THE FIVE SPOT: Elias Green of Savvy Row
Special thanks to guest contributor   Elias Green  .

Special thanks to guest contributor Elias Green.

First coming into the Vermont rap scene, I had no idea how many people were out here grinding. It opened my eyes. I'd say even in the last year the whole Hip Hop scene itself has grown. More and more people get connected. More and more artists pop up. Vermont is slowly starting to form its own style, that’s for sure. Can't wait to see what the end of the year produces and what's to come next year!

"Ride" by Chyse has to be the hardest track put out this summer. Definitely a good jam to bump in the car with a sub! Captures that "badass" feel. Everything from the video to the beat itself is crisp and clean. Chyse's flow and wordplay in this track is flawless. If you haven't checked this song you’re missing out.

HAD to go with my man Colby Stiltz for his song "Slide Away." I'll tell you what, this guy is beast. His vibe all the time is super down to earth! The song, I think, captures that in itself. I've got a similar vibe to what he's got going and so I'm super eager to hear what he comes up with next! Also excited to work with him in the future #StiltzGang

First off CONGRATS TO 99 NEIGHBORS for getting signed!! Anyway, "Fake Pods" is another summer favorite of mine. These guys really know how to put a track together. The versatility they have and how they make it work is on point. This track displays just how talented these guys are!

Juni from the HellaFader family dropped a dope song with plenty of eye opening bars! I love the way this dude talks about real world problems, yet still finds a way to add some swagger to the mix. He's really been working on his craft that's for sure!

I had this song written almost a year and a half ago but didn't know what to do with it. Almost trashed it. Glad it didn't. Now yes, while I do talk about about weed in it, that's not the whole vibe of the song. I had a friend tell me one day, every time he listens to this song he takes one less bong rip. Funny, but to me that meant my song was a medicine. Like a prescription for happiness. Even if you don't smoke the song just captures the feeling of being happy and around welcoming company! Enjoy!

Justin Boland
Letters to the Editor, Sort Of
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It’s another beautiful day on the back porch. In the course of getting VTHH re-situated, one of the things I’ve had to catch up on was my own inbox. Which I have mostly ignored over the course of a beautiful summer I spent outside as much as possible. I’m not just old and grumpy: there was more correspondence to dig into than ever. 

Truly, for better or worse, the ‘scene’ is growing, and fast. Much of this correspondence is from artists, naturally, because nobody cares more about your career than, well, you. Many of these emails are also from fans, managers, journalists, and weirdo academic types. It’s been fun. If you have questions to ask, shoot here.

What follows is six questions worth answering in public. These are distilled from much longer emails. Some because they’re important questions, some because they’re so frequently asked. 

Why are most of the interviews not in the “Interviews” section?

Stupid, right? This is my go-to example for proving to people that my dumb-ass little website is not worth getting upset over. It’s a mess because I did a very poor job running this, and still do so today.

Most of the “GET FAMILIAR” content will be going up in the Interviews stack from now on, though. Links should be useful. I have a ton of new interview content on the way, so this bad habit will sort itself out.

In related news, the Music stack also needs a serious update, since that’s all mid-2018 vintage right now. Also, the Shows stack has been inconsistent. Overall, while VTHH undoubtedly exists, that is perhaps the best that can be said for it so far.

Are you looking for other writers for VTHH?

Yes and no. Yes, that would be great. Since launching the dot com, I’ve talked to a cool dozen people -- freelancers, other artists, college students, bloggers -- about writing for the site. So far, I’ve encouraged everyone who applied, and so far nobody’s sent me anything. 

I’m not surprised. After all, I’m asking people to work for free, here, and I can’t even pretend the traffic we get amounts to “exposure.” In theory, I’d love to have sharp young writers come onboard and contribute. In practice, I’ll have to pay them. And I should.

So no, I don’t want to deal with editing other writers when you, me and God all know I can barely edit myself. No, I am wary of aspiring “writers” because you motherfuckers can be exhausting. And no, I think any & all of you could do far better with your lives than contributing to … all this.

Ideally, though, I’d like to see you contribute and put that effort into something you own. Or, say, into signing up for the Big Heavy World blog and giving them more hip hop content. Or into DJ’ing a two hour set every week on a local radio station. My coverage here will never do justice to what’s going on. We need more voices. Thank you in advance.

Can I talk to you about sponsorships / advertisements for the site / brand?

As long as you’ll buy me dinner and you’re fine with me saying “No,” then yes, we should absolutely sit down and have that talk. Soon, too. But don’t be disappointed. I detest advertisements, and few sponsors with real value to add have much interest in allowing me to keep swearing & sharing unfiltered opinions here. And there’s no reason they should.

For the record, though, certain local breweries could absolutely change my mind about this.

Do you know that people think you’re an asshole?

Absolutely, and I’ve earned at least half of that. One of the big reasons I’d rather see young writers start their own projects and platforms is to improve the coverage. People treat me as an “authority” only because my name shows up on Google; and the purpose of my project is to help your names show up on Google, too.

I am lazy, stubborn, and often wrong. Unfortunately, I’m the only person so far willing to do this, so: cheers to you and yours, no matter what you think. May we all still be here this time next year to have the same arguments.

Are you interested in a re-design for the site?

I am not. This is simple, clean, and legible. I will never need this project to be anything else. I’ve had some really talented people offer this, for free, but there are better causes you could donate that sweat equity to. This will always be simple and this will always work.

I sent you a message about my new album. You never covered it and never replied. What gives?

I neglected you. I apologize. That’s my fault, not yours. It’s also going to happen a lot when you send people emails about your music, so make it a point to get used to that. I cover less than half of what comes out any given week. Variations on this email happen a lot.

I also get artists who ask me to interview them. That’s bold. I appreciate the assertiveness but … seldom ever jump on that. While I’m always behind on coverage, what I choose to cover is of course a matter of taste -- yours and mine. What I prioritize might be fake, wack or trash to you, especially when I am outright ignoring your work.

Take solace in this: you will be vindicated by time. When Savvy Row told me they were building a movement and a fanbase, I laughed, and I was wrong. They proved that. When Rico James told me he and ILLu were starting a real deal record label, I didn’t believe them. They proved me wrong. When Omega Jade told me she was going to fuck up the local scene on every front, wearing every hat, well … you get the picture here.

Like I’ve said before: make yourself unavoidable and you will start getting media mentions. Even if we’re six months late to the party. Get used to that, too.

Besides, who gives a fuck what music journalists think? BL Spitz has long called me a ‘culture vulture’ but the truth is far worse — we’re more like vampires. Don’t enable us, don’t trust us, and don’t invite us inside.

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Justin Boland
VIDEO: Learic & SkySplitterInk - Tranquil ft. Meighan Kelley
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Lifetimes ago back in April, emcee Learic and producer SkySplitterInk teamed up for The Theorist, an ambitious EP for Equal Eyes Records that was structured like a short film.

Not just thematically: it’s a seven song story, carefully told over bumping beats. It debuted along with a video for the first track, “Opening Credits,” which was more of a teaser than an opening chapter.

This week, the duo dropped that opening chapter, “Tranquil,” which kicks off an ambitious project. With help from DVP Cinematography lens pro Miles Goad, they’re going to gradually turn that musical journey into an actual movie.

“The long-term goal is to edit each video together to form a cohesive short film of the entire story,” Learic explains. “It is quite an endeavor, especially with the complexity and scope increasing with each video,” he says, but the team is not sweating it. “If we execute each video one at a time, we’ll get to where we need to be.”

“The rest of the chapters are going to stretch into next year,” SkySplitterInk says, confirming that “filming starts very soon for the third and fourth episodes.”

As intricate as this project was, both artists emphasize how easily it all came together. “It just really helped to be right in the studio during the whole process so that anything could be on the table,” says Learic, calling the result “a true fusion of music and lyrics.”

“This was definitely a fully SkyLab based project,” SkySplitter confirms, “from beats to writing and recording, all the way to final masters.” By necessity, they had the story plotted out in advance — and arranged musically. “We listened to each beat and what the mood seemed to be calling for,” Learic recalls, “and we came up with an outline.”

“We wrote the whole arc together,” says SkySplitter, “including plot points and events, before he ever started crafting lyrics.”

“It was like a puzzle of how to communicate that part of the story in the number of bars provided,” Learic adds.

As for what’s next, they’ve got broad horizons in mind. “We’ve talked about a possible sequel,” says Learic, “or even like a True Detective style project, with a similar feel in tone but with different characters.”

“Let’s just say both,” SkySplitter laughs, promising a whole other project, “a different sorta collab,” being developed in secret. This is a team that’s just getting started. Stay tuned.

Justin Boland
The Long, Crazy Weekend Ahead
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September is a beautiful month. It’s also the last gasp we get before a crushing winter, so it makes sense that every weekend would be packed from here to October. While the big story in Burlington this weekend is Grace Potter’s big bash, Grand Point North, there’s also some big (nay, huge) things going on for hip hop heads.

First up is Above The Radar, a graffitti art festival on the Burlington waterfront that’s grown into a huge success. Founded and facilitated by the tight-knit Anthill Collective crew, it’s a weekend-long, all-elements hip hop party that attracts world-class graf talent. There will also be celebrations downtown -- a Jump Off Party at Foam Brewers on Friday night and a less official party at Three Needs on Saturday.

You can stop through at 1 King Street at pretty much any point this weekend and see amazing art in progress, so make it a point to swing through whenever opportunity provides. You will be glad you did.

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Not to be outdone, the Heartless Entertainment team is throwing a party at City Hall with a strong lineup on Friday. Hip Hop Takes City Hall will kick off at 8 pm and runs until midnight, with sets from Kingcash, MF Millz, Spade Raw, R.O.D, Y-Dub, Yung Ace, Quebeats, Bitzzzzz, K. Prince, and of course, the brothers BL Spitz and Kingbread. From there, the posse will convene back at Club Metronome to celebrate the release of the new BL Spitz album, Mr. Credible.

In honor of the upcoming BL Spitz run for office, the preferred dress code is a business formal take on hip hop style, so make the man proud.

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Finally, up in Harmony, Maine, the epic 656 Fest will be hosting a packed weekend of acts from New England and beyond. This marks their second year and hot damn — for a regional, rural party, the 656 team went huge: Slaine, Caskey, Twiztid, Ces Cru, Termanology and Ren Thomas will all be playing. This is a serious festival.  

There’s also a heavy lineup of local talent playing: Jibba “The Gent,” who is signed to 656, will be rocking a spotlight set at 8 pm on Friday. He’ll be joined over the weekend by Kasidon, D.FRENCH, Ciurleo, Cognac Cousins, Modest and SirchoBangz. Props to everyone making the pilgrimage — not that they’re exactly roughing it. Sure, it’s in the woods, but there will be a ton of entertainment, and food, and all manner of unholy powerful marijuana products. Props to the 656 team for doing it right.

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Wherever you do it, however you do it, thank you for your support. Our artists depend on the fans. The scene is expanding because the fanbase is expanding: thank you all.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: The Fall 2019 Collection
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Catching up on the local scene used to be … well, a lot quicker, bud. Burlington has never been quite so full, and there are lil’ micro-scenes popping off in almost all 14 counties. (Is there Essex County hip hop? Shoot me a message if so.)

This is all very good. The sound spectrum in these mountains is more diverse than ever, and better still, most of these crews are extending their DIY hustle to include finding venues to promote their own shows.

The rap music business is like pro wrestling is most aspects, and here’s an important one: you have to constantly recruit new fans. Not just for your own crew — for rap music, period. You have to create an abundance of opportunities for younger heads to have their first proper Rap Show Experience. Some of those fans will become artists in their own right, and the circle of life continues.

So for today’s roundup, let’s take another look at some new names and some fresh local produce.

First up, KP K12, aka K Prince, has been improving like crazy in the past year. “Hard Work and Dedication” is his most focused, effective songwriting yet, tearing through a personal & heartfelt verse. In an era of opiate rap, it’s also dope to see a rap single that explicitly advocates working hard and living a good life. Befitting such a strong track, KP gave this the DVP Cinematography treatment. Miles Goad is a serious talent behind the lens, and as always, this looks fantastic.

FMG Mack has been crafting quality trap projects for awhile now, and he’s got it dialed in cold for “Dangerous,” his new single/video with prolific director Vego Harris. And check out those numbers — this puppy is about to break 60k views. He’s got a new project on the way, too: after Locally Worldwide drops next month, FMG Mack might have a whole new career on his hands. Stay tuned.

Elias Green is part of the Savvy Row crew, who have managed to make a lot of noise in 2019. They’ve built a real deal fanbase through passionate live shows and strong projects with an off-kilter sense of fun. Rapper Blaze Ryan snagged the Intercontinental Championship at VTHH SUMMERSLAM 2019, and they’ve got some big gigs coming up this fall. “Green Vibes,” a verdant video by Nick Plouffe, is an introduction to Green’s melodic, endearingly goofy style. Also, he smokes weed.

Marvelous Kevo has been busy and hungry in 2019, and this Quebeats directed video for “Millennium Magic” is one of his strongest efforts so far. A high energy video for a catchy track, everything here works. Kevo is another artist with a sharp learning curve, making huge strides in sound quality and songwriting. He’s always had a natural flow — and some cutting rhyme schemes in the mix, too — and he stays cooking in the studio, so 2020 should almost definitely be a breakout year for the Marvelous one.

Finally, we turn to Fresh, who recently dropped a dope, gritty video for the debut single off his forthcoming album, Dougie. “Time is Money” features Philly legend Reef The Lost Cauze, who gives it all on his guest verse here. That’s respect. The song itself is a dark, banging piece of work, with a beat that balances modern trap with throwback boom bap. If the rest of this album is polished as this single, that project could make some real waves on the East Coast.

Justin Boland
The Return of ALL VERMONT EVERYTHING
Photo:  Konflik , courtesy of   Brett North Photography  . Happy Birthday, Brett!

Photo: Konflik, courtesy of Brett North Photography. Happy Birthday, Brett!

The cypher circle has always been one of the foundations of emcee culture, but in the past decade, it’s also become a powerful promotional tool. Thanks largely to the global success of the Grind Mode brand, what was once a private ritual is now a very public template for reaching a bigger audience. Unleash The Underground is a cypher series run by CT rapper/hustler Jason “JYNX” Wrigley, and he’s put in an astonishing amount of work for the New England scene. For his Vermont expeditions, he’s been partnering with Hustle & Loyalty Records for groundwork and promo — another team that’s all about elbow grease and making moves.

In fact, when this whole crew convened at Babes Bar in Bethel at the end of July, it was actually for the second time this year — round one was back in March. That’s a testament to the explosion of the 802 scene in recent years: there’s just a shit-ton of talent these days. The latest cypher tracks feature a fair few familiar faces, but they also introduce a lot of that new blood. Let’s dig in.

First up is Vol. 18, which features Jibba “The Gent” rocking the feature verse over a wavy THEN WHAt banger. SirchoBangz kicks things off with a venomously on-point manifesto celebrating his long, busy year, and passes the mic off seamlessly to Just Cauz, who delivers the goods in style. These two have chemistry, and it’s because they’ve done work before — check out “Like Me” and “Whatchu Need,” both Vego Harris videos.

Up next is Kasidon, a recent Street Religion recruit, whose verse is all fire and grit. He hit the ground running this year: after dropping The Genesis Tape, he’s already wrapping up another mixtape, From Underneath — and working on a sequel to Genesis. Dude is hungry and he’s got a killer flow, so expect to hear his name a lot for the rest of 2019.

Certified pizza monster and tireless hustler Ciurleo crashes the party with a comedic 16 — dude is after your snacks, your girl and your grandma, so watch out, bud. Fresh off tour, he’s putting the finishing touches on his next project, Hunting Season, which is entirely produced by THEN WHAt, and there will be singles aplenty before then. The man truly never stops moving.

J Solo represents Green Mountain Boys Productions, an upstart crew outta Rutland who have been working (and networking) hard in 2019. He, too, has ambitions on your bloodline: “I’m just old enough to fuck your sister and your momma,” he raps, continuing the unofficial theme of this cypher. Boasts aside, he’s got bars for days and a great, original style. Much like the Savvy Row team up in BTV, this crew is a threat we have yet to see the full extent of.

Rycoon is making a return appearance here, and he left the elf ears at home this time. He’s continuing to hone his flow and his bars, and he’s still bringing that high energy style. Then Worpaint, a ginger wookie with an imposing mane, comes in with an off-kilter flow that leans heavy on pauses, which is a great damn way to grab the viewer’s attention when you’re rapping at the end of a long lineup. He’s an experienced vet and a recent transplant to the Green Mountains, who is, clearly, finding a home here.

Jibba “The Gent” bats last, in his full rap dad glory. Currently cranking on a new Causin’ Effect album with longtime friend & collaborator Vazy, “The Gent” is poised to be completely unavoidable for the rest of the year, and he serves notice here.

Speaking of Vazy, he’s the producer behind Vol. 19, which stars BTV legend — and one of Vermont’s best rappers of all time — Konflik. This second cypher is another mix of scene legends and new names, starting with Highh Def, who grabbed my attention with a killer single/video recently (check out “Floetic” if you missed it). Yung spitter Biozone makes his second UTU appearance (he was going by ‘Syncro’ way back then). Dude is a flow pattern technician and his verse here is all multisyllable schemes. Also, that ‘Thupreme’ shirt is dope and hilarious.

When Question The MC takes the stage, you know you’re dealing with a pro. His gravity is effortless, as ever, and he’s been quietly busy prepping a new round of material, including a solo LP and a project with rapper/farmer and freestyle legend Humble. G Da Louisville Slugger is another experienced pro with natural charisma: he’s been putting in work longer than most and he always entertains.

After two verses of grown man rap, things take a turn for the weird with the arrival of Humble Among, who beats the shit out of himself on camera and gets off some creepy, funny punchlines along the way. His style may be an acquired taste, but he’s also one of the most original voices in the 802, and he’s got a ton of new art on tap, including his Halloween Tape 2,which promises to be a minor masterpiece of horrorcore insanity.

Seeing Humble off the mountain is always a shock, but yet: there he is. His verse is an urgent third eye broadcast — “awareness is the antidote and care is the cure” — and that jacket is dope, too. It’s a perfect setup for Konflik’s closing verse, and, no surprises here, the man absolutely kills it. No said date, but Konflik has been working in the studio with Nastee for awhile now, so there is definitely something big on the way.

All in all, this was a dope potluck dinner and a great mix of voices and styles. Props to the creators & props to the hustlers.

Justin Boland
TONIGHT: Cypher Series w/ Chyse x David Chief
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Tonight in downtown Burlington, the Cypher Series is making a return — with one of the best rappers in the state headlining. Oh, and one of the best producers, too. This is a hot ticket.

The Cypher Series was originally a weekly event, and it was essentially a community service being run by rap dad (and business, man) Colby Stiltz. He’s been hustling in these mountains for a long time now, long enough to go through multiple re-brands, huge life changes and mentor one of the most promising young crews around, STILTZgang.

Once the time commitment of hosting those weekly shows started to burn him out, though, he wisely took a step back to re-strategize. The result: monthly Cyphers with top notch headliners, and much stronger turnouts, too. For September, the spooky talented Chyse will be doing a showcase set and lo-fi master David Chief will be playing beats all night.

As ever, anyone is welcome to show up and rock. Bring your own beats, or hop onboard for a high energy cypher. All in all, an entertaining Thursday night is yours for a paltry three bucks. You can’t beat that.

Justin Boland
Brett North's Birthday Bash @ Swan Dojo
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Brett North has become a fixture of the BTV music scene, both as a super-fan and as a tireless event photographer who’s been hugely improving his lens game along the way. Although he’s also a certified metal head, the 802 hip hop scene owes Brett a lot — I can’t even keep track of how many artists are using his photos these days.

With his birthday coming up, it’s only right to throw this young man a proper party. Swan Dojo will be hosting the celebration this Friday, September 6th. Since it’s a BYOB party (beer and wine only, mind) this is, of course, a 21+ event. But for the undisputed King of Long Island Ice Teas, how could it be any other way?

$5 at the door gets you in for a great lineup: Killa Twaun is headlining, alongside Saliyah, Omega Jade, Bitzzzzz, Four Horsemen, the GMB Productions crew, Mavstar, D.FRENCH, Daniel Laurent, and Bradford area workhorse Ciurleo. DJ Ron Stoppable will be holding down the decks all night.

It all gets started at 9pm sharp. Come and party with a local legend.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: Way Too Many Updates, Again
Photo by Shane Kaseta

Photo by Shane Kaseta

What can I say? It’s too beautiful outside. It’s also been an insanely busy two weeks for Vermont Hip Hop itself since the last post here, so my guilt has finally overcome my lust for life. What follows is a quick rundown of the 10,000 details that have been popping off since August got started.

The Big Story, of course, has been 99 Neighbors. This talented, motivated young crew got signed to Nice Work, a new imprint on Warner Records run by Chance the Rapper’s manager, Pat Corcoran. That’s a lot of names to drop, and they deserve every bit of it, including the Billboard article. They also played Lollapalooza last weekend — twice. They also dropped a brand new single/video to celebrate all this momentous achievement, “Fake Pods.” It’s really damn good, and funny, too.

Expect more music — and news — from 99 Neighbors soon. Meanwhile, you can catch them at Made in America, August 31st in Philly, and the Otis Mountain Get Down, September 6th in Elizabethtown, NY. Real place, I swear, and a great festival in a great location, too.

The team at Equal Eyes Records has stayed busy as hell. They’re a few days out from releasing one of their most anticipated projects so far, Thought Instruments, a collaboration LP between producer’s producer Es-K and emcee’s emcee Learic. I got to hear an advance copy and it exceeded my high expectations; this is one of the best 802 albums of 2019 so far. Drops August 9th, you can pre-order that puppy now.

There will be a proper album release party for Thought Instruments on Wednesday, August 21st at Orlando’s Bar and Lounge — located downtown at the former Magnolia Bistro, the restaurant that got 86’d for online mistakes last year. Konflik and Jarv will also be in the building so expect a wild-ass show. 9 pm show. $5 cover, $10 cover + album on CD. That’s a bargain, bud.

Equal Eyes also dropped a surprise single from rapper / producer / crooner / dapper golfer & tastemaker Teece Luvv. Check out “Breakdown,” a collaboration with Teeba of Harsh Armadillo. I have it on good authority there might be a new Teece project on the way, too.

Out in the hinterlands of the New England touring circuit, the latest VMB Productions crusade is going strong, night after night. The It’s All Fun And Games Tour features Mister Burns, Jarv, Dillon and Eyenine and while they’re in Brooklyn tonight, they’ll be making some more appearances here in the Green Mountains soon. First up, they’ll be rocking The Showshoe up in Montgomery, VT (great, great venue) on Saturday, August 10th, then hitting up legendary Montpelier dive bar Charlie O’s World Famous on Friday, August 16th.

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ArtsRiot landed a hell of a show: West Coast underground legends Hieroglyphics are on a reunion tour and they’ll be stopping through Burlington on Wednesday, August 28th. Tickets, understandably, are $25, but the show is All Ages. (There will also be local support from Mister Burns and Es-K.) Expect a memorable set and expect that to sell out soon.

In related underground legends news, New Jersey emcee and Outsidaz founding member Pacewon will be packing ‘em in at The Cellar. He’s got an unusually strong lineup of local openers, too: Mavstar, D.FRENCH, the Savvy Row crew and even St. Albans mic crushers Joint Manipulation. Pacewon is coming through as the headliner for the Fullblast Summer Tour 6, which has been ripping around the country with some 802 talent, like Fourth Degree and Fresh & Bangs paying dues on the road. Props to ‘em.

The party starts in about 48 hours, too: doors open this Thursday night at 9 pm. 18+, $10 adv, $15 door.

Up next: a short, on-point new video from Yung Breeze. Director Vego Harris never stops moving and neither does Breeze, so naturally this combination works every time. Breeze just dropped the (dope) Cognac Cousins mixtape with NH phenom Raw Deff, and he’s putting the final polish on his solo LP, Sophia Grace.

The Cognac Cousins duo have a big gig coming up next month: 656 Fest, a hip hop festival going down up in Maine from Sept. 14-16th. Headliners include Havoc of Mobb Deep & Big Noyd, Slaine, Termanology, and Millyz — which is a lot more than you’d expect from “a festival in Maine,” right? To top it all off, Juggalo favorites Twiztid will be doing a special drums-free stop on their summer. (For those somehow unfamiliar, they are the Phish heir apparent to the Grateful Dead sized subculture that the Insane Clown Posse has given mankind. In other words, a big deal.)

There will also be a lot of 802 talent representing that weekend: Jibba “The Gent,” D.FRENCH, Ciurleo, Modest and SIRCHOBANGZ. Props to the crew; there will probably be a whole Vermont compound at the campsite.

BTV beatsmith Flip Physics has been running an ongoing “Sample Challenge” style producer battle at the Vermont Hip Hop Artists Collective group. He keeps it going because he understands the value of competition, having honed his own chops in larger sample competitions.

Flip Physics took first place this week in the latest Vinyl Frontier Beat Battle, beating out fifty other entries with this carefully chopped, constantly moving wall of boom bap funk. Props to a master at work, and expect to hear a lot of singles with his name in the credits, both in VT and far beyond, as 2019 marches on.

Finally, an unexpected development: some dope, catchy country rap, outta nowhere. Highh Def (no typo) has a versatile flow, a surprisingly solid sanging voice, and love for his stepmom. This is an artist with a great deal of potential. The video itself is another Vego Harris guerrilla art production that really sells the material. He’s always looking to work and worth getting in touch with.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: Way, Way Too Many Updates
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Coverage here has been a lot slower than I’d like, but my free time has been non-existent. So, what follows is a rapid-fire rundown on, more or less, all of the stories that should have been getting a spotlight here. My apologies to the artists and promoters.

First up: there is an absolutely massive show going down at Babes Bar in Bethel this Saturday, July 27th. It’s the second edition of the ALL VERMONT EVERYTHING cypher shoot, this time featuring three separate cyphers, featuring Mister Burns, Jibba “The Gent” and Konflik, respectively. (Featured producers this time around: Rico James, THEN WHAt, and Vazy.) This is going to be a huge celebration of the 802 scene, in addition to marking the release of the first Unite The Underground Mixtape and the birthday bash for Hustle & Loyalty Records kingpin David Phair. All this for only $5. Doors at 7 pm.

This weekend also brings us a new edition of Omega Jade’s series Rhyme and Unreason at Swan Dojo, a BYOB venue located at the top of Church Street. The lineup is exceptional this time around: Meredith Gordon, Tarzan Jenkins, Ryan Kenyon and Owen Foley are in charge of the comedy, and SK1, Mavstar, Learic and Humble will be holding down the freestyles. This will be a great evening. $7 show. 9pm start.

In the past month, music video machine Vego Harris — aka THEN WHAt, aka Selfish Presley — has been on an absolute streak. In fact, he’s dropped so many new videos that I’ll have to do a whole separate ROUNDUP post to address them all. (And, to his credit, all of them are worth covering.) For now, though, check out an actual Selfish Presley video, “I Want It All.” This is a damn slick piece of work.

There have also been a slew of new releases. Southern VT party rap phenom SirchoBangz dropped a mixtape, Balenciaga Bangz, chock full of club anthems and trap-flavored bangers. The Street Religion team is prepping for a busy summer/fall season with Cognac Cousins, a mixtape featuring Raw Deff and Yung Breeze. I reviewed it this week for Seven Days, because it’s so well produced that shit is basically an album. Just to emphasize: Deff and Breeze are both ridiculous talents.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. Highest Lows, the debut LP from St. Albans rapper D.FRENCH, dropped last Friday and it has been on heavy rotation here ever since. This is a contender for Album of the Year. Check out the single “On Gawd,” which features none other than the Cognac Cousins themselves….

There are equally impressive releases just over the horizon, too: none other than Learic and Es-K are teaming up for Thought Instruments, a full-length album that drops on Equal Eyes Records August 9th. You and should pre-order now. Raw Deff has a new solo LP on the way, too: The Impeccable Nobody arrives on August 23rd.

August will also bring a ton of new shows — July was curiously slow going — and a whole-ass tour from good ol’ VMB Production. Mister Burns, Jarv, Dillon and hyperactive legend Eyenine will be at Higher Ground on August 3rd, kicking off their “All Fun and Games Tour.” More on that soon.

Finally, A_Dog Day is coming. 2019 marks the 6th annual celebration, which is remarkable, because it seems like this has been going for a decade now. The lineup is packed and there are more announcements yet to come. Meanwhile, check out this awesome re-cap video from 2018, courtesy of the team at Church Street DJs, who are a huge asset to the scene.

Justin Boland
OUTSIDE INFLUENCE: DJ Myth
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DJ Myth has a resume that kinda defies belief. He is a full-spectrum DJ, equally capable of rocking a dance party for hours or delivering polished scratch hooks for your next LP. He’s a seasoned performer who has been involved with every aspect of the business, from booking shows to organizing battles to co-founding Dover’s legendary & ambitious Flyrock Records.

So while there’s no shortage of material to talk about, our conversation here is focused on the work he’s done building and maintaining a scene. It’s demanding, often thankless work, and DJ Myth has decades of experience doing it right. Along the way, we’re looking back at New Hampshire hip hop history and laying out some great advice for young artists. Dig it.

VTHH: First off, huge props on the longevity of Rap Night and Ruckus Cup. One of the most common questions I get through this site are people who are trying to "build a scene" and start anchor events like those -- what do you think that people who haven't done yet that under-estimate the most? 

DJ Myth: What I think they under-estimate the most may be the work you need to put into it to be consistent.  Especially in northern New England. I mean, let's be honest here, New Hampshire and the other northern New England states aren't the mecca of hip-hop music, unfortunately, so if you want that quality for your night to be every week, especially if you book showcases, you gotta dig a bit deeper to find those acts that have the same mind frame as what you want your night to represent.   

I don't want that to be taken the wrong way, there is talent around here for sure, but to keep things fresh, you gotta do a little more digging and research because it's not as readily available as, let's say, a Boston or New York. That's when touring acts come into play, and are very helpful.  You get those showcases from people outside the area, that may come around only once or twice a year. Especially with a weekly like we have with Rap-Night, you don't want things to get too stale and these guys definitely help and give you more of an option for showcases. Just have to make it worth the trip for the touring/out of state performers.  If you book the same acts multiple times a year, people get bored and will get the "well I've seen them 'x' amount of times within the past year already." mindset. Gotta avoid that and keep your core group of regulars.

VTHH: When you were first starting Rap Night, was it difficult to find hospitable venues?  

DJ Myth: Not at all, because actually, the venue approached IBI, eyenine and Shupe about doing it after the success of Rap Night up in Portland.  So we kind of lucked out with that. No searching at all. Josh at the Shaskeen has done a great job with getting quality hip-hop in that place. You maybe wouldn't know it by looking at it when you walked in, but the Shaskeen has the best live hip-hop in the area.  Weekly, with Rap-Night, and then, pretty much, monthly with a big headlining act on a Friday or Saturday. They've had KRS, Rakim, Beatnuts, Das EFX, Slick Rick, just to name a few. It's great having that right in downtown Manchester.

VTHH: What is your personal origin story? What inspired you to take such a lead role and put in so much time for your local scene?  

DJ Myth: Well, without going too far back, I started DJing pretty much right after I graduated high-school in '94.  I was huge into Public Enemy, so Terminator X was a huge influence (even though I found out years later it wasn't even him doing most of the cuts, it was Johnny Juice), along with Kool DJ Red Alert and this guy out of Boston named Damien Paul who used to do Friday and Saturday nights on 94.5.  Super clean mixes. I would record his sets and study them.  

At first I had had no idea what I was doing.  My equipment was trash, and being a hip-hop DJ wasn't the cool thing to do in NH in the early 90's, so I had no one to ask what I actually needed.  Wasn't until I got a job, saved up, started getting better equipment, and stumbled upon the Invisibl Skratch Piklz Turntable TV VHS tapes at like Newbury Comics that I was like "oh shit, alright, that's what I need to be doing."  I mean, I was clueless. Wasn't even using the fader at the time. Whoops.  

So I watched those tapes constantly and just practiced and practiced.  Didn't leave the house much. Would stay up till 1-2am just mixing records and doing cuts.  I went through so many DJ names, some more embarrassing than others. Handed out mixtapes to the few people I hung out with. A couple I still have now, and cringe when I listen to them, but that was like 20 years ago.  One of these tapes got into the hands of my now good friend Seth thanks to my buddy Ian, who he was friends with at the time. No one really knew who I was, unless you had come over to my house because of my social anxiety issues.  I would never leave (accept to play hockey and go to work), I just locked myself in my room and DJed. So Seth is like "Who is this kid? Who is this myth?". So that's how I got the name, in a nutshell.  

I didn't start doing shows till a couple years later, maybe 2007-ish, when I could keep my nerves in check.  After a couple years of just getting on any show I could, I kind of got sick of seeing the same acts all the time, and so many MCs just being blah and, to be blunt, not good.  Things were just not going right with the heavy local act billed shows. I am a perfectionist and thought they should be going a certain way. Maybe I was asking too much, but whatever, it was frustrating.   

I asked the guy that was doing the promoting at the time, where I was mainly playing at if I could maybe help with booking and promoting.  So my first larger show, I got Esoteric up here, who came with 7L and Trademarc (East Coast Avengers), Nabo Rawk, M-Dot, and a few solid local openers.  It was right after that "Kill Bill O'Reilly" song came out and there was all that buzz going around about it. That was a solid show, not sold out, but fun and met a lot of new people and connections.  

After that, I started helping organize more rap shows around here, mainly local acts, at that venue (was called Rocko's) and a year or two later, did the Flyrock Records thing and expanded into Dover.  There was a bit of a lull in hip-hop shows around NH after Flyrock ended, maybe one or two once a in a while, but they were spread out during the year more. I did not book much after that. 

Soon after though, Josh at the Shaskeen comes around and starts booking all those great shows, and I got my foot in the door there. Him and I seem to have the same taste in rap music, which helps. Now that's where I am, along with Dover again sometimes and even Portland.  Still try to help as much as I can, without being too over-bearing. Mainly DJing the shows, helping with openers and promoting. Rap-Night though is my baby now, with help from eyenine, now that IBI and Shupe have taken a step back. I do pretty much everything for that, and have been really for the last couple years in Manchester.  Booking, promoting on Facebook and Instagram, organizing the night, DJing it. I'm a god damn super-hero (excuse my Kanye moment).

VTHH: This one is a rap nerd history question from a friend: who do you think were the first breakout artists from Manchester? Our mutual best guess was LB the Lyrical Bastard, one of the early NH artists on my radar back when it was Soundclick, not Soundcloud.  

DJ Myth: I honestly did not know much about the Manchester rap scene, because I was such a shut-in for so long, until I actually started doing shows.  Had no idea who was doing what, or where to go (if there actually was somewhere to go). Only knew about the crew that came over and did tracks with me.  So I am sure I'm not going to mention someone that may deserve it. I guess, ya, you're probably right, and LB would be the one of the first breakout artists for Manchester, but I did not meet him till maybe 2014 when we started Rap-Night, even though he was doing stuff way before then with Trapjaw.  There were a few others around the city that recorded, but the most notable would be LB in my opinion.

VTHH: Do you feel like you've gotten better at balancing your business projects and artistic projects? Or is there just almost no boundary for you at this point? 

DJ Myth: At the moment, the business side has like 86.49% (that being an estimated guess) of my time.  Constantly booking and promoting Rap-Night and my other weekly DJ night I hold down. Plus add the bigger shows I am a part of, and it takes up a lot of time.  Working from home full-time for my day job really helps, because I can just promote when I have down time or book for Rap-Night during the day, which frees up my nights to go through new music and work on projects.  I am hoping to finally find a better balance of business/artistic projects soon though. So many things I want to work on and put out. Tons of ideas. I have this Halloween themed mix-tape I have been gathering music for, for literally 4-5 years.  Last summer I finally had some time to start recording, thinking I had enough material gathered. Recorded for 3 months and had 12 minutes of mix I was happy with. I am very picky and a perfectionist. Sooooo, ya, it's going to take a bit for me to have the hour or so of mix-tape recorded that I want in the end with everything else going on.  It will come out at some point (probably like 2029 at this rate), and it will be fuckin' epic!

VTHH:  After the Flyrock Records experience, would you be interested in doing the curation & production work of running a label again?  

DJ Myth: Man, I don't know about all of that.  I wouldn't mind releasing a project on my own here and there, but there just isn't enough time, at least by myself, to be able to give sufficient attention to something like that.  Everything would have to be perfect. It was a great being a part of Flyrock though, and I appreciate all the opportunities that gave me, but I couldn't do it again, at least on my own, at the moment.

VTHH: As a veteran host, what advice do you have for rookie performers?  

DJ Myth: Where do I start? Haha. First, if you are doing a showcase, please, for the love of God, be organized and prepared.  I'm sure I speak for 99% of the hip-hop DJs out there, when I say we absolutely hate when you don't know what beats are on your flash drive and you need to go through them while we are actually spinning our own set.  Either show up early before doors open to go over your set with the DJ, or know what's on there and number your set. It's not that taxing, and it actually makes you look better as a performer, having things go smoothly, song after song, as opposed to you having to come over to us, after every damn song, to see what you put on your flash drive leaving that dead air.  Rookie mistakes mainly, but I have seen, unfortunately, some veteran MCs pull that every...damn...time.

Last on the performance aspect, don't think you're already LL Cool J after 2 shows and wander into the venue right before your set. I find it disrespectful, unless you got a valid excuse. Show up early and support the other acts and DJ, or stick around after your set, if you go on early, and support the others.  It goes a long way and people notice that. As far as the open-mics, biggest thing is to show up regularly and fine tune your skills. Some of the best freestylers we got right now have been there since day one, almost every single week.

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Justin Boland
Talking "Kumbaya" with Jibba "The Gent"

Today, Jibba “The Gent” dropped a dope new video for his “Kumbaya” single from awhile back. Between the Flip Physics beat and the Brad Vazy directed visuals, this is a dynamite combination and a low-budget triumph. I hit Jibba up for a quick conversation about the video and what he’s been up to.

VTHH: Awhile back, you took the unusual step of asking your fans to decide what your next project would be. Turns out they wanted a new Causin' Effect LP. How is that puppy coming along?

Jibba: I needed some encouragement to take the right step, it seemed like I wasn't fully diving into either project so it was time to make a choice. I'm so happy people picked the Causin' Effect album because it's been nothing but fun. We should be rolling out singles starting in a month.

Vazy and I would have liked to release our newest "Summer Jam" on the fourth of July, but we decided we needed to hit up SkySplitter to take our sound to the next level. I just got back the first draft and boy oh boy, did he make us sound good! This one will be dropped with a video in Mid August. One song a month is the desired schedule until the full album is released.

VTHH: How did this awesome “Kumbaya” video come together?

Jibba: It's funny because the song recently turned a year old, and never really gained much traction as just an audio single. Vazy and I were chillin' and decided to just start filming what we were doing. We used our resources and went with the flow for two days and Vazy whipped up something proper with it. I couldn't be more happy with how it came out.

I had already shot this video once around a huge bonfire with the homies from Hustle and Loyalty Records but unfortunately all that footage was ruined. Maybe we got a little too lit that night. A Bluetooth speaker ended up getting roasted that evening as well. Sorry Joey!

VTHH: What else do you have cooking this summer?

Jibba: All I'm doing is recording and preparing for 656 Fest! Make sure you get there!

Justin Boland
SoBe - Temperate Climates
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Despite looking forward to this project, I still managed to sleep. SoBe’s debut joint Temperate Climates dropped back on June 22nd, the day after Solstice. I bought it — I’m really about that life — and despite only being five tracks long, I gotta say, this is in the top 5% of local projects I’ve ever copped. This album is fucking ferocious.

Based on sonics alone, I’m assuming that SoBe is playing guitar on this, and cutting some tasty takes, too. I’m guessing his drum programming comes from a lifetime of soaking in tricky acid-head jazz, somewhere after Spin magazine launched “Electronica,” and before IDM became EDM and sold out to hedge funds. Also, a whooooole lot of J. Dilla.

Kids talk a lot about “vibes” these days, too much, but it’s the essence of what SoBe is doing here. His pockets are deep, and his melodic creativity allows him to really explore the spaces he’s carved out. More importantly, his restraint as a producer keeps it from turning into some kind of noodle-gasm jam session. Temperate Climates is extremely polished, and I get the sense this young man has a future as an executive producer / A&R type.

Speaking of which, the sequencing here is also excellent. Each of these tracks represent very different feels & spaces, but every transition here works. Part of that may be thanks to Loupo, credited as guest producer on two of these cuts. He’s always had a spooky gift for taking even the simplest loops to the next level with carefully sculpted arrangements — as much of a songwriter as a beatmaker. That’s in full effect on “Koosh” and “Coast to Coast.”

Opening jam “North Beach” is another co-production collaboration, this time featuring the tag team of David Chief and Notation. They are both busy sonic architects in their own right. The track is over-flowing with ideas, but it’s never cluttered or rushed. My personal favorite cut, though, would have to be the closer “Reminiscing,” perhaps the most guitar-centric composition on the album. As any old pro will tell you, ballads are harder than rock songs, and SoBe kills this melancholy outro movement.

So: Temperate Climates is both very dope, and worth your money. SoBe’s style is like George Benson and Aphex Twin getting together to make instrumental hip hop. It’s consistently interesting and rewards repeated listening. Go check it out.

One more thing.

Since a lot — too much — of the content on VTHH is geared towards artists and promoters and young heads getting into the business: a word about that name. Building a catalog as “SoBe” is going to be a tough gig, considering it is also a soft drink brand owned by Pepsi. You can buy that shit in a gas station, today, right now.

Calling yourself Sprite or Starbucks would yield about the same results, but I do respect the audacity of taking on Goliath & Leviathan. Assholes with MBAs and expensive ties rule our burning world, and I salute anyone aiming to inflict headaches upon those scum, however small. Just be sure you aren’t inflicting headaches on yourself, too.

Justin Boland
THE FIVE SPOT: Dokowala
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THE FIVE SPOT is a feature where I invite local artists to recommend some of their favorite artists, from Vermont and beyond. The catch is that the fifth track has to be one of their own. For the latest installment, I hit up St. Albans representative & jazzy boom-bap master Dokowala. His words are carefully chosen and his selections are 100% local produce. Enjoy.

DJ A-DOG - Eddie Henderson

“I could listen to this on loop for infinity. Give the whole album a listen. You will learn something, guaranteed. Genius with the blends & loops. - R.I.P. A-DOG”

Es-K - Mentally Slated (Feat. Danny Whitney)

“This track highlights both Es-K & Danny Whitney’s strengths. Fitting for spaceflight. Always gives me goosebumps. Their collaborations are always so killer.”

Cognac Cousins - Fxck The Landlord

“I fuck with this 100% - knocks harder than a landlord on the 5th. Breeze crafted a hell of a beat here too. A man who raps & produces - that’s dangerous. Let me put a beat on that album fellas!”

OldGold - IGotYou Feat. Crusty Cuts

“Usually, I blast this as I speed out of the work parking lot to freedom. The use of multiple records here is unreal. One of my favorite versions of “Emily” is even snuck in there. Seriously fellas - this shit is ridiculous.”

Dokowala - Hawks In Flight

“Not a huge fan of talking about my own work but I remember making this beat. I love sampling the most obscure tracks I can dig up. For sure one of my own favorites.”

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: The Long Weekend
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VTHH has been busy lately, but the 802 rap scene has been even busier. Today’s installment of the ROUNDUP series is a mix of some brand new tracks and a few gems I missed on vacation. Let’s get straight to it.

First up, BL SPITZ has been hard at work on his debut album, Mr. Credible, which should be dropping soon. “Dis Wut I Do,” which will be featured on that LP, is a rock solid slice of 90’s NYC-style cocaine rap. “This Will Be A Masterpiece!!” he assures us, “One That Will Get NATIONAL Respect [bicep emoji].” Stay tuned.

I slept on this tightly crafted, spaced-out single from Selfish Presley and Jibba “The Gent” when it dropped. That was a mistake. “Gilligan” is a sweet slice of stoner escapism, with two sharply cut verses to match. Selfish has been his usual non-stop, one-man production pipeline, spinning out beats (as THEN WHAt) and constant videos (as Vego Harris) and cooking up several new projects. Jibba is currently putting the finishing touches on a new Causin’ Effect album, which should be wild.

The biggest mistake I’ve made lately, though, would have to be missing out on a brand new Raw Deff track featuring New Jersey legend Pacewon of the Outsidaz crew. “Gone Crazy” is just as good as you’d expect — both of these men are certified spitters and this beat is relentless. Raw Deff has a new album on the way, “The Impeccable Nobody,” which will drop on August 23rd. Expect to hear a lot more about that soon.

Up next, the latest LP from Equal Eyes Records is a blast of pure boom bap. Loop Junkies, the new project from Ill Effect, is heavy on up-tempo, fast-moving rappin’-ass rap music. Assuming you’re into such fare, well, this is something you should check out ASAP. It bangs.

March Davis has been paying dues forever, and it shows. His product is increasingly polished and professional, and his fanbase has been expanding the whole time. “Hunnidmo” is a flip of Teddy Rose’s hit trap anthem, but this ain’t a remix — it’s his own wave, woozy and heavier on vibes than bars. It also sounds as good as anything on the Billboard charts right now.

Ciurleo and Fre$h have both been hustling heavy in 2019. Obviously, it’s a no-brainer to release a song named after a hugely popular TV show right after a new season of that show drops. Despite an obligatory Demigorgon reference, though, “Stranger Things” is mostly a song about getting very high. There will always be a demand for that, too … especially in Vermont.

Finally, this ain’t exactly a track but it is exceptionally dope: this hour-long mix of Dokowala beats is a perfect soundtrack for getting work done, getting nothing done, or, of course, writing hella raps. It’s also proof that this young man’s archives are pure flames, just like all his recent releases. Dokowala is one of the best in VT right now. Give this a spin today.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: Raw Deff - Break Through

Some nice new visuals — and a brand new single — from Raw Deff. “Break Through” is a dead serious, thoughtful song over some downright nasty Flip Physics chops, and the video is courtesy of non-stop producer & director Vego Harris.

Justin Boland
THE FIVE SPOT: Mavstar
Photo courtesy of  Rico James

Photo courtesy of Rico James

THE FIVE SPOT is a feature where I invite local artists to recommend some of their favorite artists. The catch is that the fifth track has to be one of yours. For the latest edition, we’ve got Mavstar selecting some deep cuts. Enjoy.

XP - In All Honest

"In All Honest" opens with a melancholy and sorrowful vocal sample, perhaps evoking memories of old times. This leads the listener to the intro of what turns out to be a very smooth and laid back instrumental. In the first verse, XP divulges memories of a veteran in the game who's been through it all, perhaps elaborating on that same vibe hinted at in the opening. Meticulous rhyme schemes and effortless flow are pervasive throughout. This is followed by a crisp and matter-of-factly delivered hook that constitutes a very iconic element of the track. Verse two continues on the same theme, and you can hear XP emphasizing his disdain for rappers who are maybe less worthy of holding a mic. Awesome track.

Raw Deff feat Yung Breeze - Come On

Boom - right from the jump this track opens with electricity surging and a tasteful explosion, and we go right into the high-energy, two part hook. "Big Def's up in this bitch- kickin' the door down-" it's no mystery that Raw Deff has entered the building, and he's clinically insane on this track. Classic Deff bodies his verse, and Yung Breeze comes in equally unhinged, and clearly right at home on this style of beat. Did I mention that the beat is diabolical? Definitely a track that makes me want to start robbing people — or at least commit a couple misdemeanors. When in Rome, right?

Humble- 8mm

On this joint, after a brief intro that sounds to me like a mariachi band, we get the instrumental that utilizes the playful and energetic melodic percussion. What I like about Humble is that he never tells you what he wants you to think- he's more apt to paint a lyrical picture and leave the listener to connect the dots. There are different elements of narrative going on, coalescing together to create meaning. This track is an homage to the 8mm motion picture format.

Basic Brains- Redesign (Angelic)

I'm just a big fan of that melodic percussion sound. The instrumental goes heavy outdoors-wilderness vibe on this one. Basic Brains raps about self knowledge based on experience interacting with the outside world, reminiscing back to simpler times when we were kids. The theme here is redesigning who we are to reconcile the loss of freedom that goes along with growing up. At least, that's my interpretation - the campfire crackling in the outro invites the listener to reflect.

Mavstar- What's Been Goin' On

This is my favorite track off the Gangsta Trail Mix record that I put out last year with ILLu. Sometimes a simple guitar riff is all you need for the basis of an instrumental, and DJ Kanga's masterful scratching during the intro adds a nice touch. The verses are nice, multi-syllabic rhymes permeate throughout, and I have a kind of unpredictable flow. My favorite part of this track is the hook section. It came out so crisp and polished; SkySplitter did a great job shepherding me through the recording process of that part — I have to admit I'm not that great of a singer in real life.

Justin Boland
OUTSIDE INFLUENCE: Graphic Melee
Photo by  Kuf Knotz

Photo by Kuf Knotz

The OUTSIDE INFLUENCE series is dedicated to spotlighting artists and organizers around the larger New England scene. For the latest episode, we’re headed to Portland, Maine, where emcee / producer / DJ Graphic Melee has been holding down Monday of the Minds: A Community Hip Hop Showcase as the house DJ. It’s a bi-monthly event that’s become known for strong lineups & a good time. In the process, it’s also become a hub for a growing NE underground circuit that helps touring talent string extra dates together.

All of that is very cool, but it’s important to emphasize that Graphic Melee is dope at what he does. And he does a great deal. Since he’s gearing up for a busy summer — and about to drop a new album, Deeper — it was the perfect time to pick his brain about the eternal hustle.

VTHH: In 2019, you're a triple threat and then some, as an emcee, producer, DJ, and engineer. Do you wear so many hats out of necessity, or were you drawn to all of these disciplines just as much?

Graphic Melee: Definitely a mix of both. I've always wanted to pursue each of these disciplines, and was getting my start or already pretty involved in everything by the time I was a teenager. I've been singing / rapping as long as I can remember. I've been playing different instruments and writing music since I could reach a piano. And started recording music, making beats, and getting into DJing when I was 15. I was really heavily influenced by artists that could play all the instruments in their recordings, artists that were emcees and producers or producers and DJs, and artists that recorded their own music.

I came from a very DIY music scene, and by the time I started focusing on making solo hip-hop as Graphic Melee I was in a place where I felt that I had to be self reliant with my ability to make music. So at that point being able to combine the abilities I had cultivated became a necessity.

VTHH: Where were you living when you first connected with hip hop? Did you know you were doomed to pursue this the minute you heard it?

Graphic Melee: I was 4 years old. My mom and I were staying with my aunt and my cousin in Pennsylvania for a bit. My cousin Jamie was always like a big brother to me. He was the definition of everything cool, a huge Hip-Hop fan, and a big influence in my life even years after his death. I remember our mom's would leave and he'd put a tape recorder against the tv to record the audio from music videos with us rapping along in the background. Rapping with these tapes and videos in that living room was probably my first experience performing and learning raps. I'd heard and loved Hip-Hop my whole life before that moment, but that was the first time I felt like I was taking part in it.

As far as knowing that's what I would pursue, It wasn't until around 2010, with a few albums worth of material I never released and after some motivation from long time collaborators Ant The Symbol and The Honorable Sleaze, that I realized I needed to focus on making Hip-Hop.

VTHH: Was it difficult at first making the transition from Virginia to Maine?

Graphic Melee: Not really. I was living in Boston for the second time for about 3 years before I moved up to Maine. So it wasn't too big of a change. I was already coming up to Maine one or two times a year before I moved here.

VTHH: Was Monday of the Minds always bi-weekly, or did that schedule evolve relative to turnout and headaches?

Graphic Melee: It's always been every 2nd and 4th Monday. I've worked on other events with Stay On Mars (co-creator of Monday of the Minds) and we've seen that that timing just works well with an event like MOTM.

VTHH: What is the most important ingredient for keeping a hip hop performance series running long-term?

Graphic Melee: Creating a format that keeps things fresh and keeps the audience engaged is always important. With MOTM, I have new beats I've produced ready for the freestyle cyphers most nights. I run a Hip-Hop history blog, and spin music related to the Hip-Hop history of the date in my MOTM DJ sets. And the open mic section before the main acts is like a testing ground for a lot of local artists with new material.

VTHH: You've got a strong discography, and it seems like your recent projects have all been very coherent, thematic albums. What can people expect from your next LP, Deeper?

Graphic Melee: Raw Hip-Hop. I created everything on Deeper to be performed live. It's a more personal album with a heavy, stripped down production style giving me more freedom vocally. I look at Deeper like an abstract road map for surviving life's struggles told through different stories and perspectives.

Justin Boland