Picking my top records/albums/mixtapes of the year was pretty easy. I really didn’t listen to a lot of music this year besides what was outside my front door. This was the first year in my hip hop life that I didn’t really get into anything outside of my local music. Not to say the music wasn’t dope, I just didn’t listen to it. I could name records that other people mentioned just to show support, but on the real I didn’t check for those records. I was so engulfed in what was going on down here in the Heart of Dixie that I almost start waving Confederate flags and whistling Dixie. So with no more time wasted I present the Huntsville Got Starz records/albums/mixtapes of the year.
G-Side Huntsville International
First let me say, this record is dope, it’s dope, it’s dope. This record speaks volumes to me just from the intro alone. (Mind you we are two weeks away from dropping this in Huntsville. They don’t even have a clue) When Rob Breezy comes on and explains who and what he believes is making that great, great music all the way in London, who here in our city can deny it? We (SMS) have recorded with Grammy Winners, been on BET (2004), sparked probably 80% of the hip hop careers in the city, and have done it all from an independent base. Our biggest test was to get from under the umbrella of Starshipz and Rocketz and head to new and unchartered places musically. This was our first time really working with a group of people outside the circle of Slow. Musically the sound of H.I.P. wasn’t to bring International Soundz into the mix of the music, but to take our music, and our story international. Why? When I was in Korea, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast leaving a group of citizens to be called refugees. My cab driver made a statement that will never be erased from my memory. “I didn’t know black people lived like that in America”. When I asked him how he thought we lived, his reply was more of a smack in the face than an answer. “I thought all blacks had a lot of money, nice cars, big houses, diamonds, and beautiful women everywhere. That’s at least what I see in the videos”. That’s when I knew the music was reaching people who knew nothing about us. (Hip Hop) That’s where Huntsville International comes in. When it comes to this trap rap, which was developed from actual hoods and corners known as the trap, I don’t think the whole story is being told. So when Clova states “I don’t sell dope” on Rising Sun, those lines represent someone who has lived in the trap, been a part of the trap, and is now presently seeing the world from outside the trap. These type songs are to round out the culture of the black male’s path in North America.
CP’s pick “Bandz” was spawned from up and coming producer “Boss Man” and O -Third coming to the studio playing tracks. I think this is where CP got his mojo back. I’m serious. From that O-Third has had interviews in the UK and been placed on mixtapes around the country. This project was also meant to bridge gaps and build a network for those on the forefront of an ever changing landscape known as music. This project incorporated blogs who people may have never heard of before and make them relevant to a group of artist, or connecting blogges wih other bloggers, to let them know there work wasn’t in vain. It also sparked people to bring to the table talents they had bottled up and bring them to the table, for example the J Dirrt directed video. Another case in point was the connection we found with Florence through G-Mane and Bentley. Bentley’s verse on “In the Rain” has been quoted and re-quoted in the studio damn near more than any other verse since November 18, 2009. See what I mean about sparking careers through opportunities. The production for “My Aura” was sent over by Mick Vegas. I walked into the office, ST and PT were going at it. I look over at PT singing this melody and I knew this project was forming. Taking Huntsville international could not be done just from here. Enter people like DJ Giraffo who actually bought three physical copies of Starshipz and Rocketz in 2008 all the way in Norway. That’s how he became involved. Stephan over at www.fairtilizer.com has probably got more hits from Huntsville artist or scene than any other artist on www.fairtilizer.com. Plus he was the first to interview the Block Beattaz together in 2008. Rob and Dave took the Huntsville scene to London in Hip Hop Connection Magazine back in 2008 and to the web in early 2009. Ballers Eve has probably played more Huntsville music than both local stations combined in the last year. By the way DJ Matthew Africa’s piece on the album is from a live show. We had never spoke before. He didn’t even know he was featured on the album. Natural. The record is called Huntsville International. Not Slow Motion Soundz, not US, not Look at Me, not We the Best, but Huntsville International. I don’t think it’s one artist we didn’t help this year out of Huntsville in some way and this project and its success is the manifestation of that. Why name it a project? Well that’s what it is. We positioned ourselves with other internet brands, connected the dots, moved forward with music, and tried to make everybody a part of it. Not just for us, but for all of us. So when everybody else is trying to make these best record list, H.I.P. should be the only one in the category of best PROJECT.
KD – Soul Inn
I had seen this album/mixtape on Blvdst of course, but I didn’t listen to it until I received a physical copy from KD himself while visiting the SMS Studios. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t listen to it right off the rip. I think it may have taken me close to a month before I checked it out. The first song that I embraced was of course the title track Soul Inn. What I noticed first was the attitude I embraced while listening. I had to set my seat right. I had to adjust my steering wheel to the proper position. Adjusted my mirrors and proceeded to check into the Soul Inn. With the state of music in the latter part of the decade there was no way possible there was a solid soul piece of work out there. In my opinion Soul Inn is on the same level of UGK’s early work, or even Big Mike’s first solo project. The production of Mick Vegas and what seem to be Birmingham’s best kept secrets B-Phlat, B-Kirk, and Rapheal Andreas, put together a stone soup that provides KD the perfect vehicle. A vehicle that shows a better rounded piece of B’Ham compared to a lot of tunnel vision music coming out the Ham. My personal favorites are Thug Dreamin’, Not Ur Boyfriend, and Take U There. These tracks show that music for people like me, (not in my twenties) still exists. I can still pour a cup of ‘yac, sit at the crib, chill while the kids play the wii, with some decent hip hop flowing through my ear phones. The album ends with an inner city blues feel that only a Birmingham native can relay on tales from the hood. Birmingham going through it too. After that we are left with a ray of hope with the Donny Hathaway assisted “Someday”. From check in to closing the trunk after check out, I enjoyed my authentic country stay at the Soul Inn.
6 Tre Gangsta
When it comes to making a record there is one person around here that is talented on all fronts. Recording, production, rapping and singing 6 Tre G is at the head of the pack. When it comes to street music there isn’t nothing going harder than Boss Muzik. This is an element of Huntsville that most people will not want you to know exist here. But the streets of Huntsville have taken lives and drug people through the gutters from Council Court down the parkway to the top of Meadow Hills. Making it to 106 and Park with “Fresh”, 6 Tre G is gaining mainstream success, but he didn’t make my list for those accomplishments. He made the list cause outside of Fresh; dude got some records that I would put up against any street album from coast to coast. “On a Roll”, takes the listener on the trip of a century with a bit of Huntsville Aura most only know if they’ve been here. “100” is the song I think 6 Tre G shows his most lyrical ability. The way the track meshes with his delivery, Tre is able to settle in and cruise to the last bar. My favorite track on this album is “A Day Off”, a tale of putting the scales up and dipping off to the Westin with the dame of choice for a little R & R. The Cotton Rowe assisted track let me know the group project is going to be a major problem. (In a good way) The album that I have ends with “Rain”. This song is so in-depth with soul reflection and to the point metaphors, the only comparison is Scarface’s tales of his Houstonian living. If you haven’t heard this you slacking.
G-Mane –Sunday on Da Porch
Sunday on the porch in Florence is an experience. I remember sitting on the West Side porches writing rhymes or poems, watching the bootleggers pump bath tub liquor, or discussing the lil squab that went down between the West Side and the boys across the water. The intro “Go Back Home” sounds like it was recorded live from Mount Moriah on West Irvine Street. Mick Vegas holds down the production from beginning to end. “Light Up” is a horn infested warning that lets the listener know that this isn’t your usual musical escapade coming from some young cat trying to get WEUP to play a song on Homegrown. G-Mane is from an area to where North Alabama promoters were bringing the likes of Chaka Khan, Parliament, Rick James, and Prince on the regular. (Young promoters getting an act on a promo date is cool, pack out the VBC is my challenge to you). If the acts were not in town for the weekend, a neighbor’s basement became the show with red lights, top papers, the old school nick bags in the baby yellow envelopes, and the Miller High Lifes. You hear this visualized twenty plus years later through tracks like “Boyz in Da Hood”. On tracks like “Down 4 Mine” you hear the stories of vets from the Copy Cat era and the major sweeps of the West Side in the late nineties. The standout was Trill aggiN Blues 2 where Mick Vegas stirs up something more syrupy than the Houston codeine epidemic. To make it out of Florence, Alabama is probably harder than making it out of some of the larger metros across the nation. This music coming out right now from G-Mane is more than just trying to get the fame. If G doesn’t do it from the Flo, with the exception of Bentley, no one else will. Great Album.
Ben Frank – Scrapbook
I ran into Ben and his crew outside of Best Wings on University back in the summer. He was outside grinding cds with DJ Young Prince when I was giving the “Scrapbook” to check out. A lot of people haven’t heard this, but to my surprise this is a good record from a guy who is best known for producing Yung LA’s “Aint I”. On the “Intro”, Ben explains his life from where it is at right now. Even after producing a track heard all over the world, “Scrapbook” illuminates the steps of a young man still in the position of grinding for more. “Doin Wat I Gotta”, Ben explains the life of a street aggin, fighting with rules of survival, but still battling with the question of why? “Dranking and Smoking” ft Yung Muni and Kuma is another banger that will have any Regal or Cutlass driver feel like the paint job was worth it. The most creative song on the album is “Crazy”. Ben asks the question how a normal person can tell a crazy person they are crazy. His reply, the world is crazy and that’s just normal, so maybe the normal people are really crazy. Crazy, huh? My personal favorite is “Outta Site”. No particular reason. Ben has been on the Huntsville scene since he was like fourteen. Scrapbook is just the first chapter of his young career. To me it was worth the honors of music I checked out this year. By the way, Ben handeled the production.
These are some of my fravorite videos out the city or the area for 2009.
I can’t believe 2009 is almost over. I read a post on Twitter a few days ago that “2009 was the best year of their life”. I don’t know about being the best of year of my life, but I will say 2009 is an important year. Hip Hop in Huntsville had a damn good year. I remember sitting with 6 Tre Gangsta early summer, watching as he focused in on the runway of Boss Muzik, preparing to carve new territory for himself and the city. I sat and watched some other upper classmen (those that were around with us back in later 90’s early 2000 time frame) jump into the big leagues, shouts out to the before mentioned 6 Tre, as well as PRGz and Jackie Chain. In 2009 three deals came through Huntsville. Jive, Universal, and E1 all had a piece of the Rocket City sound. G-Side (I write this with no bias) dropped another gem. On the independent level I don’t know anyone who dropped an album of H.I.P. caliber. I was blessed to see that grow and drop 8 days late. The response has humbled me. The OGs were not left out of the loop. GMane, Tam Tam, and Rudi Deville held their own amongst the newbies out here. It wasn’t just the artist that made 2009 special for Huntsvegas. The boys on the boards supplied an ample amount of production to not only keep the heavy weights in the fight but some new careers were birthed on the high supply of manufactured sonic dope. This alone helped small upstarts hit the block and vie for a chance to be heard. Block Beattaz (G-Side, Jackie Chain, and PRGz), Ben Frank (Yung LA and Lil Ru), Ken P (Artillery South), and Rafael Andres (KD and Nate B’s Extraordianary Ni99a) made sure the sound of Huntsville was secure enough to say that we accepted the challenge.
Hip Hop wasn’t the only thing to propel Huntsville to open some doors, turn some heads, and q-tip some ears. It was the city itself. After meeting so many people over the course of the last twelve months, I invited everyone I met to Huntsville. I wanted people to see exactly where this music was coming from. I was going even pay for some room and board if I had too. (Ask anybody who made the trip) The point of this was for people to report it from the sidewalk instead of from a computer terminal. I wanted people to see the hang ups we have to face, but at the same time see the benefits of doing business in Huntsville. Burn One and Cancer came down in 08 to have a first listen of the Starshipz and Rocketz album. Not at a classy party, but deep in the basement from which it arose. Big Worm and all. These are the encounters that inspired me to start a Huntsville Got Starz. Put on for my city? No. Put my city on. (ST got that from me, #jussayn). So to those that made the trip, thanks.
Huntsville grinded with us. As we entered into national publications and websites from FADER to www.dirtyglovebasterd.net, the city itself was catching time on Forbes, CNN Money, and Kiplingers. The city was coined recession proof and the number one small city to start a business, number ten overall. When people ask us why we are still here, well just ask Forbes for the answer. Even with that being said we have a long way to go in this city. They have closed down three schools and there are talks of teacher layoffs in the Spring of 2010. Projects have been knocked down and the face of our city is changing behind zoning and the lack of urban involvement. Yet we have an 80 million dollar jail and talks of a federal half way house, both on the North Side of the city. Our side of the city. So for those that think we don’t have a story, you don’t know the half. Going into 2010, I say congratulations to all those still pressing in the direction of something better. We still have a long way to go. Huntsville, I’m proud of everybody out here getting it in. I pray for us and the success of our hardwork. I thank yall for just letting me play my part.
This exclusive Huntsville Year End Review will have many parts attached. Like most things Huntsville it is not scripted. It will develop with natural time with stories that shaped 2009. Some you are aware of and others that will be new to you. Special shout out to all the bloggers and real people who pushed me to do this blog. Huntsville Got Starz. Happy New Year. 20WIN equals 2010. (Jimmy Heart Quote)