The debut full-length album from Sumter's Cole Connor is a refreshing offering. In a world overrun with mixtapes, this calculated and well-crafted hip-hop album is a little quirky in all the right ways. Featuring a variety of production styles (including Connor's own on the “Through the Stampede” track the album takes it's name from), Connor shows his ability to adapt his unique voice no matter what the producer throws his way. He launched a video for “kNOwledge,” the first single from the album back in July. Earlier this month he released his second single “For The Money” which features FatRat Da Czar who engineered the album at Columbia, SC's Jam Room Studio.
These two tracks are just the beginning, the rest of the album an equally catchy and impressive showcase of Connor's youthful energy and talent. One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Catharsis” which features Diamond Lou on the hook, but the album is filled with great tunes.
The album is available through iTunes and Bandcamp.
SOCO is one of the many new additions to the Vista neighborhood of Columbia, SC, providing freelance workers and independent contractors a place to work in an open and collaborative environment. Offering daily and monthly rates, you can have a desk to do your work in a beautiful building for a fraction of the cost of renting out your own office.
They are hosting an open house on November 21 for the monthly Refresh Columbia meeting where you can explore Columbia’s new cooperative workspace. Signalnoise Studio founder James White of Nova Scotia (who recently presented at ConvergeSE) will be doing a presentation on the craft of design. He will be telling his personal story while discussing how to build your own personal body of work. Following his presentation will be a performance by Charleston-based Mechanical River, Joel Hamilton’s most recent solo project. SOCO is located at 823 Gervais St. The event starts at 6 p.m. and is free with an RSVP. For more information visit http://soco-work.com.
I sat down with FatRat Da Czar and three of our favorite new artists in SC and talked to them about what go them where they are and where they've drawn their inspiration. Ran Bruce from the Upstate who we highlighted in our last issue for his new album PG-458. Cole Connor from Sumter, SC who just recently finished an album that will be released soon. Grand Royal, a group assembled by the legendary FatRat Da Czar. He sat in on the interview and talked with me about working with these artists over the last year.
“There were elements of them that reminded me of myself,” said FatRat, “and what they were bringing to the table looked a lot like the kind of artists that were going to be here to blzze the new trail. They share with me and keep me sharp, and I am able to share with them and hopefully add soemthing to their development that unlocks doors not onl to their mind but the idea the thay can go as farsa they want to go. I want to be able to throw some gas on the fire and keep it burning. South Carolina is the final frontier when you think of the East coast. That is not to take anything away from people from SC who have made a stab on the national scene, but we haven't made the impact on the nation. We run the race and then hopefully, if you can get as lucky as me, you can run long enough to make it to somebody to hand the baton to. That is what is taking place now. Not that I won't be active, but I'll be active in different ways. One of those ways is making sure this crop feels good and that they don't have to leave this state. That they don't need to go somewhere else to get on. They don't have to leave here. We are going to build this building from the ground up. Bringing the cement and the water and bringing the bricks and we're going to stack this thing brick by brick until we got it exactly how we want it. It makes me feel good that theyre proud to rep SC. It might be slow, it might be country, it might be Southern, it might be racist. It might be all those things. But that doesnt have anyhting to do with what we are going to put in the offering plate of hip-hop.
“I first realized I was going to do music seriously and I first heard my uncle djing I was probably five years old,” says Ran Bruce. “He was cuttin’ up that Wu-Tang, Pac, and all the other stuff that was hot at the time. I just knew there was something different about this music. So I had one uncle that listened to nothing but Southern music all the time. Dungeon Family, The Ghetto Boys, Pimp C. When I listened to them I was more chill, then I’d go hang around my (other) uncle Tommy Ill Fingers and he’d play all the Northern music that was hot. Wu-Tang. He was playing Jay-Z. This is when Rockafella was realy Rockafella. So I see the lyricism of the North, I hear the difference in the beats. All that fused together and help me have a diversified taste for music. When it was finally time for me to step up I kind of knew what was done.”
I don’t want anyone to say I rap like anybody. And when I make my beats, I don’t want you to say this sounds like this and that beat. Ran Bruce sound like Ran Bruce. And Ran Bruce sound like new South Carolina. And new South Carolina going to sound like new South Carolina.”
“Music just kind of happened. I wrote for a long time. Wrote poetry, wrote stories. Relatively rough childhood. Music just happened, it was fate. I was 17, wrote a verse to “This Is Why Im Hot” that was the hot songs at the time. Playing around with a little poetry, got my sister to film it. Every single song I wrote I took seriously from then on. So I put a song on Myspace, this guy sent me a message and said ‘If you have a day job you might want to keep it. You’re the worst rapper I’ve ever seen in my life.’ That hurt my little ego. So I asked the dude “What can I do better? What am I doing wrong?” So he told me what bars were, told me how to write a song, how long is a verse how long is a chorus. As far as starting out, my dad would listen to Johnny Cash. I was with my dad most of the time. Going into high school I started listening to the radio. My mom was really the one that has been keeping me going. Looking back it would be a horrible song, and she’d say “Gosh, that’s the best thing you’ve done! You better keep going, I saw your name in lights when you were a kid. I feel like my whole life, every moment, every experience I look back on it’s crazy, it’s fate. Everything leads to the next, leads to this moment right now. I read a quote by Ernest Hemmingway that said 'It’s not hard to write, you just get on the typewriter and bleed.' It’s painful, it’s happy. you bleed your soul into your music.”
LALISA GENERAL of GRAND ROYAL
“I first fell in love with music when I saw TLC’s music video for “Creep” at the age of 5. I started writing when I was 9 . Started reocridng at 19. My grandmother would always listen to gospel and my grandfather listened to country music. First I use to think it was funny that my grandad would listen to country music, until I actually sat down and listened to the topics and things they would touch on, and that influenced me to write stories of my own. My uncles would listen to Prince and Michael Jackson. As far as my mother, she would mostly listen to R&B and oldies. I kind of tapped into female hip-hop through her. She put me on Salt N Pepa and Queen Latifa. They influenced me as far as woman empowerment and speaking up for women. I picked up most of hip hop on my own. I was little, and Little Kim “Hardcore” came out and my mother wasnt really up on Lil Kim and the lady at the store asked ‘Are you sure you want your baby to have this?’ My mother said, ‘That’s my baby she gets whatever she wants!’ So my mother was driving one night and I was at the house asleep, and she put Lil Kim in she started hearing all these vulgar words, and I woke up looking for it the next morning and she said “I have that away you don’t need to be listening to that.” See your artists as someone that can be the next Tip, or Jay-Z or Queen Latifa. Have as much faith in us as you would a mainstream artists. Without support no one can really make it from out here. You could be the most talented person, but not being heard. I feel like a person should have to reach a million soldiers to get some support. If you hear someone and you think they’re dope, support them. Just beacuse one person may have a dope single, everyone else wants to come in and say ‘Oh I’ll ride with that!” There are people that don’t have a single on the radio, but everything you hear off the CD is a hit.”
VONORRIS of GRAND ROYAL
I first got in touch with the musical scene when my grandfather cut two gospel albums. I started taking it serious when I was in Middle school. I really wanted to start to perfect my craft as a college student. It took me a while to get into my own, and my mother would always tell me ‘Be yourself, be yourself, be yourself. My dad, he’s diehard country. His favorite artists to this day is Garth Brooks and Willie Nelson. He told me ‘country music always has substance.’ My mother always told me you never want to write anything that doesn’t have any meaning behind it that you aren’t proud of. There is power behind words. You look at a preacher, there is power behind his words, that is his art form. Any true music form, if you are really putting substance behind your words, I feel that takes that art form into a visual. There is a song out there that soemone can relate to. Envision what you are goign through, what you’ve seen waht you’ve done. Whn you love somehting, Im not in it for a relationship. WHen you love something from your heart and soul is two different things. Hip-hop is my soulmate. It’s my escape route. It’s my lunch. It’s my air. I feel the Lord put hip-hop in my life to be that. Everythign around that I am, I go to work every day 9-5 for hip hop.
You can catch FatRat Da Czar, Ran Bruce, Cole Connor and Grand Royal performing in Charleston on Friday, November 15th with Benjamin Starr at the Tin Roof in West Ashley.
A little different than Starr's album Guns & Roses, the 843 emcee reloaded with eight new tracks featuring six original productions by Kurious George, DannyDee, Rill Williams and The Boyscout. “Hennessy at Midnight” features the crooning of R&B artist Vega Shaw and wrestles with “UNSUNG” as the heavyweight champion on the album. Benjamin Starr's flow is smooth and fluid with just a little bit of that old school soul vibe. We reached out to Benjamin Starr to ask a few questions about his new album.
“With all respect to other artists that are from here, I feel like South Carolina's new generation of emcees (including myself) have to recreate the scene. From the subject matter to the sound, a lot of the music is different than what's been given in the past, and a lot of the fans here have, in a sense, lost hope that we'll be able to place a hip-hop artist on the national scene that can stand up artistically to what other hubs of hip-hop, i.e. NY, Cali, Chicago, ATL, etc., are producing. It’s tough, but I feel like with each fan I reach with my music, fans that are from South Carolina, I have an opportunity to change their mind, gain their respect/support, and (along with other new artists) help build a scene here, rich in integrity and art.”
What makes this new EP The Souloist different from your last album Guns & Roses?
What regional artists are you digging on right now?
Where do you find your beats and production for your tracks?
You can catch him with FatRat Da Czar, Ran Bruce, Cole Connor and Grand Royal at The Tin Roof in Charleston, SC on Friday, November 15th.
Randy Bruce’s album PG-458 is a refreshing break from the onslaught of mixtapes that seem to dominate the current hip-hop climate. What makes Randy Bruce stand out is his strong hold on the doubletime technique. He seems to really hit his doubletime-stride on “Learn Today,” but “Cheap.Drums.Rich.Message” shows strength in it’s very selective and dynamic use of doubletime, making for a killer closer and arguably the best cut on the album.
He produced half the tracks on the album, but Tall Black Guy’s production on “Richland” is without-a-doubt the best on the album, making “Richland” a perfect selection for Randy Bruce’s album single.
Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion are no stranger to SC, Irion being a Columbia-native. The married duo continue the folk legacy of Woody Guthrie, and they teamed up with Wilco member Jeff Tweedy fo the album’s production. Sarah Lee and Johnny’s songwriting style on Wassaic Way finds a new level of maturity, and the small traces of Tweedy’s production sprinkled throughout never seems to overshadow the heart of the track. “Circle Souls,” “Not Feeling,” “Wherever She Is Its Spring” and “Probably Gone” are my favorites on the album, but it’s solid through and through.
10.17.13 // Lambert’s // Austin, TX
10.18.13 // Fitzgerald’s // Houston, TX
10.19.13 // Chickie Wah Wah // New Orleans, LA
10.22.13 // Smith’s Olde Bar // Atlanta, GA
10.23.13 // The Evening Muse // Charlotte, NC
10.24.13 // Casbah // Durham, NC
10.25.13 // Jack of the Wood // Asheville, NC
10.26.13 // Conundrum // Columbia, SC