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Home » Issues » August 2013 (Issue 10, Volume 1) » Lord of the Microphone: The Multi-faceted Emcee
Lord of the Microphone: The Multi-faceted Emcee

Lord of the Microphone: The Multi-faceted Emcee

HipHopRollCall has run through DJing, breaking, and graffiti in the Mile High, highlighting our collective talent in these original pillars of hip-hop. These elements have been called the “core four,” so it’s time to round this shit out with the fourth pillar: hip-hop’s front man, the emcee. This month we’re examining components of emceeing through the eyes of various rappers within the community. They step off the stage and out of the booth to explain their experience in different aspects of the game; what’s worked for them and what hasn’t, what they love and what they can’t stand, and what they’ve learned about the craft that they’re addicted to.

(Jump to the individual categories)

This piece was written and researched by Ru Black, Rachel Chesbrough and Nicole Cormier.

Master of Ceremonies

Being an emcee, means a lot of things, but where the name, and concept came from is Master of Ceremonies. Though that terminology may evoke thoughts of game show hosts or beauty pageant announcers, the MC in hip-hop started as the DJs hype man, and evolved into what it is known today. But to be a Master of Ceremonies or Mover of the Crowd is also important today, because it is truly the root of the craft.

dentDent, an MC to the fullest, who’s ability to roll with the punches is incredible, knows what it takes to be a Master of Moving the Crowd. “In regards to skill set, first basic of being a good MC is to know how to hold the microphone and understand your voice and the depths of it. You have to be strong voiced, witty, funny and overall entertaining when hosting an event.”

Proper mic control is not the only skill required of an MC.  During a show, inevitably issues will arise, people need to be mentioned, and the MC is the only one that can hold it all together. Some planning and a dynamic personality are musts to be able to be the glue. Dent knows the importance of preparation when hosting an event.  “It’s important for me to have some sort of itinerary ready for the night’s performances and sponsorship info or anything needed to promote the ones whom have helped with the event. The MC is the one who makes sure everything is running smooth and in place and really the main person who is on the microphone all night long.”

To be a proper MC, it is essential to be informative and attentive while still being entertaining. As an emcee, keeping your crowd interested and engaged between tracks is as important as the rhymes themselves.

You have to be strong voiced, witty, funny and overall entertaining when hosting an event.

“Ya gotta understand your environment and the ones who came out to support the event, always show love and respect to everyone that came out to show support for an event, and always have fun at what cha doin. Now I know this from experience, but not everyone can party rock, or Move a Crowd, keep ‘em involved and entertained. There is tons of Rappers, but not many MCs out there.” – Dent

Writing

There would be no hip-hop music without the lyrics. Ask anyone. We may not be able to agree on whether Tupac was greater than Biggie, the value in a 2 Chainz verse, or whether or not Lupe Fiasco makes hip-hop for girls with bad taste in music. One thing we can get behind, though, is the importance of writing and crafting rhymes that matter and tell a story. Some of the greatest rappers of our time are poets and griots who have come to unveil stories that describe the tests of time. Lyrics can make or break an MC. No matter who you are, or where you live, the likeliehood of hearing an immediate response of “I used to read Word Up Magazine” to the statement, “It was all a dream,” is higher than Snoop Dogg.

trevIn Denver, there are more than a few writers whose lyrics, rhymes and writing style are sure to live on. Catch Lungs (clever and punch-line driven), Trev Rich (metaphoric and story-line based) and F.L. (complex and wide vocabulary drenched) are three in the Mile High who prove the notion that the pen is mightier than the sword. We asked them all the same six questions and the results couldn’t have been more different:

What is your writing process like?

Catch Lungs: My writing process is complex, yet simple. I like to clear my mind and be in a nice quiet area. Writing for me is almost like meditation; when I write I like to think I’m channeling God into the word of each sentence.

Trev Rich: It’s simple for me. I found what works and I’ve tried to perfect it. My mind never stops working on music at this point so I make sure I have my phone and write at all times of the day.

F.L: I’m very particular with beats.  So with my personal project, my process has been longer than it has on a Foodchain project. In Foodchain, Prod or Mo Heat will send one beat, and we’ll work on it. My process for my personal project has been to roll up two to three blunts, and scour my hard drive for all the beats I have been sent, and listen to all of them. As soon as I get this “feeling” like the beat is talking to me, I know which one I’m gonna work on, and I will sit there, working on it until its complete, no matter how many minutes/hours it may take.
Do you listen to the beat first and then craft lyrics? Or can you write without a beat?

Catch Lungs: I can go both ways, pause… but seriously I come up with a lot of songs in my head that I look to find beats for. However I generally like to feel a beat out before I write down lyrics and begin crafting a song.

Trev Rich: Both. I always come up with concepts then have to find or have one of my producers make a beat to try to fit it. That’s complex side of it but my favorite way to write is to get beats that inspire me, lock in, and make a great song. It’s pretty fucking magical. Ha

F.L.: I definitely listen to the beat first, then craft lyrics.  It’s my preferred method because I write to everything, from breakdowns to percussion changes.  It all influences my delivery.  Yes I can write without a beat, without any issues, but I take a lot from the music that I’m listening to and try to incorporate a feeling in my lyrics that matches the music.

What are your best inspirations for what you write?

Catch Lungs: I’m really able to find inspiration almost anywhere. From the daily sunrise to my personal problems, there is a lot to derive inspiration from. I look to God for inspiration more so than anywhere else. Whether I’m writing about love or hate I ask for divine intervention Every time I write. I know ‘divine intervention’ sounds strange but that’s the best way to describe it for me.

Trev Rich: Life and Music. Not necessary lyrics but music the format of the instruments the bass line, kick, clap, everything. I feel each beat has an unwritten story and it’s my job to tell it. So that’s what motivates me. Besides that my fans. Richlife is expanding tremendously so I stay consistent to keep them happy.

F.L.: Myself!!  Since I’ve been working on this album, I have only listened to myself.  The songs vie crafted for LIMBO, the songs vie crafted well before limbo.  I pick myself apart,  to find my strengths and try to magnify those strengths in the music I create as much as possible.  Otherwise, I’m influenced by painters, photographers, jazz musicians, EDM producers, a few peers, and a lot of player ass imagery

Do you find there is a central message in the verses you rhyme?

Catch Lungs: Most of the time my message comes directly from my heart. Some days I feel sad and I write about my problems. Some days I feel like I just won the lottery and want to rap about how on I am. Generally I have a message of truth to be found in each song, simply because I come straight from the heart. I think it’s easier to relate when someone comes from the heart.

Trev Rich: Be yourself. I’m being me. Either talking about what I’ve been through or seen through my own eyes. That’s the best way to connect with the people. Most people can’t relate to what I like to call Money rap. Most people aren’t rich. Most rappers aren’t rich. Pun intended. Just be yourself.

F.L.: To some degree.  You can divulge I like shoes, lots of weed, females, and overall player shit, but I also talk a lot about real issues in my life, and in general society too.  On my new project you’ll hear a lot of concepts.

 Do you physically write the rhymes down?

Catch Lungs: Yes I do write my rhymes down. I have so many journals that I’ve collected over the years. I have been getting more into using my iPhone these days just to make quick adjustments and replacements. At first I was against using electronics for writing but now I can do either or.

my favorite way to write is to get beats that inspire me, lock in, and make a great song. It’s pretty fucking magical. – Trev Rich

Trev Rich: No… I used to write on paper and memorize each verse so you couldn’t hear the paper while I was recording. It had no feeling to it. No emotion so I write in my phone bring it with me in the booth. And focus on the emotion I need to portray when I deliver it. Works better for me.

F.L.: When I first started(like the first few rhymes I wrote) were on paper, but almost since the beginning of me perusing music, I’ve always written my lyrics on the computer.  For me it’s easier.  I’ve always been a fast typer, and my thought are constantly going 1,000,000mph so, Writing on the computer closes the synaptic gap on how quickly I am able to put my thoughts together, being able to re-work that thought, an apply it better, etc.

What did your first rhyme book look like?

Catch Lungs: My first rhyme book was actually supposed to be an English literature note pad. I started writing in high school, and that book became my best friend. I remember getting kicked out of class because I wouldn’t stop writing and I wouldn’t let any of the teachers see what I was writing down, haha. That was fun.

Trev Rich: It looked like a black notebook that I had used for English and over the semester I realized I had more lyrics than actual work in there. I still passed though.

F.L.: The way I write honestly hasn’t changed much structure wise. My first rhyme book was pretty legible.  I structure my bars to where they’re readable to a person who doesn’t rap at all.  you may not get the flow, but you can identify the rhyme scheme for sure.  Overall, I think that helps me in being able to convey my music over the microphone better as well.  My eyes don’t have to scan the entire piece of paper I’m holding to find where the next bar comes in.

Freestyle

Who the fuck doesn’t love a freestyle? Whether impromptu or planned, in a cypher or on a radio show, freestyles are engaging to say the absolute least. The term “freestyle” used to be used to describe a written verse that didn’t have a context- it was just the nicest verbal an emcee could write, about whatever (typically themselves…every emcee’s favorite subject). The term eventually evolved into what we know today, the art of improvisational rap.

bighouseMC BigHouse has been freestyling since he was a kid, before he even wrote rhymes down. These days those skills are on regular display with Future Jazz Project and more. The way he describes his mentality when freestyling illustrates some of the inherent genius of emceeing in general, and this element in particular. “At this point when freestyling it’s a total blackout. Really I’m concentrating on the line upcoming more than what I’m currently saying, trying to make sure that lyrically it will make sense while in a split second making these judgment calls and/or pathways available to continuously keep spittin’. Doesn’t always work but that’s where practice makes perfect. I used to take my time with the freestyle and slowly develop the wordplay or increase the subject matter, but I’ve noticed that as of the last couple of years I’ve sped up the tempo of the freestyle to challenge myself, but to be perfectly honest there are good days and bad, I have to mentally be in a zone to be more creative on a freestyle and not use what I call catch phrases or crutches during the performance.”

At this point when freestyling it’s a total blackout.

More than once I’ve given a side eye to a rapper claiming “I’m not much of a freestyler.” In today’s hip-hop landscape some maintain that as long as you can write a verse, it shouldn’t matter if you can spit off the top of your head. Others, maintain that’s bullshit. Big House is clear in his stance. “To be considered an emcee, YES, it is a must to develop this craft. You don’t necessarily have to be great at it but you should have a love for the craft because to me, every written verse is a mapped out freestyle. Writing starts from the freestyle mind but becomes more concentrated and developed thoughts.”

Image

Image has been a long standing facet of hip-hop, even if it’s not a commonly addressed topic. How an artist carries themselves is so important that it shapes generations, it sells products and can make or break trends. Think of your favorite emcee, how do they dress? How do they act? Don’t these things also model how you feel about them? And in turn affect your shopping habits? Of course we wish that the art was the only thing that mattered, that the music could overshadow any of the superficial image requirements, and for some it does. But in today’s hip-hop world where “swag” and chains overshadow and even camouflage the talent, or lack thereof, image seems more important than ever.

aviusThough it’s easy to push back on this mentality, because it is what is spoon fed to the masses by the mainstream, ultimately, it’s true, image matters. It’s important as a public figure to develop or cultivate how you are perceived. But, this doesn’t have to be dishonest, it doesn’t have to be ugly and it definitely can define an artists identity. That’s where the separation occurs, because image doesn’t have to be contrived. A.V.I.U.S., of Prime Element is an easily identifiable figure in the Colorado hip-hop community, and there is nothing false about how he is perceived. “As far cultivating our image, I would say

Stay true to yourself, keep your image what your comfortable with. At the end of the day, good music is good music regardless of industry standard. Be comfortable with who you are and stay loyal to the formula that you create to be productive, and successful.

we keep our spectrum on things clean, we stick to our style and don’t really follow the trends when it comes to fashion and or music style. It keeps us grounded and keeps us comfortable with our craft. We let our music and stage show speak for itself.”

So, the question remains, can a public image that reflects reality also lead to success when it comes to music? This remains to be seen, but being real, can absolutely reach fans, because isn’t that what we all want from music, a way to connect?

“Stay true to yourself, keep your image what your comfortable with. At the end of the day, good music is good music regardless of industry standard. Be comfortable with who you are and stay loyal to the formula that you create to be productive, and successful.”

Live Shows

Erykah Badu once said recording is perfecting a moment, whereas performing is about creating a moment. Watching hip-hop artists translate their aggressive tones and passion from the booth to the stage is often like church for concert goers. There’s an art to smashing a stage. It’s not just screaming lyrics into a microphone, nor flailing one’s body in different directions like a tornado. Great rap performers know how to deliver lyrics, rock a song and energize the crowd simultaneously. In Denver, there’s never a shortage of shows to attend, both local and national. Whether you’re watching BLK HRTS mash around with precision or The Foodchain play their hearts out, if you aren’t out at live rap shows in the Mile High City, you’re most definitely missing out.

namm4Prior to this issue’s release, there were three shows in particular that stood out amongst the newer breed of dope performers in Denver; Lama Live, Turner Jackson with Buffalo Rebellion, and the aforementioned BLK HRTS.

Lama Live is a rock/rap band fronted by Namm from Lama Squad and backed by a host of trained musicians. We caught them at The Marquis Theatre and the show was explosive. Rappers and rock groups have been working together since the beginning of time to blend the genres and messages. Lama Live is an excellent example of taking just enough of this, a little bit of that, mixing it all up and emerging with a ridiculous product. The stage show is dope because the backing music is heavy on guitar riffs, drums and head-banging white boys. From a rap perspective, Namm, a kind of shy MC on stage, lets his rhymes do the work and get noticeably more loose as the show rocks on and the crowd is more engaged.

BLK HRTS have no shyness to speak of. Yonnas Abraham is like the ghetto maestro, directing either the sound man, himself, the band, or God, who knows. With war beads wrapped around his wrist, all it takes is one hand up before the audience goes crazy. Moving the crowd is the most important aspect of a live show and BLK HRTS have a presence commanding enough to make you do whatever they say; and enjoy it. King Foe has been known to launch himself into the audience with the fervor of a for real party animal. Karma (arguably the nice one in the band) looks intimidating enough and growls his lyrics in such a way, you’d be remiss not to hiss and howl along with him.

Turner Jackson is a solo MC act. When he performs with Buffalo Rebellion (a live band featuring some of the premier musicians in Denver), Turner automatically turns the knob all the way to the right. When he is in his element and stage presence is succinct, there’s no stopping his action packed rapping. At Buffalo Rebellion’s last show at Mutiny Information Café for the Underground Music Showcase, Turner was positively rambunctious. He danced around the stage, jumped over sound monitors and served his band members water, all while keeping his rhymes tight as a can of biscuits. It’s pretty impressive to watch.

These three artists couldn’t be more different on stage, off stage, and in their rhymes. The one thing they all have in common, though, is practice. Lama Live rehearses twice a week, BLK HRTS takes up residency at Rocketspace to run through their show, and Turner Jackson practices with Buffalo Rebellion (and on his own) as shows approach. Real professionals rehearse until it’s perfect and then rehearse again. When you take your craft seriously, it decodes to perfection in live show and for the ultimate goal; to move the crowd.

Battling

While the origin of hip-hop is often debated, there’s no denying that battling has had a heavy hand in rap’s inception. Street and institutional scholars alike have pointed to The Dozens as the original battle, acknowledging that the element has evolved significantly from that age-old tradition. In today’s rap game, wherein the music is so often packaged as pop, battling is our underground dwelling, bad attitude having, middle finger wavin’, no fuck givin’ older brother. Despite BET (106 and Park) and MTV’s (Yo Mama) best attempts at commodification, this aspect of emceeing has yet to be commercially capitalized upon in a big way.

j moneyJ-Money of CO’s Kush N Koffins has made battle rap his business in the box state. He breaks down this elevated component of emceeing, “Music can be very deceptive being that a beat can make or break a track. For instance in 2011 Wacka Flacka won Best Rapper of the Year award. Upon receiving the award the first thing he said was, ‘I’m just an entertainer, not a rapper, but I truly appreciate this award.’ That goes to show you that production can and has made people’s careers. In battle rap there is no beat, no production, no audio engineers. It’s you, your opponent, and the crowd in front of you.”

The mentality of a battle rapper has to be a ruthless one. For most, nothing is off-limits. Not only do you have to prove yourself as the dopest in lyricism and insults, you need to prove your opponent isn’t worth a single shit. J-Money expanded on his approach in a battle, “I focus on my opponent’s weakness first and exploit that. Then I look at his strengths and beat him at his own game. I look to his if he’s aggressive, laid back, funny, or whatever the case, and use the weapons in my arsenal to win. No one is perfect, everyone has a weakness. I look at the depth of his bars, and by depth I mean does he have complex schemes? How is his cadence? What does he talk about? Is he a punchline rapper? Is he a crowd pleaser? The percentage of metaphors to bars in a scheme, double entendres, etc.”

The rhyme schemes and patterns and structure are more polished in a written battle. I always say I can kill ‘em wit freestyles but murder is better premeditated.

While battles have historically been freestyles, pre-written battles are more and more common in any given circuit. Some are critical of the practice but J-Money defends it. “Pre-written battles give every emcee an opportunity to express their talents at its highest level. The reason writtens are frowned upon is ‘cause so many people said they were freestlying when it was a written. The rhyme schemes and patterns and structure are more polished in a written battle. I always say I can kill ‘em wit freestyles but murder is better premeditated.”

Touring

In recent years, many artists have foregone touring relying on the Internet as their reach. Though with the now almost nauseating online presence we are all required to have, it is not enough. To truly convert new fans across the nation and world, an artist must bring the music to them.  Jonathan Messinger, aka Maulskull of Black Mask has been on 12 National tours, which includes three over the last year. On the brink of another tour with Sadistik, Maulskull took a moment to hammer home the importance of touring.  “You are performing for and meeting the people that still support live shows, buy your music and spread your music to their friends that wouldn’t find it otherwise. Those are the people that will help you grow and they also connect with you on a personal level. That’s very important to independent touring artists and helps you build a loyal following in each city you visit, whether it be one fan or fifty, Someone will be there to see you.”

maulskullIn order to survive and thrive on a tour, preparation is key. Maulskull makes sure that he practices his set many times so he is ready and doesn’t blow out his voice on the first night. He also advises testing equipment to ensure it’s in working order and to save as much money as possible beforehand. Whether the tour is a week or several months, the more preparation that occurs ahead of time the more equipped an artist will be to handle all the obstacles that will inevitably be encountered.

Beyond preparation, being respectful and precise packing can go a long way. On Maulskull’s list of tour must haves are extra socks, headphones, name on promotional materials, and most important, a microphone! “It seriously makes me kinda sick to know how many people have spit and yelled into the house mics. Think it’s clean? Smell it.”

Think you’re ready to tackle a tour? Maulskull has a hilarious list of tour survival tips to use as a guide:

THE COT. Buy one, they are cheap and they can save you from nasty sofas, floors, spiders, bed bugs and sickness. If you bring a cot with a sleeping bag, you never have to worry about getting jacked for the sofa or hotel beds. Besides, most hotels that we get on the road are disgusting and you probably wouldn’t want the bed anyway.

Pack light. I have seen people take several suitcases of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes. That shit takes up space and is just a hassle. I pack a single briefcase with 5 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, LOTS of socks and LOTS of fresh undies and my shower shit and toothpaste. Try to hit the laundry every few days.

Get Away. Try to find some personal time to be away from your tour mates, when you have to be around someone for 24 hours a day for weeks on end, things start to get a little annoying. If you can, take an hour and get the fuck out.

DO NOT WHORE OUT! Yes, I said it. We have all done it and we mostly regret it…mostly.. I know a lot of national touring, successful artists that can back me up on this one. It’s really not worth it, I can assure you. Aside from health issues, there are all types of shit that can go wrong. One night, after a show in L.A. I went back to this woman’s house and shortly after second base, her boyfriend, “Ortiz” showed up. He was a muscle head, had a key, was drunk and certainly surprised to see me at his girl’s house. She ended up telling him that I was her gay friend from high school and I had to follow her lead for almost an hour before I could leave. I seriously put myself in danger and that is just one example of the shit that can go wrong. I have “seen” a lot worse than that.

PARTY WITHIN REASON. This one speaks for itself, nobody likes the drunk emcee at the show and nobody likes the hungover asshole before the show. Sometimes I have seen artists treat their own fans like shit, just because they are either drunk or hungover. Definitely know your limits.

You are performing for and meeting the people that still support live shows, buy your music and spread your music to their friends that wouldn’t find it otherwise.

DO NOT SPEED. Doesn’t matter if you are late or anxious or whatever. Fuck the police, they love to search, harass and fuck with everyone they can. I spent the night in jail in Montana before a show because I got pulled over for speeding and my car smelled like weed. The owner of the venue had to bail me out of jail and it was most of our guarantee money. That type of thing can ruin a tour, as well as hurt business relationships, as I have learned.

Recording

The internet makes everyone a superstar. Ask Soulja Boy; hell, ask your favorite rapping homeboy with a studio setup. All it really takes is a pen, pad, microphone and moderate skill behind the board and voila! There’s your recorded track that may or may not sound like, “Bands A Make Her Dance.” Juicy J recorded that song in a hotel room in Atlanta somewhere or something and it was an instant hit. The difference between your average rapping Jack and Juicy J is an Oscar win and a helluva engineer who comes in and cleans up the track.

The independent scene thrives mostly because emcees are taking matters into their own hands. Many artists know you can’t simply step into the booth, rattle off a random verse and have a hit record. Recording is half the battle. There’s levels to this studio time shit and when done right booth presence can be the difference in success and a dream deferred. We spoke to several emcees who are known studio heads. Always recording, perfecting tracks and creating the latest joint that knocks in trunks, Rob 4 Real, Bianca Mikahn and Jahni Denver are three emcees who have what it takes to perfect a moment in the booth.

How often are you recording?

Rob 4 Real: My recording process really differs and depends on the situation. I usually have the track written and all ready to go before I get to the studio. If I’m working on collaboration with another MC or producer, I will write it on the spot. I can write pretty quickly if the beat and the topic come to me. I can usually write a verse in about 15 to 30 minutes and build a chorus or hook around that verse.

Bianca MikahnBianca Mikahn: I record way more often than I release. Learning behind the boards and having my own equipment as well as unadulterated access to Mercury Sauce when it was here, I was able to use recording as part of my development process and not just a means to get the work out. I’ve written and recorded tracks that were due out the next day…I’ve re-recorded the same verse for two years. It’s quite the spectrum for me.

Jahni Denver: Right now I’m recoding a lot for my new project I take a month or more off in between projects to make sure that I’m not over producing the same sound and the break helps me grow naturally and allows me to be inspired before I start a new project.

Do you show up to the studio session with your track already written and sketched out or do you allow the moment to hit you?

Rob 4 Real: I usually spend most of the time and focus on the actual recording session. I prefer to have the beat and song all ready to go before I get to the studio. It allows me to dwell more on the subject, lyrics, and overall song. The problem I have with writing in the studio is that after I finish recording there’s certain things I wish I would have said differently or wrote differently or incorporated in that song.

Bianca Mikahn: When it’s time to get a final take, nothing is better than coming in prepared. There are only a couple of studios I really like to write and dream & manifest in. I can definitely open up to the moment when the environment and project direction allows. I was artistically raised with people who had been up and down the insides of the industry, and they always kept me mindful of who’s involved with the process, making me more considerate to how much time I expect. Most producers could be doing a million things other than sitting with an emcee for an hour while they get their verse down. Plus, I don’t care what anyone says, that one take Jake ish has its limits. Letting a vibe marinate a bit can be beneficial. That’s why I stay with my own setup at the crib most often, so if I want to catch that ‘free’ vibe I don’t have to monopolize outside space to do it.

Jahni Denver: I’m all over the place with my writing/recording process most of the time I search for beats and compositions that inspire me so that the lyrics just flow but I’m experiencing more lately with deadlines so I’m adapting to a new phase in my career when the art becomes a job and when you need to get a verse done in the clutch for whatever reason and that changes everything.

In what ways are you a perfectionist in the recording studio?

Rob 4 Real: I’m very meticulous when recording verses to the point that I want to be able to record the entire verse in one take. Not meaning the first try, but no punch-ins. The fact that I record so often I’ve compiled a very extensive catalog. I’m sitting on lots of unreleased and unfinished songs. I’m currently about to release my joint album with Dealz Makes Beats titled Ignorant Intellectuals and a collaboration mixtape with Florida friends titled Lifted. Both are finished. I’m also working on my solo album titled REALmatic.

 When it’s time to get a final take, nothing is better than coming in prepared. There are only a couple of studios I really like to write and dream & manifest in.

Bianca Mikahn: I’m a perfectionist in how I want things to feel. I need my left shoulder free of material and I need to be able to rub my belly and hop around a lot. The feel of things. I’m hyper attentive to the treatment of my vocals and usually have my desired delivery. I need to be in the spirit of the track’s origin in order to access that free-ness that offers such vivacity to my performance. I believe in feeling sadness when recording sad tracks. Just truly going there to genuinely strike those chords in the audience.

Jahni Denver: I try to have the track rehearsed so that I can just execute in the studio sometimes that may only take a day or two but I also am impatient and love the recording process and if I know 80% of the track I’ll go ahead and record the song and work out the kinks during my session. I learned how to mix and record myself and mixed my first independent album Mountain Lion pt.1 but lately I’ve been so impressed by my engineer Chase Thompson at Side 3 studios that I’m comfortable leaving it in his hands and now I’m just focusing on writing and recording and leaving the mix to the pros but the time that I took learning the process really helped my understanding of music and improved my ear for music as well.

Rob 4 Real is working on his solo album REALmatic while Bianca Mikahn’s video for “Weirdo” will be released this week. Jahni Denver has a host of projects in the works including Mountain Lion pt. 2 featuring Scarface, Snow Tha Product and more.

Message

The message that an emcee conveys in his or her work defines them as much as, if not more than, their skill level. It’s the content that draws fans in. People with average rhymes (Nicki, Trinidad, etc.) have built healthy careers off of content that’s popular with the masses. In the same vein, some talented emcees (Talib, Common, etc.) have been assigned a lane further underground because they wouldn’t dilute their strong (typically socially conscious) message. Naturally it’s not that black and white, but the point is that an emcee’s message invariably effects their career as an artist.

maneThe ReMINDers is a duo with a clear and consistent message of positivity and knowledge. They extrapolate on that musical personification, “Our music reflects who we are, the majority of people may never know us personally so with that in mind, the music becomes the main reference point and we want our message to be an accurate reflection of who we are. Never front, always be honest while expressing you art.” Mane Rok, as content-heavy an emcee as they come, expanded on that sentiment of self-projection by explaining, “There is no one message in Hip-Hop, just like there is no one path in life.”

So while for some, a message is an almost involuntary reflection of self, others are more calculating in the message that comes to define them. When I asked Mane about how hip-hop is evolving in this regard, and he flipped it. “I’d actually argue it has devolved. We have too many artists representing the same, tired path, because it’s lead to the most monetary success. We need more of an array, as that’s what Hip-Hop is; a representation of life. And life varies from instance to instance.

There is no one message in Hip-Hop, just like there is no one path in life. -Mane Rok

One of hip-hop’s main criticisms from both haters and fans, is that the content in so many radio raps is socially irresponsible. It calls accountability into question. Mane Rok is an emcee that seems meticulous about the message he has his listeners consider. He spoke on his personal sense of obligation to project a message that’s progressive and/or provocative, and whether or not others should be held to the same standard. “I do feel that is my responsibility, because I’m able to have the thoughts in the first place. My music is merely a reflection of what goes on in my mind. I’d like to hope and believe that anyone making music does so on the same basis. That’s our biggest responsibility. Being true to ourselves and letting our art be a reflection of us. That said, it doesn’t mean there aren’t a slew of entertainers who portray to us something false. But these are their thoughts. They create these falsehoods…to be entertainers. And this is one of those thin lines in music/art. Where do you draw it?”

Promotion

It may very well be a emcees least favorite aspect of the game. Everyone dreads it, most aren’t very good at it and it’s time consuming and no doubt takes away from the art. That said, it’s vital to the success of any album, any show or any artist. We talked with Hypnautic, who is on top of his promotional game. He makes his living off being an artist solely; he has sold out numerous shows locally, has a name nationally and has a strong and ever-growing fan base. “Promotion is the wheels to a car, if you don’t have wheels you can’t drive.”

hypThe general goal of promotion is numbers, in the end. The more fans, the more sales the more money. But is there a right way to promote? There are many schools of thought on this, but ultimately it comes down to paying attention to the market and using the tools at your disposal. Hypnautic stays ahead of the game by changing up his promotional strategy monthly to stay relevant.  “Learn the business, study the greats, be around the people better then you, get creative and invest in yourself.”

There are many ways to promote, but it takes investment, whether that be money or time. If an artist has limited capital, then he/she needs to become a pavement promoter. This means they to be in the streets, often.  Chatting up potential fans, passing out albums, putting up posters, building with venues and putting in the work, either alone or with a team. If an artist does have the money to put into their promotion, then a street team can be used for posters, but putting in facetime with venues or fans should still be a priority. FL of Foodchain really hammers this idea home in an interview he did with Rachel, “What I would attribute it to would be doing this every single day. When we first started doing this we burned 9,000 copies of our first project which was Foodchain Volume 1 EP. We pressed up 9,000 copies and hit the pavement. We went as far as Ft Collins, Boulder, Durango, Colorado Springs- we were everywhere. In Denver passing out CDs in the clubs, outside on the streets, gas stations, in traffic, everywhere. Just the dedication and the amount of effort we were putting into what we were doing; with very little money, we tried to make what we were doing look so much bigger. And once we had all the pieces of the puzzle together we just put the music out there and allowed for the music to work its magic.”

Learn the business, study the greats, be around the people better then you, get creative and invest in yourself.

Many artists want to lean only on their talents while neglecting the business and promotional side entirely. Of that, Hypnautic says, “It’s like opening a Popeye’s in the woods and never telling anyone it’s out there.” Each artist should focus on their individual goals and promote in a professional manner by building strong relationships, creating a sound press packet and staying true to to image they have cultivated.

“Relationships is the most important thing you can have so never burn bridges and only throw you emotions in the music never the business. Artist I see with the most talent lose everything over there ego.”

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About Staff

We are modern day miners working feverishly to excavate the hip-hop gold that is buried underground here in Colorado. Our team is constructed of passionate music connoisseurs who live right here and know the community best. As this site grows and changes, we want to adapt to the needs of artists and fans alike, so keep your ears to the ground and eyes on the stage.
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