What is the current state of hip-hop music? Is it over-ridden with two-bit rappers, over-shadowed by mediocre dubstep beats, is it just now for the club? Where’s the substance? The mention of a struggle only prefaces the ludicrous spending on YSL, Givenchy, jewels, and “bitches?” What would the forefathers say? Gil Scott-Heron, DJ Kool Herc, Jam Master Jay, hell even Biggie & Pac -would they be impressed? Are the days of hip-hop as progressive, albeit aggressive storytelling long-gone? Is this idea of rap now a vehicle for hype only? Well, through the eyes of budding collective, StarVation, brushing off the glitz of the new is providing a fresh & exciting take on the old.
Made-up of talents from members, Slim DeVito (Brandon Adams), Sling Shot (Gionni Williams), A-Boogie (Arthur Hairston), Jaxx (Reggie Street), and producer Ojizz “On the Track” (Orren Eaton), the group plays heavily to their individual strengths. Forming their own entertainment group, It’z Alive Entertainment, they work to not only just become “rap artists” but “entertainers that will permanently leave a mark on the music industry for a long time to come.” But building their own legacy isn’t all the group want to put on the map. They want to break-through on their own terms while showing that their beloved Maryland as a thriving, hip-hop mecca.
The first track I heard from the group was, “Built Like That (New Age Cypher).” It’s not flashy, but it stands on its own with a special presence, an introductory track that rivals Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear.” The track presents each member and highlights their own delivery, beats, lyrics, and production. It opens with Slim DeVito’s “odds against me” persona that propels the song forward. He embraces his past struggle and uses it to motivate the others to push hard, work hard, play hard. Followed by Sling Shot, whose own style seems more collaborative and in your face. A-Boogie’s delivery sets his verse apart as he seems to meticulously place words together, making each real rhyme count. Rounding out “Built Like That,” is Jaxx, whose flow reminds me of a young Jay-Z & most like those from hip-hop’s glory days.
It’s exciting, a glove thrown in the gauntlet that is the rap game. That cut-throat swagger flows into “What Happened to Hip Hop?” which recalls the brilliance hip-hop presented in the late ’80s early ’90s. It’s these sounds that are the collective’s calling card; it hypes the crowd in its familiarity & old-school spin. The production sounds ready for the turn-table, ready to be scratched & live for the crowd. “Break My High” is unrelenting in its R&B influence, plagued-by the genre’s golden era in the best, possible way. A double-entendre of being high on both life & other, more tangible substances, a Katt Williams clip completes the track’s quality. Each verse calculates but doesn’t force personal pains, providing an actuality of inspiration that reaches beyond making money.
StarVation’s current single, “Casino” is addictive and It’z Alive Entertainment’s only effort to sound commercial. It follows the structure of today’s hip-hop hits in its catchy hook, clever word play, and slick production, but with a more industrial edge. Producer Ojizz draws influence from greats like Quincy Jones, Dallas Austin, and Pharrell Williams and his historical music knowledge is exemplified in his work. While it is a play for a breakthrough, it’s still the group own, playing to their strengths and not necessarily the strengths of the popular genre. It’s this song that is getting the group noticed with substantial play on Flava FM 87.7 in Zambia by Da Jayman, one of the group’s biggest supporters. Additionally, Da Jayman will be interviewing the group on his show in the coming weeks.
Radio play isn’t all that’s in the works for this budding crew. South African promotional company, Vicious Verse Protainment has requested StarVation’s presence on a 5-day tour. President Theodore Sibusiso-Sibeko will be helming the tour with StarVation starting in late October/early November 2012, which will include live television performances and club performances. While the tour benefits the men themselves, they’re also giving back to the youth -lecturing them on the recording business, particularly from the artist’s perspective.
These men are young, with the average age of the collective around 21 years-old, but their youth does come with experience. It’s relatable for youth culture with a nostalgia that older audiences are bound to enjoy. The tracks aren’t perfect, but I don’t think the collective wants them to be. There’s room to improve, but the ground they stand on now is solid. WHEN this brand on hip-hop returns, StarVation will be at the forefront.
*Find Jessi Roti directly on Twitter @jessitaylorRO and be sure to follow @ScreenInvasion!