Ace, or the “Will Rap For Art” tour this summer, which brought along Dillon, Eyenine and of course, Jarv.

Along the way, he’s been providing opportunities for new local artists, not to mention raising thousands for local charities. I don’t mean to imply that the scene owes him anything — I mean to state that as a fact. So head on down to 112 Lake Street to celebrate a landmark moment and get Above The Radar started right. It’s going to be an awesome weekend in BTV.

Justin Boland

The 99 Neighbors team are in the middle of a very, very good year. They’ve been on a killer run of live shows, and the crowds keep getting bigger. Along the way, they’ve dropped two outstanding solo projects: Sam.’s Collision and then, weeks later, HANKNATIVE’s debut, Problem Child. Both albums are distinguished by their professional production and musical ambition.

But the music is only part of the movement with 99 Neighbors. This is a big multimedia collective and we haven’t even seen the true extent of their work yet. I caught up with HANKNATIVE to talk shop about his album, his team, and his future.

VTHH: Great work on the album. It is crazy cohesive, front to back. Clearly, that wasn't a quick process -- were you surprised at all by how "Problem Child" finally turned out, sonically?

HANKNATIVE: I was completely surprised with the final product. It was originally supposed to be 13-15 tracks, as well. I went into this project understanding how vulnerable and open I wanted to be, but I didn't necessarily have any real idea of what the soundscape was going to be like until we developed some themes behind songs. Somba, Juju, ( two 99 guys ) as well as another artist I work with named Kurt Stewart, they did an amazing job of understanding the concept of the album and running with it.

The way they were able to convey some of the things I was thinking and talking about into music was amazing. Especially on tracks like "Toes in the Water." Sonically, I wanted to branch out from stuff that I've done before, and I think that definitely happened throughout the 4+ month process.

VTHH: How much of the album process was improv and experimentation? Do you show up to the studio with everything laid out in your head, or do you like to stretch out in the session?

HANKNATIVE: There were definitely a few songs like “Toes in the Water”, “Pressure Cook”, and “Backseat” that had pretty solid plans for them, but even with those we just started with a base idea and spiraled from there. A lot of the time if I get stuck when I’m writing, I’ll start freestyling or switch around to a new beat and come back to it. So I’d say a combination of both, but for the most of the album it was feels driving the process.

VTHH: Congrats on selling out Higher Ground. That is some Grace Potter type shit. What is the next big goal for your team -- touring?

HANKNATIVE: Thanks, that was unreal for us. We've been going there and watching some of our favorite artists since we were little, and to be able to do it and have that much support was amazing. Touring is definitely one of our goals. We've been traveling a lot more lately in the surrounding states to local colleges and had the opportunity to perform at OTIS (so much fun). Which is a good start, but we'll have to see what the year has in store for us to gauge, I think.


VTHH: What inspired you guys to make 99 Neighbors such a full-spectrum media x culture operation? Was that just a matter of too much talent in the room all the time or did you have specific role models?

HANKNATIVE: Honestly its a mixture for everyone in the group, but those two points kind of sum it up. I know there are guys in our group that are super inspired by OFWGKTA and BROCKHAMPTON in the sense of their interchangeability in songs and ability to create, but others that look up to single specific role models and just want to be a part of something bigger than their craft as well.

When we started doing more performances and promotion for our music, we all kind of had to savvy up. Branding ourselves and the culture just kind of came naturally from what we do. Skating, tangible as well as media arts, are what brought a bunch of us in 99 together so it only seemed right to make it us.

VTHH: Are you looking to do an actual 99 Neighbors LP in the future?

HANKNATIVE: Man, the group chats been formed. Expect that this fall...

You can catch 99 Neighbors with Chyse and Loupo on October 31st at Club Metronome’s Graveyard Smash. Whalam.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: Green Mountain Updates, Sept 2018

As predicted, Summer 2018 was a huge success for the 802 hip hop scene. That’s thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of talented people. This Fall is looking just as busy, and there’s plenty to report.

First and foremost: Above the Radar is back, this weekend. One of last year’s best events is getting bigger, bringing an incredible lineup of artistic and musical talent to the Queen City waterfront once again. The celebration begins on Friday night with a “Jump Off Party” at Foam Brewing, then things head to the Burlington Ferry Dock for a weekend of live art, jaw-dropping graffiti murals, rapping, DJ’ing and breaking. There will also be food trucks, so if you’re in town at any point, stop on through.

Next up: props to the young BTV hip hop x culture collective 99 Neighbors for selling out Higher Ground on Sept. 1st — a Saturday night. That’s a serious achievement, and they did a great job documenting it. Check out this short, beautifully shot video recapping the night.

After a long hiatus, Mavstar is back with some strong new material he’s been working on with producer / entrepreneur / radio host ILLu. They’ll be dropping an LP, Gangsta Trail Mix, on Equal Eyes Records. The release party is Sept. 21st, and the lineup is a knockout. In the meantime, check out the lead single, “Hyundai.”

Finally, the lineup for September’s 3rd Thursdays has been announced. Since Anthill Collective is understandably quite busy with Above The Radar, the crew at HLR will be running the show in another “Takeover” edition. The Joint Manipulation crew will be in the building, alongside Sed One of Boomslang, DZY of STILTZgang and Omega Jade will be hosting — an excellent choice. (Check out her recent single with Rico James, “Never Too Late For Friendship.”)

Justin Boland

David Chief is a producer -- and DJ -- who has grown into an important part of the BTV hip hop scene. His Soundcloud has always been worth checking, but it was last year's "them trees" tape that really cemented his rep as an ace beatsmith with a gift for lo-fi bangers & blaps. With the release of his latest tape, "rejections," and his contributions to the new Sasha Travis (also known as Notation) project, "Ego," it was long past time to interview the man. Dig it.

VTHH: Who were your big influences when you were starting out on production? Has that changed much since?

David Chief: I always listened to hip-hip growing up, but once I started using Soundcloud I found some of the early lo-fi producers like bsd.u, rsnz, grimm doza, deadxbeat to name a few.  The scene has grown a lot since then, but these are the OG's that influenced me to start making beats.  There's way too many talented producers to list, but Radio.Wavs is a Soundcloud label I'm a part of, and a  good place to check out a lot of them.   

VTHH: Do you feel like regular DJ sets are important to your process as a producer - or are those two separate worlds to you?

David Chief: DJ'ing gives me an opportunity to meet a lot of people.  I've met some of my best friends who are artists through doing shows/gigs, but they are two different worlds in a way.  You can't always go to a club or bar and play lo-fi, but I mix it in when I can.

VTHH: Is doing cassette releases a matter of opportunity & demand, or does that format hold a special place in your heart?

David Chief: Getting on cassette was one of my goals when I started making beats.  It really gives your beats a certain vibe. Cassettes defiantly hold a special place in my heart.  Next step is to get on a vinyl though.

VTHH: It seems like you've gotten a solid workflow down and your releases are getting more frequent. What's on your horizon for the rest of 2018?

David Chief: I've been trying to release more projects rather than individual tracks.  In my opinion it creates more of a buzz when you release multiple tracks at once.  I'm still not releasing as consistently as I'd like though, but I'm working on it.  I'm trying to continue driving traffic to my Spotify lately, as Soundcloud seems to be slowing down a bit.  I want my first million on a track for sure.  Also that vinyl release I mentioned is a big goal for me.  Be on the lookout for that.

Justin Boland
Es-K - "Trust The Process"

Es-K is back with a dope new project, and it's huge. "Trust The Process" is an instrumental album with 30 tracks -- and it's also a beat tape, expertly mixed by DJ Grazzhoppa. It was only back in May when he dropped his last LP, really one of his best projects to date, "Koan.

While "Trust The Process" isn't nearly as lean as "Koan" was, the real winner there is you and me. This is a guided tour of Es-K's broad horizons, and his compositional skill remains razor sharp. So while these 30 tracks cover a lot of ground, it never drags for a second. Each cut is a puzzle box, a world of its own. 

It's the same thing that's always set Es-K apart: his real genius isn't just in finding the perfect loops, but finishing them. He's got a sixth sense for the touches that transform a collection of samples into something brand new. "Trust The Process" is an artist at the top of his game. Enjoy.

Justin Boland
Big Homie Wes - "Wit My Dawgs"

Big Homie Wes just dropped a short but tasty project, the Big Homie EP. As ever, he's rapping & producing, and operating in his own lane. Dude knows exactly how he wants to sound and he's working on perfecting it. "Wit My Dawgs" is the third track, and it's a fun, funny video -- you can tell they had a blast making it. 

You can catch Big Homie Wes live on September 14th at the Middlebury VFW. He'll be rocking alongside Mavstar, Face One, Khaosity and Corty Booth -- part of Khaosity's ongoing "Kings of the Weekend" tour series. 

Justin Boland
Get Familiar with Alabaster Samovars

Alabaster Samovars are an improbably great rap group consisting of Philly-based producer Remington Iron and Burlington-based rapper The Marijuana Pot Man. Their debut album is one of the best I've heard out of the 802 this year, and you can read my review in Seven Days. More importantly, though, you can bump it right now:

In many ways, this is the Ricky The Fly Wine Taster album that Kool Keith promised us but never delivered. With this LP, they've become one of the most luxuriously original rap crews we've got. This is an RKO out of nowhere; this is a steel chair to the face. It's also deeply weird so your mileage may vary. Dig it.

UPDATE: by popular demand, here is a wikipedia page explaining what a samovar is. I don't judge you for not knowing. I do judge you for emailing me before using google. Cheers.

Justin Boland
Dokowala - "Cold Waves"

This was a random find on the "Vermont Hip Hop Artists Collective" group on Zuckerborg. It was an unassuming enough post -- "Beats for your enjoyment," he said -- but four tracks in and, hot damn, I was definitely enjoying these beats. Dokowala has a refined style, leaning into the Zen edge between lush layering and raw dirt. 

We'll have more on this cat shortly, but in the meantime, just throw this on and get some work done. Cheers.

Justin Boland
JL - "Next Summer"

For their latest release, the team at Equal Eyes Records have teamed up with Boomslang producer / occasional emcee, JL. Next Summer is a headphone vacation, overflowing with ideas. 

That's nothing new for JL, whose beats are influenced by Talking Heads and Adamski as much as Pete Rock.  JL is an omni-genre music lover who has been devouring stacks of vinyl for decades now.  Regulars at Charlie-O's may also know him as the lynchpin of synth pop throwback Champagne Dynasty -- that kind of verb-heavy, 80's-tastic, cocaine wonderland feel permeates a few tracks on Next Summer, too. There's also tons of boom bap, a few detours through the world music section, and all kinds of funk.

I caught up with the maestro himself for a quick talk about the latest project. 


VTHH: Did you really get that fortune cookie on the cover that says "Next summer, you will dance to a different beat" ?

JL:  I really did. That was from a cookie at P.F. Chang's, when I was down in Baltimore earlier this summer.  It made an impact on many levels, in that moment, and I knew right away it would be part of the artwork.

VTHH: How has your experience been working with the Equal Eyes team?

JL: Working with them has been a blessing.  It's a situation where they've done everything possible to help support the project, and then some.  It's an awesome environment for a producer.  I've always loved those Rico James and iLLu beats and production, and they have basically made me feel like a family member from beginning.  They're already after me for the next collection of beats!!

VTHH: Are you surprised it took until 2018 for an 802 hip hop record label to happen? I seem to recall that Boomslang were/are founding members of the State & Main collective, so you're an OG already.

JL: Yes!  Shout out State and Main and definitely Boomslang! I've got nothing but love, always.  It is a bit of a surprise it took until 2018 to make an 802 hip hop label happen, but well worth the wait.  The Equal Eyes team is really committed and making serious run this year, right out of the gates.  When they approached me about doing an instrumental album, I was all in from the jump.  

VTHH: Next Summer is all over the place but still fits together nicely. Are you always trying to orchestrate lots of styles?

JL: Thank you.  I need to mix it up when making new tracks, to stay interested.  I'd say there is a range of styles throughout Next Summer.  There is definitely a fair amount of funk and sunshine spread through the mix and at different tempos than I had been previously working with.

VTHH: Is doing solo instrumental albums something that excites you going forward? Can we expect more of these funkpuppies?

JL: Most likely. I’m taking a few steps back from performing (with Boomslang) but feel really inspired to keep developing as a beat maker and producer.  I’ve got a handful of tracks for the next round of instrumentals but there’s a completely different vibe. It’s exciting. I feel like I’m doing whatever I want in the studio and it’s coming out fresh. I look forward to sharing it. 

Justin Boland
INTERVIEW: Talking Shop with the PR DepARTment

Back on August 3rd, I posted a quick note about the new PR DepARTment project, the Outlook EP. The EP was tight and strong, and a real evolution from their first release. As for my quick note? It was a hack job, the work of a Yeti on vacation.

Well, mostly: I did a write-up about Equal Eyes Records for Seven Days two weeks back. As ever, I wound up with a lot of "bonus footage" -- important stories that get cut for word count. Rather than let it go to waste, I followed up with a few more questions for the PR DepARTment team, PreciseMC and Rico James. The result is a conversation about belonging, the process of honing an album, and rethinking everything. Dig it.

Part 1: Precise MC.

VTHH: How did you start collaborating with Rico James?  

PreciseMC: Rico was one of the first friends I made in the Vermont scene after moving from California. I was on the same bill as Self Portrait and they reminded me of my old group, Ill Effect, so we hit it off. I did the song "Float" on their Primal Union album and that worked out well, so Rico started sending me beats.

At first he just wanted me to make my own project with them, but I was already working on my project with Scottie Royal and I knew that Rico was a dope MC so I pushed for him to drop verses on them as well. We hit a groove together and were becoming friends so we decided to turn the tracks we were working on into the first PR Department EP.

VTHH: As a new artist, do you feel the BTV scene has been welcoming?

PreciseMC: BTV has definitely been welcoming. I'm not the most animated guy in public, but after meeting the Self Portrait crew they always had my back at shows. Mister Burns put me on originally and has always been supportive and I've met a ton of great people in the scene. There are similarities and differences from California, but most of the people I interact with at shows seem to all be out to help each other and there is a real sense of community, which is great. I was intimidated for a long time before trying to do shows on my own out here after always being in a group, but once I started meeting people, it felt like home.

VTHH: What was your process for the Outlook EP? There were a lot of fine touches on that project. Was that the result of listening & tinkering long after the sessions were cut?

Precise MC: Once we decided that PR Department was going to be a real group, Rico started cooking up beats that complimented me more. I think all of the beats on the first EP were ones he'd had for a minute, but the beats on Outlook were fresh for us. I think he cooked up Microphone and Life We Choose and I flipped out over them, so he just locked into that lane. I think you can tell that we found a nice groove on Outlook. From there everything fell into place.

We had clear concepts for each song and just tried to execute them the best we could. This time around we decided I'd record and mix everything at my spot since I do audio production for my day job. So there were a ton of different mixes and arrangements that I'd send over to Rico, get his feedback then adjust accordingly. I geek out over that stuff so there was definitely alot of tinkering, and of course I'm always nitpicking so there are still things I wish I could adjust, but I'm proud of the project.

You should see our text chats, so many album notes and tweaks. I also tend to over think the nuances of a project or song and add in way to many meanings that are completely lost on most listeners, but it makes the process a lot of fun.

Part 2: Rico James


VTHH: Where were you at creatively when you were putting together beats for the Outlook EP and working on honing those tracks?

Rico James: This is a loaded question for me. A lot of people don't know, but last September I had an incident and suffered a traumatic head injury which left me with a fractured skull and some bleeding around the brain.  The brain is a complicated thing, and took 6-9 months to heal and repair itself fully. When something like this happens to you, you have a lot of time to think and evaluate different aspects of your life. You realize what is important, and more importantly, what is not important.  

As I rebounded from this injury, I took a step back with my music making and started making beats for the love again and not thinking about the outcome. I make beats because I truly love it, and I love sitting down, digging through records, and chopping samples. I got to a place with my production where I was overthinking and analyzing everything I was creating, which just leads to becoming stagnant and not ever finishing anything.  Once I was able to tune out all the bullshit that comes with artists and egos, and just make beats I like, my productivity levels have been at an all time high and I'm more confident than I've ever been with my art.

Right now, I'm making beats that I like and that I want to make. That's it. That's what makes me happy. The beats from the Outlook EP came from this period of just creating and not worrying about what anyone else is doing.  PreciseMC has been a very good friend and fellow creative mind that shares a similar passion so he took these beats and ran with them. This was long before we had the title "Outlook", but that title could not be more relevant than it is to this project. My outlook has changed on what I'm doing and creating, and this EP is a reflection of that to the fullest. We made music we enjoy. We are happy that others are enjoying it as well.

VTHH: Who are your influences in terms of structuring & plotting out albums?

Rico James: A major influence for me on album structuring is Cunninlynguists and the production from Kno.  Their albums have such a good balance of some deep, introspective songs, mixed with some light-hearted uplifting songs.  That balance is very important. If you go too far in either direction, you'll lose people. They can hit every mood throughout the entirety of their records.  

Those records resonate with me and can almost transport me to different times as the record plays. I strive for that. I want to give you everything. Dark stuff, serious stuff, silly stuff.  It should all be there. It should be a journey of sorts.

VTHH: When are you guys playing next?

Rico James: We are very excited to be playing at the Mavstar album release party on Sept 21st. This is happening at the Community Of Sound - 4 Howard St loading dock across from

Other than that, we are just getting to work on our 3rd project as PR DepARTment and we will see where it goes.  

Justin Boland
TONIGHT: 99 Neighbors at Higher Ground

Today is a big one for the 99 Neighbors crew. HANKNATIVE's debut album, Problem Child, dropped just past midnight, and tonight, they'll be headlining at Higher Ground. Few readers need to be told this, but just in case: that's a big fucking deal around here. A rite of passage, a local landmark, and at the very least, proof of a real and growing fanbase.

They earned it all honestly. "High-energy, carefully calculated live sets" is a strategy that will never stop working. No matter what miraculous paths technology takes the music business down in the future, you'll still need to deliver those goods and rap your ass off onstage. 99 Neighbors are coming off a string of triumphant performances lately, from their Open House party at ArtsRiot to their closing set at this year's A_Dog Day

It's also been less than a month since the release of Sam.'s solo project, Collision. The collective is carving a very distinctive lane in 2018, with sharp bars, catchy hooks, and an emphasis on real songwriting -- as opposed to just rapping over beats. For a prime example, check out "Problems," a track that builds HANKNATIVE's fluid raps into melodic movements. Auto-tuned earworms aside, it's damn near prog rock, in terms of the structure. 

This is a young crew with essentially no limits. Their willingness to explore and musical ambition is matched by their quality control. Every track in their catalog sounds professional, and Somba is simply a beast.

So. They'll be at Higher Ground's Showcase Lounge this evening for an all ages show. Go and see that. Show starts at 8:30, $10 at the door. 

Justin Boland
8/16: 3rd Thursdays at The Monkey House

Anthill Collective will never front, nor will they fake the funk. Here's their recap of this month's edition of the venerable hip hop showcase 3rd Thursdays:

"It's summertime in VT. Every artist we know, be it graff writer, eMCee, DJ, breaker or anyone supporting any genre... we are all grinding right now. In the past month alone Anthill has rocked at Levitt AMP Trenton Music SeriesUnder Pressure - International Graffiti Convention2nd Annual Jam for the Land with Stowe Cider and painted a school bus and a silo. Things get crazy leading up to our 2nd Edition of Above The Radar, September 14-16!

That said, we had some scheduling snafus, a couple cancellations... hey it happens. But, the show must go on as always and without a doubt you can expect that the VT scene will come out in full effect to throw down. So, come see the spontaneity of hip-hop in it's purest form. Expect freestyles galore, surprise sets and maybe even some new shit. FREE show, come show yer love!"

Truesay. I have no idea how it's halfway through August, myself. Looks like Mavstar is going to be there running some new material from his upcoming album on Equal Eyes Records. (Release party is September 21st.)

Justin Boland
Sam. - "Collision"

Brand new project from the 99 Neighbors crew -- Sam. just dropped his solo debut, the Collision EP. It's creative-as-fuck future soul music, as expected. Dude can sing, dude can spit, and he's really stretching his wings on this one. Collision is packed full of ideas, a maze of shifting genres, feels and tempos.

99 Neighbors will be headlining Higher Ground on Sept. 1st, alongside Boston's Golden Boy Music Group. All Ages. $5 adv / $10 door. 8:30 pm.

Justin Boland