This past week I had the privilege of getting unbanned from Facebook AND playing three shows during SXSW in Austin, Texas. This was our fourth year playing at SXSW, and each experience has been unique and unparalleled in furthering my appreciation for hip hop. Since this is a #TBT post, my intent is to reflect on our first year at SXSW: 2011.
Before I could jump into the SXSW artist showcase full force, I had the good fortune of making a few extra appearances. Upon arriving in Austin, I learned that BSidesAustin was under way and was invited to stop by. Arriving toward the end of the event, the staff — including Snipe, @diami03, and Jayson Street — hooked up a PA in the back and an impromptu Dual Core show got under way.
After BSides we crashed attended the icanhazcheezburger/Bing party where Microsoft unknowingly gave us VIP access, repeatedly. Social Engineering ftw! It was an unexpected and fun start to the event; which is not unlike most trips I’ve taken.
I had another scheduled show with C|NET prior to the proper Artist Showcase. This show had everything: free tacos, open bar, Felicia Day, and a fantastic audience. At the top of the excitement list was rapping; with meeting Felicia Day being a close second. The show went really well and was tons of fun, then after us the hosts had Ms. Day for an interview. Once the interview concluded, she came upstairs to the “green room” area to hang out.
I remember trying to work up some sort of introduction that was at least half-way clever without being randomly weird… then getting nervous as I was drawing a blank… then just standing there and doing nothing. Eventually Felicia Day left and I didn’t even get to meet her because I clammed up. It was such a strange feeling. I had met famous people before — no problem. I had just shared my rap music with a crowd of complete strangers — no problem. The previous night I had snuck walked into a Microsoft party uninvited — no problem. At that point, I resolved to not let myself be intimidated by someone’s status/persona and to just meet the people I wanted to meet. It’s not always the easiest thing, but that specific experience drives me to be more personable in overcoming the introverted aspect of me that loves to sit at my desk all day.
2011 was a highpoint of collaboration for us with other nerdcore artists. We were on For The Gamers with MegaRan and Schaffer, All The Coins with The ThoughtCriminals, and Zero Day with MC Frontalot and ytcracker (above) just to name a few. At this point I felt confidently established in the nerdcore scene, but still had something to prove with it being my first appearance at SXSW.
I honestly don’t remember everything about my show in the Artist Showcase (lots of shows, it happens); but one thing I do remember is getting to rap in almost everyone else’s set. Collaboration among my contemporaries in nerdcore had been commonplace since the release of Zero One in 2007. Sharing the stage repeatedly with everyone in 2011 really cemented how ingrained I was in the nerdcore scene. It was a pretty fantastic realization.
Thanks to ytcracker’s friend Rory, I also got to meet and interview one of my favorite rappers: Pharoahe Monch. While the interview was mainly about Monch’s (at the time) upcoming album, We Are Renegades, he did ask me about my cinci2600 t-shirt and hacking, which was pretty cool. I had a photo of this but now I can’t find it
Each year at SXSW has been its own set of bonus rounds in that I enter the week of SXSW feeling like I’ve got everything under wraps, only to leave the week of SXSW with a whole new slew of influences and music to check out. Obligatory + voluntary shoutout to Lynda who makes SXSW happen for all us nerd rappers each year. I would have missed out on all these experiences without her <3
You can keep up on our current experiences, SXSW or otherwise, via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (assuming I’m not banned again).
Not specifically music-related but we got a shout-out in the AltSci Concepts Computer Journal. The piece by Javantea, titled Enumerating DNSSEC NSEC and NSEC3 Records, starts with a quote from our song All The Things. Pretty cool and possibly helpful when doing recon on your next pentest
Cincinnati is the backyard of the south. Walk around downtown and you’ll hear down south beats pumping out of big body cars. Rappers and rap crowds in Cincinnati are a mixed bag. A lot of us grew up listening to east coast and midwest underground hip hop, which you hear in our flow. But plenty of rappers in Cincinnati spit with a twang that you’d expect to find in Atlanta or New Orleans.
Playing shows is primarily about facilitating the crowd in having a good time. Part (Most) of that is playing beats people enjoy. I have a wide taste in hip hop which suited me perfectly for playing in front of the mixed crowds in and around Cincinnati. I would rap over a popular underground or east coast hip hop beat, then cut and mix in a popular down south rap beat. Audiences loved it and the variety helped engage everyone at the show/party. One of my favorites was to cut into the Lil Jon remix of Lean Back.
Now I wish I could sound like a savant and claim Underground Kingz was my first exposure to music from the south, but they honestly weren’t a name to me until they were on Big Pimpin’ with Jay-Z. Truth be told, I’d heard UGK long before that on songs from No Limit Records — I just didn’t realize it.
No Limit Records
TRU 2 Da Game was the first No Limit Records release I picked up. The beats and hooks were catchy, the slang was unique, and the simple raps made the songs easy to memorize and recite. I had just started rapping and this seemed like easy mode for getting some practice with flow and breath control. About a year or two later, Master P released Make Em Say Ugh and suddenly everyone was using the slang I’d been listening to for a while (remember being “bout it (bout it)”?).
Third Coast / Ghost Coast
Another guy I programmed with on AOL, who went by Cobra, lived in Texas and would send me all kinds of hip hop from Houston aka the “third coast”. I will sadly admit that aside from a few features, I did not get much exposure to Scarface or Geto Boys. But Cobra introduced me to some other Houston artists long before they ever became famous — rappers like Lil Flip, Paul Wall, and Chamillionaire (who was my favorite out of the list). You might recognize Chamillionaire’s name from the hit Ridin’ Dirty which he made years later. Cobra also introduced me to DJ Screw who created the unique style of “chopped and screwed”. Plenty of unique sounds came out of Texas that helped shape my impressions and tastes in hip hop.
Everyone knows and loves Outkast so I don’t really have anything special to add about them. Each release of theirs was unique and special to me, and it was impossible to admire the levels and variety of artistic creativity that I could never develop. Years later I still listen to Outkast and enjoy the timeless music they created.
Ludacris is probably my favorite rapper of all time from the south. He had such a fresh sound, bold voice, and clever lyrics to boot. The lyrics and his innovative cadences and rhyme schemes were a welcomed anomaly as I had come to mostly associate lazy rhymes and simple hooks from the south by this point. Additionally, Luda had this incredibly fun energy that reminded me of Redman (who was one of my favorites early on).
On top of all that, Ludacris was a DIY artist before the internet facilitated services like iTunes and YouTube. Luda created his own independent label DTP Entertainment and self-published his first album. I was always wary of the record industry, but seeing Luda’s independent success before joining Def Jam South gave me hope that I wouldn’t ever need a label (and we haven’t thus far).
The dirty south shaped my perception and experience in hip hop in some pretty profound ways. While we don’t really have any down south tracks on our albums, I still have built my perspective and creativity with hip hop on a foundation which includes the lessons from my exposure with the south, musically and logistically. Also, the Ludacris album Back For The First Time is a classic. His follow-up Word of Mouf is solid as well.