GET FAMILIAR: Subtex of Grey Sky Appeal
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.