Black Violin performs at The Source/SOBs/Muve Music Showcase, SXSW 2013
As you've seen this week on Gowhere, we've been posting our recaps and videos from an amazing week last week in Austin, Texas. I'd like to build on our SXSW coverage by putting the spotlight on the one artist that provided the most powerful first impression amongst our team: Black Violin.
One of the core draws of SXSW is to discover new artists for the first time. And it didn't take too long for us to find a new artist to put on our radar. About five minutes, in fact. Black Violin was the very first artist we saw at SXSW, ha! We arrived Wednesday night and headed first to The Source/SOBs Showcase. As we got settled in, the first artist we see on stage is this Florida collective that's part hip hop, part orchestra, part pop/rock, part... well, most everything. The speakers were turned all the way up, which allowed for the booming hip hop beats and live string instruments to be heard crisply into our ears, with vibrations that were quickly felt throughout our bodies. Seriously, the music moved us... to the point that we were talking amongst each other before the first song ended, and then raced to be the first one to tweet and Instagram this new group to the gowherehiphop account, ha.
Their live show was entertaining from beginning to end and featured a mix of sounds and genres that I haven't quite heard executed like Black Violin displayed that night. All of which, I must emphasize, boomed through the sound system and created an infectious hype throughout the increasing members of the crowd.
So naturally, the next step was to look these guys up. And Black Violin has already built up quite the resume... they just wrapped up a studio session with Travie McCoy, performed at the Inauguration Ball a couple months back, opened for Kendrick Lamar, and most recently got a shoutout from Wyclef that very night later on in the showcase (it's the first words he says in our newest video).
I gravitated toward Black Violin's most recent release, Classically Trained, which has been a staple in my work playlist since coming back to Chi this week. Everyday I give the 11-track project a run through or two. Their description below perfectly describes the project, for which I'd like to add features a perfect balance of complimentary vocals on top of the primary string and hip hop sounds of the production. Simply put, it's a must-listen from beginning to end. Some of my *Tibs Favs. include "Opus", "Virtuoso", "Rock Anthem", and "Go" (which has a John Legend feel, vocally).
The only thing left to say is press play!
2 parts Classical, 2 parts Pop, with a splash of hip-hop, served chilled–“Classically Trained” is a genre-busting collage that pushes the limits of music and dares listeners to think outside the box. For their sophomore release, Black Violin front men Kev Marcus (violin) and Wil B (viola), cleverly feature smooth verses and symphonic hooks underscored by an array of rhythmic grooves, ranging from pop-rock cadences to trunk rattling bass.
In 2012, we witnessed how a simple homemade YouTube video could turn an obscure young artist into a radio frequent, with a major record deal (a la Chief Keef). In 2013, I believe a few up and coming artist will continue to rise from being local wonders to gaining national attention; among them is a young, hungry artist from the "Low End" section of Chicago, named Spenzo. His early interest in the music industry could be accounted to the fact he was raised by a well known Chicago DJ. But as a 17 year-old high school student, Spenzo has drummed up his own buzz that is impressive for an artist his age.
So what’s all the buzz about? The hip-hop scene in Chicago is usually hit or miss. Varying factors contribute to the reception and popularity of an artist. Spenzo could very well end up being another “hometown hero” as he is a native of the city with ties that can be traced through the Chicago music circuit. In addition to his firmly planted roots, Spenzo has a unique music style that is noteworthy in comparison to his peers. Although he was raised in an area known for its gun violence, drug trafficking, and gang activity, Spenzo’s music doesn’t reflect or glorify that lifestyle. In 2012, a video was released via his YouTube channel for a track entitled “For My Set”; however, after only 24 hours the video was removed due to the response it generated. Spenzo was interviewed and expressed his disdain for the video carrying a negative image and being seen as a “hood anthem”. That situation alone sets Spenzo apart from many of his peers trying to break into the industry.
"...live above the influence. I never felt like I had to dumb myself down. I know I can do better than that...It’s just not me; I’ll never talk about shooting because that’s not me." - Spenzo
To many new artists, any publicity, rather it be negative or positive, is good publicity. Spenzo seems to know the difference; furthermore, he is not interested in just capitalizing on what’s hot right now. Spenz focuses more on making quality music for his fans and giving on his personality and feelings on ever track, that his generation can relate to and enjoy.
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Spenzo's most popular video "Powerful"
In this game longevity is bred by individuality, so it’s refreshing to see a new face with no intention of hoping on the “Drill Music” bandwagon. And with no desire to build his brand around what’s popular at this time, paired with his youthful energy and lyrical capabilities, Spenzo’s music has built up a huge fan-following and attention among many industry execs and artist in a short timeframe. With over 2 million views of his YouTube videos and respected artists, such as Lupe and Kendrick Lamar, speaking about his talent, multiple labels have shown interest in the Chicago artist as his music(talent and lyrical ability) continues to speak for itself.
Spenzo on MTV's Rap Fix
At my first glance, Spenzo seemed like the average high school rapper, just having fun making music. But the more I paid attention to his content and purpose, I realized that he does make a conscious effort to stand out amongst his peers and build his own brand. He represents the fun and authentic side of hip hop, which as of lately has been lost in the midst of dope dealing and gun slinging of most of today's rap music. In one of his most popular videos called “Go In freestyle”, you can’t deny this young man’s presence and raw talent.
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Spenzo "Go In Freestyle"
Paired with his most recent “Chi State of Mind” video, you can see a “true to themselves” MC that has a story to tell and wants to continue growing, while remaining versatile as an entertainer. Definitely one of my personal favorite artists on the come up, I hope to see big things from this young rapper in 2013.
Murph Watkins, Chicago’s next big thing? I first came across Murph Watkins about a year ago being featured on a song alongside fellow Chicago rappers Wheatie and The Boy Illinois. After hearing his verse I immediately heard similarities Curren$y, laid back flow but lyrics that not only stuck out but stuck with you. After staying up on his music, the past couple months I’ve been seeing what looks like the ground work being laid for Murph to start building his success. After releasing a dope EP titled The Plague, getting consistent support from the blogs, some solid visuals, and most recently releasing a new track that wasn’t featured on The Plague Murph is on the brink of being next in Chicago. If you’re unfamiliar with Murph Watkins here are some of his own words introducing himself.
"Rap music is entertainment, and an art form that takes serious skill to be considered great... I believe I have serious skill so there were no other options."
Where are you from?
I'm from Chicago, Southside, 79th... Just recently moved from the Hundreds...
How long have you been rapping?
Since I was 11.... So 11 years now lol
Who are your musical influences?
Nas, Jay-Z, and Eminem... Pretty cliché but those 3 are geniuses in their own right.
What’s next for Murph Watkins?
I plan on dropping a few projects in 2013 as well as some CRAZY DOPE ASS VISUALS...
Gowhere's new motto is "Gowhere You Love", which is basically people doing whatever it is that they love to do. So it would be safe to say that for you that would be rap, so what is it about rap that you love so much to make you want to make a career and life out of it?
Rap music is entertainment, and an art form that takes serious skill to be considered great... I believe I have serious skill so there were no other options. I'm going where I'd love to be... Which is to the top of the billboard charts (while keeping it pure).
Make sure to check out some of Murph’s newest releases: