Hip hop alive and well in re­gion, de­spite strug­gles

Hip hop artists say South­ern Maryland isn’t a rap­per’s par­adise just yet

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: Tif­fIndyNews

Mu­si­cal tal­ent is hard to find, but hav­ing a good ear and an ex­tra­or­di­nary sound can land new artists a record deal, fame, for­tune and a loyal fan base.

An up-and-com­ing artist can only dream of the many pos­si­bil­i­ties. In 2016, the rap­pers in the lime­light are Jay-Z, Drake, Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy. In a mu­sic in­dus­try that is so di­verse, where do the rap­pers from South­ern Maryland fit in?

The South­ern Maryland re­gion is known for pro­duc­ing some highly rep­utable, award-win­ning, chart-top­ping mu­si­cians such as Chuck Brown, Good Char­lotte and Christina Mil­ian, among oth­ers. How­ever, when it comes to the hip-hop genre, the re­gion’s rap­pers are of­ten over­looked and un­der­es­ti­mated.

For many lo­cals, the stereo­typ­i­cal mu­sic pref­er­ences are blue­grass, light rock and coun­try. Al­though South­ern Maryland is in­creas­ing in di­ver­sity, one would ask, “Where is the hip-hop? Where are the en­ter­tain­ing rap­pers who spit words like fire and lead their gen­er­a­tion with pow­er­ful words and lyri­cal sto­ries that form a his­toric move­ment?”

South­ern Maryland artists such as Re­lentlezz, Munch-Dog, Tito Starr and Yung Boi are work­ing hard at their mu­si­cal craft to con­tinue mak­ing the re­gion’s hip-hop stand out to not just the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., metropoli­tan area, but to the en­tire na­tion.

Re­lentlezz, a Wal­dorf rap­per who has been per­form­ing for al­most two decades, said the South­ern Maryland hip-hop scene is ex­pand­ing, but it’s just a bad mar­ket. Hav­ing worked with leg­endary artists such as Bone Thugs-N-Har­mony, Re­lentlezz is re­garded as one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced hip-hop artists in the re­gion, in ad­di­tion to Wal­dorf rap­per Tito Starr.

“We don’t have peo­ple com­ing to the area to scout new tal­ent and most peo­ple kind of brush you off lo­cally,” Re­lentlezz said. “Peo­ple tend to judge your ca­reer off of ra­dio play, but they don’t re­al­ize that there are a lot of artists with­out ra­dio play who are tour­ing the world. Hope­fully one day the South­ern Maryland hip-hop scene will get no­ticed and re­ceive recog­ni­tion for their artistry. There are good artists out here but most peo­ple would have to dig to find out about them.”

St. Mary’s County rap­per MunchDog said this re­gion will soon be a place the in­dus­try looks to for the next big sound.

“It’s like we’re in­flu­enced from both the south side and the north side of the na­tion since we are smack dab in be­tween,” Munch-Dog said. “I think we come up with some very good mu­sic. It’s like a blend from both sides com­ing into this one area and I like it. We have peo­ple like Tito Starr con­stantly show­cas­ing the tal­ent in South­ern Maryland with thou­sands of views on YouTube and one of his songs hav­ing been in ro­ta­tion on WPGC 95.5. That was a big deal for all of the rap­pers here in South­ern Maryland.”

Munch-Dog, who has been per­form­ing for 15 years, said this is one of the best places to scout for tal­ented rap­pers be­cause it has a bit of ev­ery­thing. He said that when he started rap­ping, there wasn’t even a South­ern Maryland hip-hop scene and de­scribed the re­gion as “a se­cluded area that is hard for many peo­ple to find.” Be­cause of that, the cur­rent rap artists need to ven­ture out to get their mu­sic heard.

Samir Spooner, also known as Tito Starr, agreed that the lo­cal scene is grow­ing — but dis­agrees with how pro­mot­ers pitch an artist’s mu­sic. He said pro­mot­ers have been in­ef­fec­tive at plan­ning events that can help cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal artists.

“Lo­cal pro­mot­ers need to start pro­mot­ing real tal­ent and not just be­ing about the money,” Tito Starr said. “The tal­ented artists also need to link up and squeeze the wannabes off the scene, be­cause they are mak­ing us look bad wear­ing all this fake jew­elry, rap­ping about lies, and bring­ing down the value of what so many South­ern Maryland artists have worked hard for.”

Tito Starr said the South­ern Maryland hip-hop scene has changed over time, to the point where lo­cal rap­pers are fi­nally be­ing put on the map. He has had ex­po­sure him­self on ra­dio shows like “DMV Spot­light” on WPGC 95.5 and the “EZ Street” show on WKYS 93.9. He also pro­motes his own group, Down Da Road Boyz, that is full of di­verse rap tal­ent from around the re­gion.

“There is a lot of garbage out there, a lot of haters, and a lot of folks just want­ing to rap be­cause it seems like the thing to do to get girls or some­thing,” Tito Starr said.

He said there are too many “fake it ‘til you make it” rap­pers, and not enough qual­ity mu­sic.

“Be­ing a South­ern Maryland artist is hard be­cause we have to not only be real with what we do, but we need to have real tal­ent be­cause we are looked at as ‘coun­try’ or slow, so we have a lit­tle more of a hur­dle to climb than other artists from ‘hoods known for mu­si­cians and artists,” Tito Starr said. “Me and a cou­ple of oth­ers have worked hard to gain the re­spect of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., metropoli­tan artists. I do think we are con­tin­u­ing to gain ex­po­sure, but it’s crazy how your own don’t sup­port you as much as oth­ers as far as D.C. or Bal­ti­more.”

Calvert County rap­per Yung Boi had lived in Lusby and Prince Fred­er­ick all his life, but re­cently moved to Wal­dorf just to take his rap ca­reer to new lev­els. Wal­dorf has be­come the cen­tral area for all South­ern Maryland artists to record, per­form and pro­mote their mu­sic. He said he felt squeezed out of his home county in or­der to make his mu­sic.

“You can’t per­form a lot of hip-hop in Calvert County be­cause there’s no plat­form for us to show our art,” he said. “There’s no Spice Lounge or Howard The­ater where we can go do an event and per­form. ... If you aren’t do­ing coun­try mu­sic and rock ‘n’ roll then they won’t play your mu­sic or wel­come your type of mu­sic in Calvert County. I un­der­stand that a lot of artists and a lot of rap mu­sic or hiphop brings a lot of neg­a­tive at­ten­tion me­dia-wise — but not all hip-hop is bad.”

Each rap­per agreed that the only way they were able to suc­ceed was by build­ing their own buzz, per­form­ing in Wash­ing­ton and out of state.

Crank Lu­cas, a lo­cal pro­ducer, rap­per and YouTube sen­sa­tion in Prince Ge­orge’s County, knows all about build­ing buzz in the metro area. He pro­duces for many South­ern Maryland mu­si­cians and cred­its artists like Tito Starr and Re­lentlezz for keep­ing hip-hop alive in the re­gion. Lu­cas said ev­ery artist in South­ern Maryland knows each other — and only a hand­ful truly stand out.

“The South­ern Maryland artists need to travel to pro­mote their sound be­cause they don’t have their own plat­form like a ra­dio sta­tion, tele­vi­sion sta­tion or in­ter­net plat­forms that fo­cus on artists down there,” Lu­cas said.

He added that many peo­ple barely know about the DMV hip-hop scene, but noted he was smart enough to uti­lize the in­ter­net to help get his brand out there.

“South­ern Maryland artists are go­ing to need to be more cre­ative in their mar­ket, how they mar­ket their brand and the type of mu­sic they make, be­cause a lot of artists don’t re­ally stand out enough to draw at­ten­tion to South­ern Maryland,” he said. “Back in the day, hip-hop stood out in South­ern Maryland, and with more hard work and cre­ativ­ity the South­ern Maryland rap­pers can make that the case again.”

South­ern Maryland rap­pers rep­re­sent a valu­able piece of the world’s hip-hop cul­ture as they use pow­er­ful lyrics to dis­cuss crime, per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences and com­mon is­sues within their home­towns. They un­der­stand that in or­der to im­pact the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional hip hop mu­sic fan base, they must re­main united and sup­port one an­other.

“We as artists need to stick to­gether, keep the move­ment strong, keep do­ing what we’re do­ing and then South­ern Maryland hip hop can be the next best thing in the mu­sic in­dus­try,” Yung Boi said. “It all comes down to the South­ern Maryland hip-hop com­mu­nity work­ing to­gether.”


Tito Starr, a Wal­dorf rap­per, records verses for his new track, “Turn Up,” at Night­sky Stu­dios in Wal­dorf.

St. Mary’s County rap­per Munch-Dog per­forms last month dur­ing a stu­dio ses­sion at Fire­drop Pro­duc­tion Stu­dios. He has been on the South­ern Maryland hip hop scene for 15 years and sees this as the next area that the mu­sic in­dus­try looks to for tal­ented...

Wal­dorf rap­per Re­lentlezz, left, St. Mary’s rap­per Munch-Dog and pro­ducer Don Dixon work dur­ing a record­ing ses­sion last month at Fire­drop Pro­duc­tion Stu­dios.

Wal­dorf rap­per Tito Starr records last week the rest of his new track, “Turn Up,” at Night­sky Stu­dios, one of the most pop­u­lar stu­dios in South­ern Maryland.

Calvert County rap­per Yung Boi holds a stu­dio ses­sion re­cently at TLOM ENT, per­form­ing a track called “Not Signed Yet” from his new mix tape.

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