VIDEO: Cognac Cousins - "Fxck The Landlord"

Brand new visuals from the endlessly prolific Vego Harris — this time the debut of a new group that’s been working in secret, Cognac Cousins. That’s the duo of Yung Breeze and Raw Deff, both standout spitters and longtime friends. No word yet on what we can expect, or when, but there’s clearly a project incoming and that’s good news for everyone.

Justin Boland
Yes, Really: Slick Rick @ Sugarbush on Saturday

With a poster like that, well, you can see why people were unsure if this shit was for real. It doesn’t help that the Facebook page for this is just titled “Hip Hop Event” — and the instructions to “Call Dino for tickets” are also a classic red flag. Those tickets also happen to be $110.

All in all, the vibe here is pretty Shrinedom, and adding Mr. Cheeks to the bill is weird as hell. But this concert is very real — at least, real enough for Seven Days, and they’ve got paid fact-checkers. (Something that will never happen here at VTHH; rest easy, rappers.)

Of course, if you’re not a wealthy tourist bumping rails of Montreal’s finest in some condo right now, there are more affordable options for your Saturday night. First and foremost, there will be ALL VERMONT EVERYTHING, a concert & cypher shoot at Babes Bar in Bethel, really one of the nicer venues in the state these days.

Speaking of damn nice venues: if you’re in the Stowe area on Saturday night, head on over to Rusty Nail Stage to catch NY live-band hip-hop powerhouse Sophistafunk, who have Mister Burns & The Hounds opening. That’s a flawless lineup, and this will be a satisfying Saturday night.

Whatever you wind up doing: don’t drink and drive. Thanks.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: Yung Breeze - "Do What I Do"

Yung video auteur Vego Harris has been on a hot streak lately. Especially this past week, which saw new music videos drop from Raw Deff, Ciurleo, Raw Deff again, and now he’s back with this slick, effective treatment for Yung Breeze. “Do What I Do” is a single off Breeze’s latest mixtape, Election Day: Term 2, which is a packed wall of bars with a distinctly throwback feel.

The prolific style shifter promised to flood the market in 2019, and he’s been doing exactly that. Which is fitting, since he sits at the intersection of two busy crews, So.802 and Street Religion, which has been expanding into New Hampshire. That’s going to be a theme for every team doing serious work this year, as a more unified New England underground emerges and our talent pool continues to improve.

This summer is going to be insane. Props to the creators.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: March Davis - "Bread & Butter"

VT/LA artist March Davis is yet another shining example of how little this website actually matters. This is a point I will never stop making because every month, there’s a dozen new kids jumping into the scene who think a website is, somehow, going to put them on. Such concerns should be beneath you. Blogs are worth less than nothing in 2019.

A solid project, on the other hand, remains solid gold. March Davis had a long-ass road to the release of Del Mar, his breakout 2018 EP that even got a mention in The Source — one of the few hip hop websites that still matters, post-Zuckerborg & post-Spotify. This was around the same time that RESPECT called him “Vermont’s Great Hope.

He’s been moving at a blistering pace ever since, too, cranking out singles and videos and building a following. “Bread & Butter” is one of the best from his recent run, exemplifying the smooth, photogenic hybrid R&B product he’s evolved into.

As slick as all of this looks in 2019, though, March Davis paid a lot of dues in the Green Mountains — back when he went by “Neffy.” He cut his teeth doing his own production, recording, booking & promotion in Bennington and beyond. Something From Nothing, right? There is no other path to a fanbase, and all that work is mandatory.

So don’t focus on being the biggest or the best — focus on getting your life in order. Focus on being your best self. In closing, here’s March Davis and Yung Breeze flexing over some THEN WHAt production, talking about just that.

Justin Boland
THROWBACK: Rhythm Ruckus - "Being Geniuses Together"

Rhythm Ruckus were/are a rap duo from Saxtons River, a village tucked into the town of Rockingham down in Windsor County. They had a hell of a run leading up to “Being Geniuses Together,” which wound up being their final LP. At least for now.

Consisting of Scribe1 and Doc C — formerly Dr. Caucasian — they rapped their asses off, played tons of shows, and recorded pro grade tracks with major league guest rappers from Breez Evahflowin to Kool G Rap. You can get the whole story from Scribe1 himself, who took the time to write the best Letter to the Editor that VTHH has received so far: read that here. “I invented Vermont rap and I'm not seeing the love necessary” will suffice for now.

The album itself is lean, mean rap purist shit. BGT is all chopped, smoky loops and hella obscure vocal samples, a packed aesthetic that favors fast-moving songs. It also captures the vibe of their crushing live shows, especially the back-to-back attack of “Shadow & Fog” into “Soft Language” — two of the best cuts on no-fat tracklist. It’s easy to hear what these beats would do at high volumes in confined spaces.

Both rappers give approximately 110% on BGT, which is inevitable: that’s the whole point of Rhythm Ruckus. “A well-timed, studied attack," as Doc C puts it on the hook to “VTHG.” (Which unpacks to “Vermont Home Grown.”) These are two educated heads, bringing a diverse vocabulary of flow patterns that adapts to every beat. It’s distinctly East Coast, as much Mobb Deep as Def Jux, but you can tell they both came up listening to everything.

There are also genuinely good hooks here, something which never fails to surprise me on rap LPs. “Everybody Does It!” chops some 80’s New Wave jawn into a driving, radio-ready single that doesn’t sound remotely “crossover” or “pop.” Which is impressive. It’s the invisible 5th Element of behind-the-scenes calculations and quality control that always separated Rhythm Ruckus from the herd.

As a swan song, Being Geniuses Together couldn’t be a better artifact. It captures the crew at the top of their game and it definitely stands as one of the best 802 rap albums from any era. It also stands as, well … pretty much all the credentials they need to talk as much shit as they like. Let’s put it that way.

So: a toast to some legends. Bump the album, get familiar, know the name. Cheers.

“All these albums were self produced/recorded. All the beats were made by guys from Vermont.

Listen to these. Take time to review them on your site. Let people know a dynasty was born, ruled and collapsed 150 miles south of you.

Peace. “


Justin Boland
Saturday, March 2nd: BUILDING BLOCKS 4

APOLOGIES FOR THE CAPS LOCK AND ALL, BUT IT’S A BIG DEAL. With a surprise announcement and minimal lead time, the next edition of the Building Blocks hip hop community celebration / battle has been announced, and it’s gonna be this Saturday. As in tomorrow. There’s not a lot of details yet outside the flyer, but I’ll update this as we get ‘em.

Still, when the Rhythm Riderz Crew say it’s gonna be a dope party: it’s gonna be a dope party. We know this now. Bring food and clothing and expect a great time.

Photo: courtesy of Rico James

Photo: courtesy of Rico James

Justin Boland
VIDEO: Raw Deff - "Fan Fiction"

Brand new track & a visual to match from Raw Deff.

Fan Fiction” is a loosie over a dark, urgent Teece Luvv beat, with the video shot by Vego Harris — who has had a damn prolific 2019 so far.

No said date yet on the upcoming sequel to 2017’s The Others LP, a collaboration between Raw Deff and So.802 producer THEN WHAt, but it’s definitely headed our way if that sweet custom hoodie is any indication.

Justin Boland

Teece Luvv is a singer, a producer, and one of the finest rappers in the state, too. His flow is energetic, effortless, and most important of all, funky. This video marks the third in his ongoing SUNDAY FLOW PRACTICE series, which has been uniformly dope. And it keeps improving, too. Here’s hoping it continues for quite some time.

You can catch Teece Luvv at The Monkey House in Winooski on Thursday, Feb. 28th — currently known as “tomorrow.” He’ll be rocking alongside Mister Burns, Ape The Grim, Sed One of Boomslang, and headlined C. Shreve, a dedicated hip hop head from North Carolina.

From there, he’ll be joining his Maiden Voyage crew for two more dates: Friday, Mar. 1st at Windsor Station, and Saturday, Mar. 3rd at Charlie O’s World Famous, perhaps the greatest dive bar in United States. Go see some great shows.

Justin Boland
The You Don't Look Like Rappers Tour - Jarv x C. Shreve

VMB Productions has unveiled a short tour to wrap up February & kick off March, featuring breakout 802 emcee Jarv and North Carolina rapper / teacher C. Shreve. Along the way, they’ll be working with a roll call of tasty New England talent including Gambit, Ape The Grim and of course, Mister Burns. They’ll also be paying respects to Rap Night Manchester and Maine’s long-running Monday of the Minds event.

It’s great to see a more unified New England scene emerging. Props to everyone making it happen, week after week, month after month.

Justin Boland
Catching up with Rico James: "The Ant Sir" & Beyond

Earlier this week, Rico James dropped a new instrumental LP, The Ant Sir, on the Equal Eyes Records imprint he co-founded. (Co-founded around this time last year, as a matter of fact.) It’s another slab of boom bap purism, but it sees the producer playing with a lot more rhythmic and melodic ideas than his previous solo outing, Saturday Morning Car Tunes.

Rico James has had a furiously busy 2018 and grown a lot in the process. We met up at Al’s Frieswhere else, right? — for a conversation about healthy scenes, lessons learned, and the shape of things to come.

VTHH: "The Ant Sir" is world away from the sound you had circa 2016. What do you think has been the biggest factor in your growth as a producer since then?

Rico James: Persistence.  You learn by doing.  I've continued to just keep making beats, keep gaining experience.  My ears are more experienced, my gear & workflow is more dialed in.  I just like to stay at it, and it feels really good to see progress start happening over time.  You work with what is around you, and how it works with your daily life.  Once you find a workflow that works for you, you can run with it.  I still get excited with each beat I make, so I figure I must be headed in the right direction.  

VTHH: Who are the artists who keep you excited about music these days? What do you keep in rotation lately?

Rico James: I follow a few labels pretty closely.  My comfort zone consists of the following : Mello Music Group, Stones Throw, QN5 Music, Daptone, and Rhymesayers.  Anything coming out of those camps, I'm going to check it out.  I get excited about a lot of music, and get super inspired by a lot of beatmakers.  Biggest ones for me, for the past few years, would be Kno (of Cunninlynguists), Madlib, Apollo Brown, Marco Polo, L'Orange to name a few.  Those are the beatmakers that get me super amped up, constantly. 

VTHH: Do you feel like you're in a very different local hip hop scene today than you were in 2014, when Self Portrait was first getting going?

Rico James: For me personally, it has been a very welcoming scene from the start, and that has not changed.  I've seen a lot of growth, and I've seen a lot of maturity, at least with the people I surround myself with.  It's an amazing feeling watching creative people around you get inspired and push each other to keep creating and advancing. 

I feel like the scene is at a great point right now.  Very little conflict happening, and people are just making music and having fun with it.  For me, there doesn't seem to be this 'competition' of sorts with crews or artists.  Everybody has their lane and they ride in it and make what they want to make.  That kind of environment can be very rewarding because there is room for everybody.  There is a time and a place for every type of music.  If we keep inspiring each other on the daily, the scene will just keep progressing.  

VTHH: You and ILLu are about to be one whole year into running the show at Equal Eyes Records. What are the biggest lessons you've learned since the launch?

Rico James: We have learned a lot since launching Equal Eyes last year.  Luckily, we both view this as an ongoing learning experience, and an ever evolving thing.  We've learned and practiced to just stay flexible.  We don't overthink the process and have specific things we want to achieve.  We just want to create, help others around us create, and do it in an organized/cohesive manner.  We run on passion and if it feels right, we ride with it.  It's been a great time so far, and we are picking up all kinds of knowledge along the way. 

The other thing that is important is communication, and being as transparent as possible with the people you work with.  Also, PATIENCE!  That's a big one.  It is very hard to have insight on a really exciting project that might be in the works, but you are not at liberty to talk about it.  All in all, the biggest lesson I've learned since the creation of Equal Eyes, is to surround yourself with people that inspire you.  Do that, good things will happen.

VTHH: What else do you have coming in 2019 that you can talk about?

Rico James: Alright, let's see....I have some new PR DepARTment material in the works (PreciseMC & myself),  I have an LP with Humble in the works, I have new music with Omega Jade in the works, and I'm about halfway done with my next beat tape.  Those are the things I can tell you about right now.  The things I cannot reveal quite yet will be worth the wait, trust me.  Lots of stuff on the horizon for team Equal Eyes. 

Justin Boland

Self-described “hick town” rapper Ciurleo had a busy 2018 marked by a sharp learning curves. He asks smart questions, and I’ve been impressed so far by his approach to the business of music. He’s been booking shows, moving merch, and learning from multi-talented collaborators like Big Homie Wes and, especially, THEN WHAt. Along the way, he also landed spots in an episode of the legendary Grind Mode Cypher as well as the second volume of the local production, the Extra Mile Cypher.

Between the recent release of his debut project, Better Late Than Never, and his upcoming tour, it was past time to catch up this with this young rap entrepreneur.

VTHH: You've always distinguished yourself as an artist who wants to learn, and stranger still, wants to get feedback. Does that humility come naturally to you or do you have some sort of system?

Ciurleo: I’ve always had that “I want more” attitude so I think in terms of trying to learn and grow, it’s something we will always be doing as life goes on. Four years ago, I had no idea there even was a scene ... so with that being said, even though I’ve been rapping since 2010 ... I feel like the new kid on the scene. With so many talented artists and people in the scene, it’s hard to not wanna pick their brains. Lately though, I’ve just been making sure to surround myself with people who I think are better than me. That raises the bar right away.

VTHH: What do you think has been the key to your success in the past year? 

Ciurleo: A lot of it has just been showing up. I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities by being in the right room with the right people. I was always taught “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” So I have always tried to keep that in mind when meeting people and conducting myself from a business aspect.

VTHH: You're about to embark on your first tour. How have you been preparing for something you've never done?

Ciurleo: Obviously never having done this before has been challenging, but even more challenging is doing it alone. From the start, I’ve always been involved with working and traveling with other people ... as a person I typically always have someone riding with me, or am doing something with someone. So I think that will be my biggest challenge but I’m excited to let that be a good learning and growing experience.

VTHH: You’ve definitely done a lot of gigs already, here and beyond. As you've expanded your reach and gotten more experience, what has surprised you the most along the way?

Ciurleo: The reactions from the people at the shows. Whether it’s an artist that performed that night as well, or someone who came to support the art. I shouldn’t say it surprises me, I want them to enjoy my music but … at the end of the day, the respect and a firm dap is really what I’m after.

VTHH: Based on what you've seen, are there jobs in the music industry you'd be interested in aside from rap star?

Ciurleo: I’ve put on a handful of small shows at the small town bar Room 111 in Woodsville, NH along with help from Chris Farina (Modest). Just being able to bring something fun and different near my hometown (Bradford, VT across the river) was a really gratifying experience. Even though it’s a small “hick town,” I know from growing up and hanging out with a lot of these people that they do like hip hop. The reception at each show has been enough to make us want to keep doing more. I’d love to expand that into bigger venues as I build relationships with the owners and managers; get some really solid headliners, and bring some of the scenes you’re seeing in Burlington, VT or Manchester, NH to central VT.

VTHH: What where the early influences shaping your style when you started rapping?

Ciurleo: I listened to a lot of Kanye West, Eminem, OutKast, Lil Wayne, Ludacris in my early years when I first started rapping. When Chris Webby and Mac Miller first burst on the scene, I think that was the first time I heard rap in a way that I really, really could relate and thought “hey I could write stuff that’s relatable to a lot of people if I just be myself.” Brother Ali, Classified, Grieves, Atmosphere are also some artists that I really listened to HEAVY when I finally got out of the mainstream world for the most part. I think ultimately though, Kanye West has been one of my biggest influences.

VTHH: What does ‘success’ mean for you at this point? What are your long-term goals for this rap life?

Ciurleo: At this point I’m just really having a good time. This past year has been such a rollercoaster. Learning so much on the business end with the help from “Jibba The Gent.” As long as I’m doing shows and able to create them, I feel like I’m being successful. 

My long term goals are to really carve out my own place in VT Hip Hop. The scene is really strong up in Burlington, and I want to spread that energy across the state. There hasn’t really been any consistent hip hop shows in the central or southern part of the state. (Other than the Maiden Voyage crew. They been throwing down at Windsor Station for a while now!) So I would really like to have a hand in making those moves to keep the culture growing. With Venues like The Engine Room in White River, and smaller spots like Sheri’s Place in Springfield or the Windsor Station, there’s a lot of opportunity down this way. At the end of the day it’s all about the music, and I know people are itching for hip hop in these areas, it just needs to be delivered to them the right way.

Justin Boland

Special thanks to guest writer Teece Luvv.

I realize this is shared on Vermont Hip Hop News, but I need you to realize I listen to multiple genres.


Coquette - Rabbit Season

First off, this is one of my favorite bands period. They are all insanely talented to say the least. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten as wild in my life as I do when hearing them live. The harmonies, sheer skills on their respective instruments, and capability to play time signatures you’d never think were possible, are all top notch. Notable, is “Copernicus The Capricorn’s” breakdown at about 3:27 on the same EP. Check them out.

The Pilgrims - Fav New Kid

This video is killer. The line about smoking “rectum ass bud” is totally relatable, although I don’t smoke anymore. I had the opportunity to be in another one of their videos, and have been a fan for a while now. When I mean fan, I don’t just mean, “Ah, yes. Another local band, of course I’m down with them.” These dudes are all great musicians and great people. Their music is along the lines of something I’d like to do. Hell, maybe I envy that a little bit. PLUS, the high harmonies at 2:04. Boo Yeah.

Michael Jordan Touchdown Pass - didn’t i know

First off, the drums in this are fantastic. The mix is raw, and everything about MJTP is authentic. The horn section is perfection. The whole Baby Steps album is something great front to back. It’s something I can listen to at any time, of any season, and it fits whatever mood I’m in. The words mean something, and that means a lot to me. This album and many other songs by MJTP stay in steady rotation, and will continue to do so. If you are down with folk tunes, I highly recommend.

Jarv Ft. Nahte Renmus - This is It

My list wouldn’t be complete without the bois. And this happens to be one of my favorite tracks of 2018 in general. They do this song during our Maiden Voyage set, and it’s one of the high points for me. Dudes always kill it with the back and forth. My favorite lines are Jarv’s, “I will be the leader of a super human centipede.” As well as Nahte’s, “I’m the reason Liam Neeson don’t know where his daughter is.” Nobody in the state has bars like that, ha. “Okalie Dokalie Bokalie.”

Teece Luvv - Deep Colors

This is my personal favorite track of mine that’s been released thus far. I have some new stuff on the way that you wouldn’t expect, which I personally think is better. Still, this is one of my favorite songs I’ve made. Teeba is behind the production on the whole “Young Luvv EP.” His production is tight, and lets me push boundaries. I enjoyed making this whole EP with him, but this song always stuck out. I also enjoy doing this live now, it allows me to get all sensual on the crowd.

Teece Luvv will be dropping new jams for the Sunday Flow Practice series every week, indefinitely, or at least until he grows weary of such pursuits. His most recent LP, !PLEH, is available on BTV label Equal Eyes Records.

Justin Boland
DJ Kanga: Live from The Radiator

A Saturday Special for the folks at home: last week’s Equal Eyes Radio session on 105.9 FM The Radiator featured DJ Kanga(nade) selecting and cutting for an impressive two hour set. Fortunately, that performance got recorded and now you can enjoy this on your own schedule, courtesy of Rico James. Dig it.

If you missed last year’s interview with Kanga, it’s a great read and it still gets a lot of traffic in 2019. The man loves what he does.

The Radiator is a local BTV institution run by Big Heavy World, the non-profit guardian angels of the 802 music scene. (Really, tho.) They’ve got a broad selection of flavors on tap and a lot of opportunities for local hip hop artists, too. Also check out Heavy Hittas on Friday nights from 10 pm to 1 am, with DJ Flame selecting deep cuts and reggae flavors, and producer / DJ / superhuman Fattie B’s show Bangers and Mash, which starts at 10 pm every first and third Wednesday.

The next episode of Equal Eyes Radio will be Sunday, Feb. 17th, 10 am to High Noon.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: Gringo Montega - "I'm Not a Rapper"

Start your Friday off with a short, blistering and nicely produced video from Gringo Montega, one of the masterminds from the So.802 crew. “I’m Not a Rapper” is a quick statement of purpose from an artist who is quite busy toiling in other fields these days. Gringo Montega is a recent name change for the multi-faceted emcee / producer formerly known as Vazy. In addition to some standout solo work (check out “The Field”) he is/was also half of the duo Causin’ Effect alongside Jibba “The Gent.” It would be no exaggeration to call them both underground legends at this point.

The video was shot and edited by THEN WHAt, another multi-faceted veteran from the So.802 crew. This marks his first music video, but he’s been killing it lately with the Bad Cool-Aid series, as well as a recent run of artist interviews. (No Sleep coming soon.)

Now, I’m not here to blow up anyone’s day jobs, but I will repeat: true success is often completely invisible. There are a lot of artists doing big things in these woods, and because they’re doing real projects for real money — in the middle of real adulthood — they’re not putting every moment of that on Facebook and Instagram. After a certain point, there’s just nothing to prove to a bunch of anonymous strangers anymore.

So far in 2019, I’ve had two dozen artists tell me, earnestly, that this is their year, and when they blow up, they’re going to put Vermont on the map for all time. I appreciate the thought, bud, no joke. Just the same, there are far more realistic goals for you to aspire to in the meantime.

Consider: I have nothing else to tell you about Gringo Montega to finish this little post up. He doesn’t have a press kit ready to go for me and he doesn’t even care if I cover this or not. He isn’t hyping up any future projects — those surely exist, but he’s not in any rush. He doesn’t have to be. He’s got an actual fan base that’s going to wait patiently, because he’s been focused for years on making quality music and being himself on every track. Now it’s 2019 and nobody can bite his style. And he doesn’t need rap to save him.

Food for thought. That long road might be worth it.

Justin Boland
SATURDAY: Mikey D of Main Source @ The Monkey House

This Saturday is going to be another VMB Productions blowout in Winooski, featuring a distinctly old school roster of talent. The headliner is Mikey D, formerly of the groundbreaking New York / Toronto crew, Main Source. Although he is most famous for his 90’s work, his legacy has only grown since — he’s been called “The Best Rapper You Never Heard Of” as recently as 2016. He’ll be joined by DJ Mercury, who will be setting the tone and selecting deep cuts all night.

For anyone tuning in late, VMB is run by Mister Burns, a gentleman who has quietly paved many of the roads we currently take for granted in the 802 “scene.” Since his days with the state champion Lynguistic Civilians, he’s been elevating his game on every front. His shows always feature carefully chosen lineups, and this Saturday is no exception.

First up is Peso131, a rap entertainer from across the Lake in Plattsburgh, NY. The man is a reliable party; born to work the crowd. He’ll be joined by sets from Konflik and Learic, surely two of our best rappers, period, in addition to 2018 breakout success stories Asah Mack and Mavstar. And, of course, Mister Burns will be rocking, too … why wouldn’t you play at your own party?

To top it all off, BTV hip hop legend Melo Grant will be hosting the whole affair.

The Monkey House will be absolutely hopping and the vibe will be quality all night. Somehow, all this fun is only $5 at the door. 18+. 9 pm.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: Some Blizzard Music For The 802

Welcome back to another selection of some of 2019’s best new tunes. It’s a mix of familiar names and brand new talent. So far, the new year has confirmed my suspicions that some of this year’s biggest stories will be surprises, flying into the ring with a steel chair outta nowhere. I’m also betting it will be both harder and easier than ever to put these roundups together, thanks to continually improving quality control.

In other words, everyone is getting real good at sounding real dope. Props to the creators and props to the engineers.

THEN WHAt — a/k/a Selfish Presley — and Yung Breeze have a lot in common, including the fact they’re both artists and engineers. And it shows. They’ve been on a prolific run for months now, but “Sinbad” was a serious standout. The vibe is impeccable through the first verse, and it’s clear that Selfish Presley’s upcoming project, No Sleep, will be a monster. What really sends this cut into the stratosphere, though, is that second verse from Yung Breeze, who absolutely snaps.

Bourbon Legends is a new group featuring some of the foremost unsung spitters in the state: Hoarsehed, Eyedos and Eugenyks. Their debut single features brutal & funny verses over some whumping hardcore boom bap, pretty much exactly like it should. It also features a dope chorus by NYC grime lord Ruste Juxx. You can tell there’s a lot of mutual respect in this trio because all three emcees bring their A+ game to the booth here. Whatever comes next … damn.

Rapper TAZE is a new artist on the scene, and “Venom” is a damn impressive debut. She can spit, bud. (She will also be doing so live on Feb. 21st at the next round of 3rd Thursdays at The Monkey House.) This is a straightforward rap workout, flexing some flows to show & prove. It’s also a new front on an emerging Lamoille County wave — those backwoods are buzzing right now.

This new single from Fresh and Flex 45 is a perfect rap demo: sure, the quality is a little rough here, but the performances shine. The hook is genuinely good, and both of these verses are rock solid work from confident emcees. My bet is that 2019 is going to make it clear they’re also songwriters with some real depth to offer. Keep an eye out for these names.

Up next, a new soundscape from producer SkySplitterInk. “Epiphany” was the winner of the second round of the VTHH Sample Challenge, a regular contest that’s being run by Flip Physics. Calling it a big success would understate what’s going on. The contributions so far have been extremely impressive, testifying to a much deeper beat scene than scientists had previously estimated. Here, the maestro kicks off with a groove that hovers between DJ Spinna and Aphex Twin, then brings in one of his trademark, gorgeous guitar lines to ride it all out.

Omega Jade is back with a strong new cut which demonstrates a lot of growth — she sounds more comfortable, and dynamic, in the booth on “The Power Of My Mantra.” Her pen game is getting sharper, too, but that’s always been a strong point for this introspective, poetic emcee. Another constant has been the soulful production of Rico James. In his collaborations with Omega Jade, he’s side-stepped his usual sound to provide lush, left-field beats that create a huge space for her performances. This is not an official group, but it’s still one of the most interesting and consistent duos going right now.

Justin Boland
Feb 14th: Cellar Cypher Series @ Drink

Everyone in the state respects 3rd Thursdays at The Monkey House, a concert series & community hub created, and cultivated, by the Anthill Collective. That especially includes the #STILTZgang team behind the Cellar Cypher Series, a rap weekly which was evolved into a vital workshop with a rotating cast of old and new BTV rap talent. Their event is on Thursdays, too, but they’ve always taken that third one off.

The next installment marks something new: in addition to the usual open mic space, there will be a one song, “best track” competition where the prize is a slot to perform at the next edition of 3rd Thursdays on Feb. 21st. This will be decided by good old fashioned crowd response. This is both good synergy and a just plain cool idea.

Vermont may be undergoing an overall population decline, but we’re also in an era where there is more unheard talent than ever. Getting them into the ecosystem early means they’ll learn more and mature faster, right? It’s a theory, at least.

As ever, props to Colby Stiltz and Big Homie Wes for putting in the elbow grease to keep this new platform not only going, but growing. 9 pm. 18+ $5, 21+ $3.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: Jun Fargo - "Wish Upon A Star"

Some fresh, crisp new visuals for Jun Fargo’s recent single “Wish Upon A Star,” courtesy of Miles Goad at DVP Cinematography. This track has grown some legs — 10k plays on Soundcloud so far — and this video treatment definitely kicks it up a few levels. Along with producer THEN WHAt, the team made the absolute most of a crisp winter day in Burlington, delivering a colorful, vivid final cut. Dig it.

Justin Boland