Category Archives: 2014

Playdough (Dallas, TX)

playdough

Playdough — On And On (feat. Copywrite)

“It quickly becomes clear that, despite his solid rhymes and firm presence, there is a connection between Playdough and the children’s toy of the same name: He’s a playful dude with a versatile style.”

— CMJ

The MC known as Playdough is a rare story in Texas hip-hop. While much of the state is populated by artists who are content to achieve regional fame, and boast about it as if they have taken over the world – this is Texas after all, where everything is “bigger” – Playdough remains humble though his career has literally taken him all over the world. He recently hit number 2 on the CMJ hip-hop charts as well as cracking the Top 200.

Nothing about this MC is typical. His name refers to the playtime cornerstone of everyone’s youth, the colorful clay modeling compound known as Play-Doh. But he’s no toy, and he’s definitely not here to be shaped by anyone’s hand, but his own.

His real name is Doug, and that played a role in his choice of moniker, but there’s a deeper meaning behind the name. “I try to change my style up and do something unique for each song,” Playdough explains, “shaping a melody, cadence and rhyme scheme.” Much like a sculptor might do when approaching a new piece. One listen to any of Playdough’s releases and you’ll see that he puts the art before anything.

Life on the road has taken Playdough all over the United States, the UK, Sweden, Holland, Australia and much of Europe. He’s performed with artists like Method Man & Redman, Evidence, Stalley, Brother Ali, Mr. Dibbs, Atmosphere, KRS-One, Tanya Morgan, Mutemath, MURS, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Linkin Park, Pigeon John, Blu and countless others.

Playdough came up as a battle MC, known for surprising crowds with his deft wit and complex off top freestyles. He’s the top Dallas freestyle rap champion of Monday Night Fights for two years running and has won five times on 97.9 The Beat’s Freestyle Fridays. He’s also won the Skribble Jam TX Battle and most recently was asked to participate in the prestigious invitation-only Red Bull Emcee competition.

Not content with the life of being merely a successful battle rapper, Playdough auditioned for a show on MTV called The Cut.  Playdough competed against talented artists like Anastasia, and Big Al from the Good Life. He made it to the finals of this celebrity judged talent competition, a precursor to shows like American Idol, impressing the likes of Montell Jordan, Dru Hill, KRS One and Treach, and was soon offered a record deal with the Seattle based label Tooth & Nail Records.  This led him to his life on the road as a successful touring artist.

His life on the road, and his positive, intelligent rhymes led him to release his second album Don’t Drink The Water on Chicago-based, Sony distributed, 7spin Records, which again was a label known more for rock than rap. This turned out to be a step in the right direction for Playdough as he got to tour with a lot of bands – namely Mutemath, P.O.D. and Switchfoot — and play in many different circumstances.

“I like being the only rapper out on a tour with a lot of rock guys,” Playdough says excitedly. “A lot of the time people come up to me and tell me that this was their first hip-hop show, or that they don’t really listen to hip-hop but they really like me and plan to check more of it out.”

But it was his first indie release, Hotdoggin on his own Writer Dye Wrecords that really started getting this diverse and highly motivated MC his just due. The album touches on all sorts of styles, and features Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, Mr. Dibbs vs The Black Keys and lots more. The singles, and compelling videos for “Ya Heard (with Mr Dibbs and The Black Keys)” and “No Angel” have been featured on some of the biggest music blogs as well as being listed as best hip-hop act by the Dallas Observer in 2011 and nominated for best rap/hip-hop act for the Dallas Observer Music Awards in 2012.  His “No Angel” video was added to regular rotation on MTVU, and AllHipHop.com listed him as “Top 50 Underground Artists” for the last 2 years. It’s a real culmination of everything Playdough has learned on his path to becoming such a highly respected MC.

With all of these accomplishments under his belt, you’d think that by now you’d know more about the MC known as Playdough. But instead of composing Texas-sized stories about himself, he’s been putting in the work, achieving success, and moving on to the next mission. Most recently Playdough and his DJ (Sean Patrick) signed with Man Bites Dog Records (Roc Marciano) and are set to release their album “Gold Tips” this spring.

With no plans to stop anytime soon, you are sure to see this legendary MC in a city near you very soon.

Links:

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YouTube

Skoolie Escobar (Birmingham, AL)

skoolie escobar

Skoolie Escobar — Throne

Skoolie Escobar, Theodore Montez Ware, was born on the westside of Birmingham, AL.  Coming from a family of three children, Skoolie was always known to test the waters and push limits. This inquisitive nature cultivated his strong creative drive and culminated in his east coast flow with distinctive southern tones.  This innovative 24 year old artist has the lyrical maturity of a rapper twice his years in the game and delivers striking wordplay that transcends regions.  His originality entices even the most unschooled ear and evokes more than simple thought.  He pulls emotive concepts from his audiences, which is reminiscent of his idols Biggie Smalls and A Tribe Called Quest.

At 10 years old, Skoolie knew he wanted to be a rapper.  Although his parents didn’t agree, with the support of his Grandmother he kept the dream of lyrically-living in his heart.  After her passing, he knew he had to fulfill the dream in her honor.  He performed his first show in 2005 in Birmingham, AL as part of a duo team, and continued with various talent shows around the city.  His junior year in high school, he quit the basketball team to pursue rapping, winning freestyle battles from Huntsville, AL to the 2008 BET Black College Tour freestyle battle.  His clever use of metaphors and masterful level of “word-wise-genius” leads him to overshadow the competition, demonstrated by his undefeated title at a local Club Onyx, dubbed “The House that Skoolie Built.”  He gives a lot of credit for this success to T. Rose, noting that “She didn’t think I could rap at first, but I owe so much to her because she gave me a chance, and I handed them all of their ‘aces” back to them, from AL to the NY rappers that would fly in”.  Diverse enough to rap with a live band and skilled enough to dominate a cypher, this hot young artist provokes the soul of hip hop, the beat-boxes of the past to the evolution of its future.

In 2010 Skoolie left college at Alabama A&M to devote his energies to the studio and produced two mix-tapes, gaining the attention of American Idol Ruben Studdard, the two began to collaborate on music and during this time he toured with artists such as Mike Jones.

Skoolie started his own label in 2011, Wise Up Music Group.  Since its inception, he has worked with artists such as Yella Wolf, Rocko, Kirko Bang, Tyga, Future and Cash Out.  Known as the “Beat-Killer”, Skoolie creates his own take on popular beats and “kills” them.  His music claims influences from Kanye West, Drake and J. Cole channeling their slick delivery and formidable wordplay.  Skoolie sets himself apart by applying to these his unique content–his own struggle as an emcee three years deep in the game.

This father of one possesses the grit for success; his home is the studio; the booth is his sanctuary, and his objective is simple: to excel at rap and at being truly humanitarian.  He says there are more to his desires than just being an artist; he wants to touch the world, through humanitarian efforts and through his artistry.  The one thing Skoolie wants the world to know is, don’t be afraid to DREAM BIG!  He also wants people to know that having confidence in your dream is not arrogance, terms he says people often confuse.  He quips, “I’m not arrogant, I just believe I will succeed in what I do”.  He has a story to tell and won’t stop until the world has heard it.  With constant club bookings, dominating open mic appearances, and local radio play in his portfolio, it is only a matter of time until Skoolie Escobar is a household name.

When asked why his stage name is “Skoolie Escobar,” while his music is refreshingly creative and doesn’t speak of drug dealing, he simply answers “Cause ‘I’ am Dope – Driven On Pure Excellence. But you can call me Skoolie Escobar, the Coolest Nerd Neva Seen”…yet.

Links:

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YouTube
Bandcamp
Soundcloud

Disfigurement (Atlanta, GA)

disfigurement

Disfigurement — Noxious Sensation

“Nothing but pure death studied from the lexicon of artists like Morbid Angel and Vader, with faster and repulsive rhythms interspersed into roiling, atmospheric grooves and a raw but precise sense of atmosphere that generates an infernal level of energy and enthusiasm that is…to be blunt…infectious.”

— Autothrall, From the Dust Returned

Formed in 2011 from the depths of Atlanta’s metal scene, Disfigurement has forged a name for themselves among true death metal fans. Performing with legendary acts such as Kreator, Nile, Deicide, Exhumed and Inquisition, as well as rising international acts such as Deathhammer, Obliteration, Miasmal and more, Disfigurement holds nothing back in their live performance. Following their 2012 single, Abyss of Hatred, their 2013 Soul Rot EP has gathered international attention and serves as a warning for the brutality that will ensue from their upcoming full-length.

Links:

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Reverbnation

Inkline (Birmingham, AL)

Inkline

Inkline — Ink 2.0

“His delivery and wordplay [are] sharper than ever and the introspective nature of his music reminds you of a southern Atmosphere.

— Bad Magics

Born Donald Ryan Howell in the year of 1979, Inkline started making his mark on the Birmingham, AL music scene in the mid 90’s. After playing guitar in several experimental rock bands (i.e. Valerie #4, Entropy), Inkline combined his passion for making music with his longtime love for Hip Hop. In 1998 Abstract Chemistry and Apt. B Productions were born. After releasing an EP, an album, two solo projects and playing countless shows in the Southeast the Abstract/Apt. B crew disbanded. In 2005 Inkline relocated to Denver, CO., there he linked up with longtime friend and fellow MC, Mane Rok. With Deejay Tense as their backbone, the trio formed ManeLine. The group was nominated “Best Hip Hop Group” at the Westword Music Showcase three years in a row, released two full-length albums (Till Then in ’06 and …& Sew It’s Seams in ’08) and opened up for national acts such as Dilated Peoples, Hieroglyphics, The Pharcyde and Gnarls Barkley. ManeLine seemed to have “what it takes to make it” and stayed busy and focused. Unfortunate circumstances brought Inkline back to his home-state of Alabama in 2013. Since then he has released the long awaited and highly anticipated Vice Verses Vol. 1 mixtape and recorded an album, Stones Cry, set to be released July 8, 2014. The single Getting’ Out is currently in daily rotation on Vulcanite Radio.

Links:

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Boog Brown (Atlanta, GA)

Boog Brown

Boog Brown — Windows Open

“…She owned that mic and stage like second nature. As soon as she finished her last verse a guy behind me said to no one in particular, “Murder she wrote.” He spoke the truth. Dope girl magic, for sure.”

— Allhiphop.com

You may know Boog Brown from her first publicly released project, Grind Season Volume 1 (2009) produced almost exclusively by Illastrate. Or perhaps you’ve only heard Brown Study (2010), produced by Apollo Brown.

If you don’t know her at all, Welcome.

Boog Brown started rhyming, “for real”, in 2007 when she moved to Atlanta, GA from Detroit, MI where the spark began. Of course she wet her feet in the cypher first, starting with the Neva Empty Crew in college then learning from the likes of Invincible, Marvwon, Quest Mcody, Miz Korona and so on and so forth.

Boog learned about music from legends like House Shoes, Big Tone, Ta’Raach and DJ Dez and never imagined she’d be here right
now.

Since she decided to make this real, Boog worked with many of the aforementioned artist as well as Apollo Brown, yU (1978ers), 14KT, The Black Opera, Stahhr, Rita J and Georgia Anne Muldrow while gettin the stamps of approval from heavyweights like Diamond D and Large Professor.

In 2010 Brown Study came out via Mello Music Group and now, her highly anticipated follow up musical venture, titled The Late Bloom, will be apart of the Soul Spazm catalogue.

The Late Bloom is a story of transformation and acceptance of self, produced by Joe D. (Gods’illa, Dirty Water), Illastrate (Black Noise, Eddie Coleman’s F.N.T.M) and Lex Boogie from the Bronx (School of Sharks, Broady Champs). Released physically first in August 2013, Soul Spazm will release it digitally in Early October 2013.

Look for work with Batsauce (Berlin), 10th Letter (Atlanta) And More 2014.

Links:

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Bandcamp

Skipp Coon (Jackson, MS)

skipp coon

Skipp Coon — Fight

Skipp Coon is a husband, father, son, visual and performing artist. His world is colored brightly, in shades of red, black and green. Skipp is a native of Jafrica (aka Jackson). He is a by-product of growing up in Mississippi, a state with rich history, deep pain and great potential.

Skipp has been learning and working to improve his community for the past 10 years and doesn’t foresee himself doing anything else. As an artist, with his trademark black empowerment lyrics, the hip hop artist has performed nationally and internationally and has cultivated a loyal fan base. He takes the passion of his work in his community into classrooms, meetings with parents or council members, and to the stage.

Links:

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Adia Victoria (Nashville, TN)

adia victoria

Adia Victoria — Stuck in the South

“It’s oozing bluesy glory; raspy and opinionated; aggressive and sexy, wagging dirty vamps and licks in the faces of anyone that might come its way, spitting lyrics like “you ask me a question, I tell you a lie” with no apologies. When she sings, it’s a like a woman both possessed and in full control, eagerly embracing the grasp the music takes on her – and on us. I mean, those eyes…”

— Lockeland Springsteen

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Mechanical River (Charleston, SC)

mechanical river

Mechanical River — The Swamp

“It’s hard to say whether he’s becoming a mad genius or a cantankerous curiosity. Either way, it’s a mesmerizing listen.”

— Charleston City Paper

Mechanical River is the moniker for Charleston, South Carolina native Joel Hamilton’s most recent musical project — a lo-fi folk masterpiece constructed with fuzzed out, crooning vocals, crunchy acoustic guitar arrangements, and drum machine percussion. In the spirit of true DIY, Hamilton plays every instrument on his debut album Astral Castle, which he recorded and produced himself. Tracks for the album were mixed at Electric Lady Studios by Ben Baptie.

Links:

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Bandcamp

John Paul Keith (Memphis, TN)

john paul keith

John Paul Keith — Walking Along The Lane

“For fans of that kind of slapback, Fender-twang pop played by other like-minded popsters from Buddy Holly to Big Star to Tom Petty, John Paul Keith will be a kind of second coming of the power pop savior.”

— Matt Collar, AllMusic

John Paul Keith, the brilliant singer-songwriter and blistering guitarist who exploded out of a self-imposed musical exile in Memphis with 2009’s critically acclaimed Spills and Thrills and 2011’s The Man That Time Forgot, returns with Memphis Circa 3AM — his most accomplished and moving collection of songs yet.

Less a tribute to the spirit, soul and sound of the city than the living, crackling embodiment of it, Memphis Circa 3AM finds Keith reaching the songwriting depths and musical heights that his previous two releases foreshadowed. Produced by the truly legendary Roland Janes — house guitarist for Sun Records in the 50s and longtime engineer and producer at Sam Phillips Recording Service — the album is a time-stopping 12-song duet between two deeply kindred artists, as Keith’s songs and Janes’ direction achieve a sonic balance that is both familiar and original. Cut live to two-inch tape — with Janes providing direction from the booth and not a computer in site — the album sounds deeply rooted and incredibly fresh at the same time.

“When you think about the sheer scope of the work Roland has done, it is intimidating,” Keith says. “So many of my favorite records he either played on or worked on in some capacity. Working in there, I had to put it out of my mind. You can’t get anything done if you think too much about it. But Roland never brings it up. He immediately makes you feel comfortable. It became clear to me in my first meeting with Roland that he had no interest in doing any sort of nostalgia project. He wants to do something new and fresh and creative. It really helped us work.”

It shows. On each song — from the raucous stop – start rave-up of “You Really Oughta Be With Me” to the sad resign of “She’s Almost You,” Keith is backed with incredible power and delicacy by his band the One Four Fives. Bassist Mark Edgar Stuart and drummer John Argroves are arguably one of the deftest rhythm sections going, and their ability to propel, ground and bolster Keith’s songs recalls nothing short of the Band. Years on the road supporting the two previous albums, criss-crossing the U.S. and Europe both alone and as backup for Jack Oblivian, has solidified Keith and the One Four Fives into an intuitive and powerful live band.

And as his band musically ups the ante, Keith meets it with his finest songs to date. There are few songwriters today that can match his ability to invest a simple turn of phrase with so many layers of meaning. From the hungover romance of “Ninety Proof Kiss” (“No one ever looked finer still wearing last-night’s eyeliner / I’m sure gonna miss that ninety-proof kiss”) to the plaintive moving-on heartbreak of “She’s Almost You” (“Why should I pine for you everyday, when she loves the words I used to say to you / they’re almost true,”) Keith’s lyrics have an amazing ability to sound effortless and impeccably crafted. On “New Year’s Eve” — a stunning blue-eyed soul ballad that matches the melancholy sweetness of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham — Keith has written a song worthy of becoming a standard. “Next thing you know, I’ll be lying about my age / I’m reading the book, but I don’t want to turn the page /Can you believe it is already New Year’s Eve?”

It is a feeling and theme Keith returns to unflinchingly throughout the album. The songs hint of time slipping away, somewhere between midnight and morning, of feeling lost and in the right place at the same time, of being heartbroken and happy, optimistic and fearful, inspired to move forward by looking back. Keith’s ability to let these contradictions stand together unresolved has created a work of great and subtle complexity.

With the seamless balance it strikes between Keith and his songs and Janes and his production, Memphis Circa 3AM is like discovering a musical Rosetta stone that decrypts the deep and mysterious codes of Memphis music to reveal the truths they hold. With Janes’ help, Keith has managed to harness the power of the city’s musical history and traditions to create a collection of songs that is truly timeless. In keeping with the album’s themes of contradiction, Keith has created a work that rightly stands in the pantheon of Memphis’ best while remaining adamantly and uniquely his own.

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Miss Jackson (Centralia, PA)

Miss Jackson

Miss Jackson — Riptide

“It would appear this band does, indeed, exist.”

— Parabola

Miss Jackson is a band that exists.

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