Record builds up and brings together Denton’s diverse hip-hop scene
Keldrick Scott doesn’t claim to be a rapper.
The Denton High School alumnus doesn’t count himself among the city’s many musicians.
The CEO of the newly minted Denton label Gitmo said he just had a vision and some hustle.
“I can’t rap. I can’t sing. I can’t produce,” Scott said. “My concept was breaking barriers and building bonds. I know all these artists and I know their music. There was a lot of division in the Denton rap scene. A lot of people on the scene wanted to work with certain people. I wanted to get people to work with people they’d never worked with. And I wanted to get people to work with producers they’d never worked with.”
It turns out that Scott either has good instincts or missed a calling in politics.
Gitmo’s debut release, Breakin’ Barriers: Buildin’ Bonds, is a strapping record of intentional hip-hop made by young men (and women) who crave precise verse and integrity. There’s no big pimping or fake stunting, just fiery upstart artists who can turn their less-than-glamorous hustle into the kind of conviction that shows you the riches through their rags.
Scott said he framed the project as a favor at first, but paid for talent and studio time, too. Three partners financed the record, and Scott said the project took 11 months in part because they were paying $60 for a beat, $100 for mixing services and more for studio time.
“We did the first song, and let me tell you, Facebook is amazing,” Scott said. “Once we started to do tracks, the artists started talking about it on Facebook and people started showing up.”
Scott didn’t divulge any rivalries, but said Breakin’ Barriers did just that.
“When we started, there were some artists who didn’t like each other, who had a history of threatening each other,” he said.
Scott said his concept was to avoid making a mix tape.
“They didn’t submit songs,” he said. “If you wanted to be on a track, you had to show up. We’d all meet. I’d be like, ‘You want to make a song? We’re meeting up.’ The artists talked about their ideas. They’d write a few bars and another artist would say, ‘Try this.’ If it was good enough, they got on the track. If it wasn’t, they didn’t. But they could keep trying. None of them wanted to be the weakest guy on the track. Hip-hop guys are good followers.”
Scott recruited accomplished local producers to build the music: Izzy “The Kid,” Shagg, Apollo Bangz, TLit, Digo, Ritchy Flo, Trae “THEEEE” Hitmakah, Quicksaand and Stu Brootal.
Scott said they made 36 songs and put 19 on the record, plus an intro. The rappers take turns proclaiming their primacy on the local scene (“The Last Supper,” “Loyalty and Respect” and “Ball in My Zone”) and take a few breaks to suspend the jockeying for old-school feel-good numbers ( “Light Up a Blunt,” “Pour It Out” and “One of a Kind”).
The record is a sampler of Denton’s old guard hip-hop — with Pudge of Fab Deuce, Stu Brootal and Ernie McCrackin’ writing bulletproof bars. Southeast Denton gets good representation on the record, with the likes of more hardcore rap from Smitty and Whoa seasoning the record with old-school chest thumping.
AV the Great teases listeners with gold-standard bars, but doesn’t eclipse his peers. You end up wanting more of Denton’s hip-hop golden child, but AV was understandably reserving energy for his third album due out at the end of the month. Likewise for Wreckamic, a guy with impeccable flow and writing chops. Rising Denton hip-hop artist Wild Bill’s poetry and pinpoint meta-cultural references are as sharp as ever.
Breakin’ Barriers brings a diverse crew together, but the roundtable construction of the record makes for a cohesive product.
Scott pays the bills working in home health, but said he’s got a roster of talent signed to Gitmo. He said he feels like the project was a way of making a contribution to a city that set some hopes on him. Scott graduated from Denton High in 1998, and played football on scholarship for the University of Minnesota for a year (“Man, I love the cold,” he said).
“I just woke up one day and didn’t want to do that anymore. I’d been having issues with the coach,” Scott said. “I decided to come home. A lot of people probably think I didn’t do right.”
Gitmo seems poised for a future, even if he’s not making money yet.
“There are 20 more rappers who want to be on the next one,” Scott said.
Breakin’ Barriers will be available on iTunes and at Recycled Books Records CDs.
“There’s unity in the scene now,” Scott said. “Maybe not all the issues got settled, but they at least got set aside.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Follow her on Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.
TRACK BY TRACK
Various artists, Breakin’ Barriers: Buildin’ Bonds
“Last Supper” — This trick delivers Denton’s hip-hop strong suits. Ritchy Flo deals a full house of winning beats, a rhythm anchored by a chime-like, pendulum swing of a beat. Flo adds in a twitchy electro rattle and blunted bumping drumbeat. Flo’s beat inspires a triumvirate of young flowmasters Wild Bill, Buk Baby and Masa Lopez. Wild Bill claims his space with confidence, asking, “What’s your bread count?” Buk Baby goes on a tear of first-rate verse, working the metaphor over for all he can (“you trying to get a slice, we going for the loaf”), then passes the baton to Lopez.
“Pocket Full of Knots” — Pudge opens the track with tricky rapid-fire rhyme about the life of a rapper who isn’t rolling in cash, but isn’t low on grind, either. Stu Brootal eases through the speed-round without a hitch, letting LOC and Duke pack heat with more aggressive rhyming. King Pap doesn’t disappoint, ticking off the hard work it takes to be in the game: early mornings, naysayers, lackluster props from name-droppers. If this is hip-hop by committee, it’s an example of how to punch the clock proper.
“One of a Kind” — You know how Big Boi seems to make melodies without breaking a sweat? If there’s one thing Breakin’ Barriers lacks, it’s singing. Close to the end of the record, Rockbaby, Buk Baby and LOC break off some sweet, soulful singing. The trio takes a page out of a slambook by Prince and Andre 3000, laying down some lazy falsetto (you can nearly see them lounging through a blunt-fueled haze) between the bars of boss rhyme.
— Lucinda Breeding
The artists on Breakin’ Barriers: Buildin’ Bonds are:
AV the Great