VTHH SUMMERSLAM 2019: LET'S BEGIN
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First and foremost, huge thanks to the artists and fans who made this so fun. The results exceeded our expectations. Top 3 Rappers was tightly contested category, as expected, and Top 3 Producers yielded far fewer responses, which was disappointing. We got over 250 votes, but well over a hundred of those were duplicates and repeat submissions from the same locations…so what was that worth?

Remember, though: there is no mercy here. So, for the first annual VTHH SUMMERSLAM, it’s time to make a few shocking announcements.

Good Citizen of the Year

The results of all our extensive polling? A six-way tie. We are blessed to have so many contenders. Despite dozens of other worthy nominations, here are your overall winners … for your final consideration: Brett North, Colby STILTZ, Zach Crawford / Skysplitter, Mister Burns, Omega Jade & Scottie Raymond.

SUMMERSLAM Vermont Producers

Why did this category get fewer nominations than the rappers did? The contrast is stark, bud. We will investigate this mystery in more depth soon. In the meantime, we’ve got a wide-open shoot-out to finally decide who the nicest is. Choose carefully.

..And Now The Big News.

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I absolutely promised that everyone nominated would win a spot on the final ballot, and I absolutely lied. This isn’t some kind of backyard talent show. There have been so many submissions in the RAPPER CATEGORY that we’re taking some awesome, hilarious, and inevitable measures. First up: everyone with five or fewer nominations is withdrawn from SUMMERSLAM 2019 competition, effective immediately. Gone.

After all, some rappers are serious, but … most rappers aren’t. The big winners (20+ real nominations) are being broken into a separate category; everyone else is being lumped into the “Intercontinental Class.”

First Up: A Six-Way Lethal Battle Between Our Heavyweight Contenders.

The top 6 are a mile away from their closest contenders. Only one of them can win. This is the final countdown: Eugenyks, Framework, Jarv, Learic, Raw Deff, and XP. Those names were so far ahead of the rest they simply have to exist in their own weight class.

The Intercontinental Class of Contender

Finally, here’s the end of your tour of duty: who is next up? Who is impossible to avoid in 2019? Who is hustling circles around their competitors? After this, you’re all done and we thank you for your service. Voting runs until Saturday morning — after that, things should get weird.

Here’s the official ballot.

Thanks again for your time.

Justin Boland
VTHH SUMMERSLAM '19: Banned on Facebook
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The old inbox is blowing up, and that’s some rough timing, because yours truly got a seven day suspension from Facebook. (For posting a .jpg of Charles Manson laughing, in case anyone is curious.) It’s a classic story: huge, unaccountable corporations destroying the hard work of independent creative geniuses like myself.

Although Facebook is a sad, retarded wasteland, it also provides 60% of the traffic this website gets, day after day, month after month. It is truly impressive how much Zuckerborg was able to eat the entire internet. Also, kind of sad.

However, this is the shit future we live in, and there are still a few hours left to GET THOSE NOMINATIONS IN before the HUGE ANNOUNCEMENTS that are coming tonight. So please, share this message far & wide, so that young, hungry artists in 802 know that I’m not ignoring their friendly introductions. Thank you.

Remember, you can always contact me directly from right here.

Oh, and here’s that form again:

Summerslam is coming. NOTHING WILL STOP THE SHOW.

Justin Boland
VTHH SUMMERSLAM 2019: New Names, New Sounds
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We’re not even 24 hours into the first annual VTHH SUMMERSLAM and things are already insane. I’ve been suspended from Facebook (“too lit, too viral, too trill”) and we’re past the 200 mark for nomination submissions so far today. We knew this would be big, but we were amazed to find out this would be huge. Huge.

Nominations close around 5 pm on Thursday, June 13th — tomorrow, in other words — and we’ll be dropping some big announcements that night. Now, some critics have said this is moving too fast, and that’s absolutely true. I promise you, though, next year will be every bit as sloppy and frustrating.

Meanwhile, I’m spending my evening catching up on dozens of new names. Here’s a quick overview of some of the artists VTHH will be featuring this summer.

Wap Bleu caught a wave after opening for Jay Critch last year and his name came up a lot in the past 24 hours — spelled differently every time, too. There’s no finished product yet, but his singles are proof there’s a lot of energy on tap and a talented ear in development.

At first I thought “Sobe” was a nomination for Somba, but SoBe is a whole separate animal. The entire catalog on his Soundcloud there is worth a dive, this is calculated, playful stuff, and full of melodic ideas. I will be keeping a close eye out for this cat in the future.

The team at Savvy Row Records got a number of shouts, but none more than Blaze Ryan, who released his solo debut Demons back in May. This is introspective, lyrical rap — and this also a work in progress, a young team worth checking back on.

Instinct is an 802 producer who has been working with Dokowala for awhile now, been prolific for years now, and keeps his mixing and design game on point, too. Despite all that, I’ve still been sleeping. So while he’s not strictly a new name, the man deserves some shine and he’s gotten a number of nominations. Also, “Libations” bangs.

Kurt Stewart has come up under a few names, all of which were familiar. That’s because this young fellow distinguished himself with some excellent entries in the regular, Flip Physics hosted, VTHH Sample Challenge. Turns out, he’s been on a long streak of dirty, tasty work. Again, I was slept.

And again, there will always be more. I apologize in advance. This is just a quick mix — VTHH SUMMERSLAM has introduced a huge new wave of talent, and proven a lot of older, senior citizen type heads haven’t been forgotten. Props to the creators and hustlers.

In closing, seriously, all jokes aside, I am suspended for a week over on Facebook there, so please keep sharing The Nomination Link so we can get some numbers & awareness. NOTHING WILL STOP THE SHOW.

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Justin Boland
Announcing The First Annual VTHH SUMMERSLAM
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Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the first annual Vermont Hip Hop SUMMERSLAM. Please refrain from throwing objects into the ring.

In the wake of the Seven Daysies discussion, there have been more calls than ever for a proper “VT Hip Hop Awards,” something serious, something scientific, something professional, to finally settle the never-ending arguments.

This is definitely not that. It is, however, an attempt at making mistakes now so that we can, collectively, pull off a real deal “VT Hip Hop Awards” at the end of 2019.

We’re keeping it simple for this inaugural SUMMERSLAM: nominate three rappers, three producers, and one Good Citizen of the Year. (Apologies to the DJs.) The “Good Citizen” category is an honorary nod to whoever is earning respect and contributing to the community. You can submit your nominations right here, right now, through the embedded form:

Q: What Happens Next?

A: Nominations close in 48 hours. From there, every single nominee is on the ballot.

Q: “Email Verification” sounds ominous. Why do you need that?

A: Because of ballot-stuffing dicknose losers, that is why. I don’t have anything to sell you (and most of you are broke anyway) so your email is strictly being used to build a verification list so that every vote counted, counts.

Q: What if I don’t feel comfortable sharing that?

A: You would give away your social security number for fifty cents off on a taco, I don’t believe you at all.

Q: What do the winners receive?

A: All winners and runners-up get their names mentioned on this website at no charge, plus bragging rights.

Q: Are votes secret?

A: Absolutely. I will be releasing numbers on total votes and show off some graphs about turnout, but nothing will ever be linked back to you.

Justin Boland
THROWBACK: Svpply - BVFFALO
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The THROWBACK series is devoted to spotlighting worthy projects that never got much coverage, here or elsewhere. I interviewed SVPPLY last year — it was a good, informative talk — and he’s just secured a Seven Daysie Awards nomination for Best Club DJ. Which makes sense, since he gigs constantly, books huge events, and is generally the sort of gentleman I can call a “local tastemaker” without feeling like I’m an asshole hack. Dude is really out here.

As it turns out, dude is also really nice on the beats. Has been for some time, too: BVFFALO came out in September 2015, and it’s a superb set of chilled-out soul chops that sound thick & lush. I don’t mean “set” as a slight. This is a rock solid instrumental hip hop album, to be clear — but you can definitely hear the sequencing logic and impatient ear of an experienced, creative DJ at work here, too.

It’s a smooth, cohesive ride, and that’s by design. As the man himself explained it to me awhile back: “The concept is thinking of sampling the way native Americans thought about buffalo and using every part … for most of those songs, every instrument is from a different record, and patched together to form a whole different song.

Soul heads and sample hawks will definitely recognize a lot of these sources, but that takes nothing away from the project, because there are a lot of great flips and cuts here. Even with the constraints of the concept, BVFFALO is more than the sum of its parts. The album is fast-moving, so while it’s hard to cite any particular favorite track, every slice is where it belongs.

It’s also an ideal soundtrack for porch beers on a beautiful day.

Give it a spin, keep supporting local music, and enjoy your summer as much as possible. This will all be gone too soon.

Previous Installments:

Rhythm Ruckus - Being Geniuses Together

OldGold - Preservation

Loupo - W K N D

Raw Deff - Rhyme Travel

Justin Boland
Five (Dope) New Albums I Missed
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In 2018, I took the summer off from doing weekly coverage and damn, was that a mistake. Last year was the first time that so much happened during those beautiful months I spent in the river that I was was stuck playing catch-up for the rest of the year. (And if you reckon I never came close to catching up, I’d be inclined to agree.)

In 2019, things are moving even faster. We’re more than a month out from Summer Solstice and there’s been a flood of newsworthy releases since mud season. Here’s a roundup featuring five of my favorites. There’s a lot more to cover, but for now, give these puppies a spin.

Selfish Presley - No Sleep

We were promised a wavy, vibed-out artistic statement and No Sleep delivers the goods. Selfish Presley is in his own wide open lane here, and his production game is better than ever. The album is short, sharply cut, and packed with ideas. Props to the director.

Pro - After Dinner, Before Dawn

Out of nowhere, Pro dropped his debut solo album on BTV hip hop label Equal Eyes Records, and it’s the crown jewel of their catalog so far. This is a marathon of bangers from a lifelong fan and full time rap dad. Pro is one third of The Aztext, one of the 802’s most successful rap groups. He brings along an all-star cast of characters for this LP, including Konflik, Framework, Fattie B, and of course, AZT fam Kin and Tha Truth. This is a grand slam touchdown, a home run from half court.

Learic and Skysplitterink - The Theorist

The other Aztext emcee has been equally busy this year. Learic is already known for tight, cerebral concept tracks, but The Theorist represents a whole new level. It’s also proof he’s continuing to grow as an artist, even after a long career underground. The album is a continuous narrative, framed like a film, and the production is huge. If you need to read more, here’s my full review. Cheers.

Teece Luvv - Sunday Flow Practice Vol. 1

This is my personal favorite album of 2019 so far. It’s an off-hand, throwback good time, with few fucks given. It’s also all bars — creative, funny, musical bars. Teece Luvv really killed this set. Jarv does aight here, too. Speaking of Maiden Voyage, they should make ol’ Nahte Renmus do a Sunday Flow Practice series next. Then drop that self-produced group album. Whalam.

Dokowala - Hot Waves - Second Volume

St. Albans artist Dokowala dropped another smooth set of live-chopped, jazzy instrumental work, just in time to start bumping it with the windows open and the grill warming up. Hot Waves is quick but extremely cohesive, and Dokowala has taken the same smart approach with his releases so far: find a vibe and nail it to the barn wall. His next expedition will be just as tasty, and just as different.

Flip Physics - From The Archives: Volume 1

Or maybe six picks: as a bonus chaser, the Flip Physics compilation From The Archives, Volume 1 is an old school tour of a BTV beat head’s personal stash. Flip Physics has been a hustling hard for the local scene, from his constant collaboration work to his moderation of the regular Sample Challenge contests over at the Vermont Hip-Hop Artists Collective. Volume 1 has proven to be a great soundtrack for spring cleaning — highly recommended.

In closing, shouts to Big Homie Wes. If you haven’t checked out his February EP / movie Contraband, fix that.

Justin Boland
Let's All Argue About the Daysie Awards Again: 2019 Edition
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It’s that time of year again. The Seven Daysies are a long-standing tradition that, due to a total lack of any competition, have become a proxy for.actual Vermont Grammy Awards. And although I’ve referred to it in years past as “a Burlington-centric, inherently imperfect, flat-out popularity contest” — it’s also a genuine measure of clout.

This year’s list of nominations is a lot like any other year: a few inevitable nods, a few surprises, and the obligatory “wait, who the hell is that?” contender.

Jarv, Learic and 99 Neighbors are pretty much the entire horse race for 2019. No offense intended, here, but I’m a realist. Jarv won last year, Learic is the single most respected rapper in our scene, and 99 Neighbors are, well, blowing the fuck up. Still, the rest of the nomination slate is quite interesting.

A2VT have been expanding both their lineup and their reach — they got featured on AfroPop.org and their most recent music video, the triumphant “Wave Your Flag,” has just broken 100,000 views. That’s huge, and it’s obvious they’re just getting started, too.

The inclusion of D. FRENCH surprised me. I’m a straight up fan of his pen game, don’t get me wrong, but I just didn’t expect him to have that kind of reach until after he drops his debut album “The Highest Lows.” I was quite wrong. Furthermore, his brother, Isaac French, got a nomination for the Best Pop Artist or Group category. Props to a talented family from St. Albans.

Finally, a lot of people were asking who DIGGS was, despite the fact I’ve covered them here already. I’m not offended; I know most of you only read this stuff when it’s about you. Despite the fact they’ve been an intermittent presence at live shows, doing full-band live hip hop will always win you an audience in BTV, so I’m less surprised to see them here than most of y’all haters were.

So: were there people who deserved to be on that list who aren’t? Not really, no. You need to run a campaign to win a campaign, and no part of this game is a talent show.

On second thought, scratch that. Last year there were two big winners: Jarv and Loupo, who won for Best Electronic Artist or Group. That’s not exactly a Best Hip Hop Producer category, but it was at least close. That category is gone, which is unfortunate. Hopefully it gets resurrected next year — or better yet, we get that Best Hip Hop Producer category. There is definitely a deep enough talent pool here to justify that.

So props to everyone who got the nod, and good luck to the contestants. Voting starts on June 10th and we’ll find out who won in August. Democracy takes time and, generally, satisfies exactly nobody. It’s a system that works!

Justin Boland
99 Neighbors is Playing at Lollapalooza - and More
Holy shit, bud, what?

Holy shit, bud, what?

99 Neighbors, as expected, are have a Big Damn Year following the January 1st release of their debut LP, Television. (It was very good.) Since then, they’ve had their single “Champion” featured on the hit TV show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, they’ve signed a booking deal with Paradigm Talent Agency, and they’re playing Lollapalooza. Twice.

As they say on television, though, THAT’S NOT ALL!!!

Here’s a current rundown of their summer schedule, which itself is only a peek at what they’re currently cooking up.

6/27: Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI

7/20-7/21: Mad Decent Block Party Festival at Gillette Stadium in Boston, MA

08/01: Lollapalooza and official after party in Chicago, IL

08/31: Made In America in Philadelphia, PA

09/06: Otis Mountain Get Down in Elizabethtown, NY

09/14-09/15: Music Midtown in Atlanta, GA

Finally, the crew dropped a great single just when I was starting my vacation. In case you missed it…fix that.

Justin Boland
RIP Kyle Hoyt, Promoter, Mentor & Friend
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RIP to a legend, a hard worker and most of all, a good man. Kyle Hoyt was a steady source of inspiration, encouragement, good ideas and honest feedback. He will be dearly missed.

Seven Days has an excellent memorial writeup for anyone unfamiliar.

There’s going to be more news about this on the horizon, but in the meantime, a great way to honor his memory would be to help out younger artists, go to some local shows — and stay hydrated.

Justin Boland
Es-K - "ReCollection"
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Es-K’s latest LP is a surprise: somehow, a prolific, polished producer in the middle of years-long hot streak is still audibly improving his tradecraft. “ReCollection” is a tight, ambitious album. It’s also available on Fat Beats, which is kind of a big deal.

Es-K’s latest project stands in clear contrast to his recent releases. Where “Trust The Process” played like an extended mixtape, “ReCollection” is all sharp turns and finished ideas. It’s also a million miles away from the consistent, melodic vibes of “Koans” or “Continuance.” Showcasing a huge variety of styles over 24 tracks, it’s obvious that Es-K wants to make a point about his versatility, here. And while the album is a journey, it’s a carefully tailored ride, too — his transition game has never been more inventive.

Speaking of journeys: Es-K will be in Spain this week, celebrating the album release, doing shows and working on a collaborative album with The Deli and Jansport J. Props to the maestro for keeping it global.

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Justin Boland
GET FAMILIAR: Subtex of Grey Sky Appeal
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I reached out for this interview back when I realized Subtex would be playing at the Friends Like These release party in Brattleboro last month. I definitely remembered his group Grey Sky Appeal: they were crushing the orbit between Boston and NYC back when I was busy with World Around Records, and I always respected their raw aesthetic — and, especially, the fact they were all clearly having a blast rapping on every track.

Catching up on his work since was a revelation, though. His recent projects, especially The Book of Ezekiel and his 2019 followup Fine Art, are daring, dirty, urgent, uncompromising hip hop joints. They’re basically EPs, taking an “All Killer, No Filler” approach and featuring some dope underground legends (C-Rayz Walz and Ren Thomas) and tons of talented DJs burning up scratches, both in the margins and on his hooks.

Subtex is currently a Brattleboro resident, but he’s prepping for a move to Philadelphia in the next year. (Which, really, is damn good fit for his style.) He donated some time to rap about his influences, his art, and his legacy. Dig it.

VTHH: I love your commitment to spotlighting DJs and scratch hooks, too rare these days. Were the acts that inspired you to get into rapping turntable-heavy?

Subtex: I’ve always been a fan of scratch hooks and letting a DJ do whatever they want.  It adds a whole other element that I love. I grew up listening to acts like Gang Starr, so DJ Premier was always heavy. I listened to a lot of Beat Minerz as well, so acts like that inspired a certain sound. A great DJ can only add more to a track. 

VTHH: Do you think the New England hip hop circuit has been transforming in recent years into something bigger & more unified, or are things more or less the same from your POV?

Subtex: I think things are constantly developing into something bigger, as certain artist styles develop and mature. Cities and towns continue to connect and build a solid community all over New England. I've seen a lot of different scenes all over the world, and New England definitely has a certain sound that stands alone.

VTHH: As someone who’s been through several scenes now, what advice do you have for young cats trying to build a scene in the sticks? 

Subtex: Create a network which enables you to branch out. That will help you create a good local scene if you can bring people in and have community support. Live shows are a good way to bring the community together and showcase talents. Scenes exist in every form. As long as you’re making music and you enjoy it, you’re good.

VTHH: What keeps you motivated to keep creating? What would you like to add to your legacy at this point?

Subtex: What keeps me motivated to keep creating is life. Life mirrors my music. I’ve always used the art of lyricism to project the art of life, and vise versa. Inspiration exists on so many levels. Music is the baseline, how you project yourself beyond that is motivating to me.

I’d very much like to write a book that coincides with a record. My music is a story, so turning that into a book would take it to another level. I’m known to write rhymes that contain depth, but bringing that depth to a different medium is something I’d like to add to my legacy.

VTHH: Grey Sky Appeal has been on hiatus for a minute now — will there be more GSA material in the future?

Subtex: Grey Sky hasn’t released any new music in the last few years, but we have unheard music in the vaults. Sooner than later we’ll release a new GSA record. At least one more GSA project is a necessity. 

Subtex will be performing in Philadelphia at Slime Beach on Saturday, April 13th, and Boston heads can catch him at The Jeanie Johnston on Saturday, May 24th.

Justin Boland
May 9th: VT Hip Hop Showcase @ Waking Windows
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The lineup for the Waking Windows showcase this year is a rock solid roster of 802 talent. It’s also going to be a Four Elements party, featuring the Anthill Collective, the Rhythm Riderz Crew, and Green Mountain scratch technician DJ Kanga on the decks.

If you don’t know what Waking Windows is: you should definitely go check it out in May. Modeled on what SXSW used to be down in Austin, it’s a music festival that takes over every available space in Winooski, including sidewalks and parks, for the purpose of booking more shows than anyone could possibly see. (You may think I’m kidding about that, but nobody’s laughing.)

Props to Mister Burns, who has grown this showcase into a real cultural force, not to mention the unofficial kickoff party for the Summer season of “shows you don’t have to wear jackets to.”

Side Note: Waking Windows is also sponsoring the upcoming Sammus show at Arts Riot, which is a dynamite lineup for a mere $10. That’s next Friday, April 12th. She slays, and so does opening band JUPTR.

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Justin Boland
SATURDAY: Es-K Performs at Flynnspace
Art: “Last warm day in November” by   Meryl Lebowitz

Art: “Last warm day in November” by Meryl Lebowitz

Tonight, Es-K will be performing a very special set as part of the New Voices series, which is curated by St. Michael’s professor and local music scene heavy William Ellis. He’ll be tearing through a selection of his favorite compositions alongside some special guest musicians, sitting in to fill out the sound. (And, perhaps, to audition for the live band that will hopefully emerge from all this experimentation and hard work.)

We’re spotlighting Es-K for obvious reasons here, but the headliner is Mal Maiz, a dynamite Afro-Caribbean ensemble led by local musician / magician Maiz Vargas Sandoval. There will also be a set from a Bantu comedian, Abow Ibrahim.

All Ages. 8 pm show. Tickets are still available at $15.

Justin Boland
GET FAMILIAR: Memo
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Memo is a battle rapper from the Boston area these days, but he used to rock shows — and win battles — around BTV as Memaranda, back before adulthood caught up with him. He’s always been funny, down-to-earth and a careful student of the game, so I figured this would be a solid interview. It turned out much better than that: this is a hella informative conversation about battle rap culture, politics and tradecraft.

And a lot of 802 history along the way, too. Dig it.

VTHH: As soon as you came out -- and we're talking "Rap It Up," here -- you had bars on tap and genuinely funny punchlines. Which, frankly, I have always resented you for. Did you always have your sights set on battle rap or did something grab you along the way?

Memo: Right around the time I was recording music and doing shows (about 10 years ago now) S.I.N.siZZle started hosting the King of VT freestyle battle tournaments. I had been freestyling since a youngin’ so I figured I’d give it a try, and I believe I got to the finals of the first tournament he held, eventually losing to Learic. I ended up competing in over a dozen of them, and won at least 5 (pretty sure Learic won all the others). Towards the end of the competitive freestyling run, I started following the art of “written” battle rap after being introduced to it by my buddy/ fellow MC Fullafekt.

After watching a few “classic” battles that were suggested to me, I quickly became addicted to the clever writing and charismatic performances. But at the time, I just couldn’t get in to the idea of rapping with no music behind it. I always felt one of my best traits as an MC was the way I could flow over all different types of beats. Shit, I could kill a fire freestyle over a Beethoven track and transition right into a Garth Brooks and Celine Dion instrumentals. I believe it was around the summer of 2015, when S.I.N. eventually threw the first VT “written” battle event and paired me up as main event against Learic (inevitably).

I remember locking in the matchup about a month before it went down but not actually writing for it until the week of. While I definitely rushed my material and prep, I ended up actually killing it without stumbling at all. The judges voted me the winner, but of course something happened to the footage and none of the battles from the event were ever released. I’m still holding on to a glimpse of hope that one day S.I.N. is gonna find the dude that’s been holding the lost footage hostage and drop our battle out of the blue. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, shortly after that battle with Learic, Tom (Fullafekt) introduced me to the 413 guys in Mass who got me on the winter 2015 tryout card, and the rest is history. 3+ years later, I’m 20 written battles deep and considered by many as a top battle rapper in New England.

VTHH: Having done plenty of both, do you think audiences pay more attention to your writing in a rap battle context than they would at a regular-ass rap show?

Memo: 100%. This is honestly the main reason I haven’t recorded/ performed music in so long. Don’t get me wrong, I loved making music and miss the shit out of it but these days, people don’t even appreciate real hip hop music. Look at guys like Learic, S.I.N. and Lynguistic Civilians who have all done hundreds of shows around New England and hustled for years, but never got the respect they deserved. All everyone wants to hear these days is the mumble rap bullshit. I feel like being lyrical and witty is a downfall these days. Its really sad to be honest.

I guess that’s why I fell in love with “written” battle rap. I’ve always been a creative writer but never felt people fully listened to the metaphors, entendres and similes I would layer in to my writing. At a live hip hop show, people nod their heads and listen to you rap but most people aren’t really listening to what you’re actually saying. At a rap battle event, the whole crowd literally circles around you in silence and listens to every word you and your opponent have to say for 20 minutes straight. There’s honestly no better feeling in the world then getting a huge reaction to a bar/ rhyme scheme that you worked hard to come up with..

On top of that, you get the pleasure of it eventually being released on YouTube a few weeks later where the footage lives forever. One of my battles has 6,000+ views. I don’t think I had a single song with over a thousand views on YouTube or Soundcloud, etc. Either way, reality is that writing for battles takes a lot of time, and being a dad/husband/full time worker, I don’t have time to keep pushing my battle rap career and work on an album at the same time. In a perfect world, I’ll keep rising in the battle rap ranks till I become a household name, at which point people should want to hear and buy my music. Hopefully I can get to this point before I’m 40.

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VTHH: Approximately how many gun hands have you had waved in your face, at this point in your career? Does that ever get old, or is it just as much fun, every time?

Memo: Shit, probably hundreds at this point.. And yeah it does get old, but not usually with my opponents. The great thing about this form of battle rap is that you typically get paired against opponents that make sense to battle you. If you watch URL, dudes are pullin’ out imaginary guns left and right, but luckily I usually get paired against fellow scrawny white dudes for the most part, so I’m usually safe from these violent gun hands you speak of.

But nah, in reality, gun bars are awesome if they’re done right and not abused. I pull them out in a satirical manner quite a bit to be honest. There’s just so many good slangs for guns that can be flipped in so many different ways (ratchets, hawks, eagles, cans, biscuits, etc.) Also, one of the greatest parts about battle rap is that people can rap for 20 minutes straight about shooting each other with every type of gun imaginable but end up sharing a drink and spliff right after the battle ends. Out of the hundreds of thousands of “written” battles that have ever taken place around the world, there has never been an actual gun pulled out in a battle (that I know of) and there’s maybe a handful or less cases of hands being thrown – (See Dizaster vs Math Hoffa).

The best part about written battle rap that a lot of new people to the culture don’t understand, is that wins/losses don’t really matter, aside from the occasional inner-league title matches. In a regular battle, you actually want your opponent to do well so that the footage has better replay value. A lot of people don’t even write personal bars, and treat the sport as a competition of who has the better “bars”. I personally always try to get under my opponents skin, but you better believe I’m shaking their hand and buying them a beer after the battle..

VTHH: Do you think the proliferation of battle leagues is a good thing for the scene or does it over-saturate the fanbase?

Memo: I think it’s good for the culture to a certain degree, but can cause some friction on a local level. Obviously in theory, the more leagues there are, the more opportunity for new talent to be seen. At the same time though, it does make it harder for the big leagues (KOTD/GZ and URL) to find talent as there are so many damn leagues to study and pick from. Luckily, I battle for 413 battle league who is the longest running and probably the most respected league in MA. Shoutout TD3 and Vorheez!

When I first moved to Mass a few years ago, there were probably about 40-50 known battlers on the scene that would get cycled around 3-4 different leagues. Now there’s at least 10 New England leagues with a few hundred battlers in the scene. Unfortunately about 90% of them are trash.. Anyway, all in all, having more leagues creates more competition and helps grow the sport and spread awareness so I’m all about it.

But there’s no question that it also creates drama within a particular region. For instance, you’ll often see leagues that are right down the road from each other purposely throwing events the same night in spite of each other, or leagues claiming battlers as their own roster members when they were brought up and groomed by another local competing league, and the list goes on. That’s definitely the one thing that I don’t like about battle rap, is the unnecessary drama and politics…but I guess you have that in all facets of life these days.

And yeah, to the second part of your question, there are now so many leagues releasing footage that it’s hard for some people to know which battles to watch. Luckily the real ones know what leagues and battlers to look out for, but if I was just getting in to the sport now, I wouldn’t know where to start. To all new fans though, start with KOTD/URL, any battles with Pat Stay, Rone, Illmaculate, B Magic, Chilla Jones, Danny Meyers, Pass, Charon and Carter Deems to name a few.. And that dude Memo from VT is fire too. Check out his battles with Laugh-N-Stalk, Uno Lavos, CJA, Colly C, T Sawyer and Blackademiks.

VTHH: What advice do you have for kids reading this who will be prepping for their own battle debuts in the next 12 months?

Memo: If you’re not comfortable in your own skin and aren’t good at adapting to different environments, this isn’t for you.If you get easily offended and aren’t very good at taking criticism, this isn’t for you. If you’ve never rapped before, there’s a good chance this isn’t for you, although there are rare occasions of battle rappers who never rapped prior to battling and have thrived in the scene. Blows my mind, but it can be done.

My biggest advice would be to BE YOU. No one wants to see a scrawny white dude rap aggressively about how he could kick your ass in a super gangster voice. I made the mistake early on in my career of occasionally trying to sound like other battle rappers and would spit aggressive, angry sounding bars.. Watching the battles back, I could quickly tell that I looked out of character doing that, so I switched up my formula early on and now I just go up there, be myself and have fun.

I obviously have occasional “I’m gonna kill you” bars but I try to keep even my most threatening material pretty light and say everything with a hint of sarcasm. Obviously, if I grew up in the streets, then people would enjoy me spitting struggle bars and if I was a pimp, people would enjoy me spitting bars about all my hoes but nah, I’m a just a mid thirty year old, married white ass dad with an office job. Let’s be real. Figure out what you do best and stick with that formula. For me, it’s dad jokes, food schemes and 90s references.

Another important thing is to be patient. During my first year or so, I would hear quite often that I was trash, had a bitch voice and an unconfident demeanor, etc. There were definitely many times that I thought about just quitting cause I didn’t have the patience to try to please all the whiny fans. But I stuck with it, made a point to improve every battle and eventually worked my way on to KOTD/GZ and top of the card on pretty much every local event I’m on. I’ll never have a great voice but I try to make up for it with clever writing and references that the battle rap community can relate to. As we all know, you can’t please everyone, but if you’re at least captivating the audience in the room while having fun doing it, then you’re doing something right.

Last advice I have for any new battlers is to not underestimate the importance of prep.. Try to finish writing your material by at least a week before the battle. Go through your rounds every night for a week straight, and record yourself rapping them so you can hear which parts need to be tweaked or re-worded, etc. A bad choke can ruin a battle in the room and kill the replay value of the footage. If you’re going to battle, take it seriously so you’re not wasting the fans time or your own time. Nothing worse than writing your ass off for a month just to put on a forgetful performance.

Justin Boland
FRIDAY: Anomalie @ Club Metronome

Anomalie is staggeringly talented Montreal artist whose music occupies some unique real estate: his compositions are rooted in his background with classical and jazz piano, but they sure hit you like … well, instrumental hip hop. He’ll be making a rare 802 appearance on Friday night at Club Metronome, bringing through a killer live band in support of his latest album, Canal. (Which is perfection.) He is also bringing along Rob Araujo, another producer/composer with serious chops.

Better still, Loupo — certainly one of the spookiest production talents the 802 has to offer — will be opening up, along with special guests Juju + Soph. This is the hottest ticket in BTV, and it will definitely sell out.

All Ages. 8:30 pm show. $13 adv / $15 door.

Justin Boland
Teece Luvv - Sunday Flow Practice #8

Teece Luvv is marking two months of steady flames with the latest edition of his Sunday Flow Practice series. As ever, the dude is having a blast rapping over his own funky-ass production, and these videos keep getting better. The Maiden Voyage crew has been having a great run lately — Nahte Remnus dropped the excellent “Dog Years” project last summer, and I’ve heard Jarv is doing aight these days, too.

As for Teece, he’s stayed busy both as an emcee and as … well, a future-soul sex-funk crooner, I guess? It’s good shit no matter how it gets labeled, and he promises there is more on the way. Meanwhile, be ready for more dope raps next Sunday.

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Justin Boland
TONIGHT: Cesar Comanche @ The Monkey House
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Winooski’s home for hip hop will be hosting a hot ticket tonight: Justus League legend Cesar Comanche will be coming through with fellow North Carolina emcee Ghost Dog to deliver another evening of hip hop revivalism. Those of you who have caught Comanche live before know that’s no joke — the man is a magnetic performer and an earnest disciple of the culture.

They’ll be joined by Bugout of Granite State (he got interviewed here a few days ago) and Mister Burns. Show is 18+, $8 at the door gets you in the building.

Justin Boland
Learic and SkySplitterInk Announce "The Theorist"
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Equal Eyes Records have announced their next release and, well … damn, bud. Nice. The teamup of Learic and SkySplitterInk is a perfect match: both of them have grown into masters of their craft, and both of them are thoughtful, multi-talented creators with wide-ranging influences. These are not compliments, but humble facts.

The Theorist, however, proves to be far more than a new rap album. The project is a cinematic story broken into seven chapters, and they’ve got a video on tap for each one. That’s an impressive amount of work. Yesterday they dropped a teaser of sorts — the intstrumental “Opening Credits” leaves us with more questions than answers, for sure, but it also establishes that this is going to be a serious project. It sounds amazing, too, a mashup of giallo drama and the synth orchestration of Vangelis.

Props to DVP Cinematography. The Theorist drops on April 26th.

Justin Boland