For a city whose reputation and self-image is built on its identity as the mecca for live music, one would expect Austin’s musical output to be through the roof and that the city’s musicians would be leading artists in every genre. Unfortunately, this is not entirely the case. Though there is no dearth of talented musicians in Austin, Texas, those artists who have hit the truly big-time can be counted on one hand (depending on your criteria—Willie Nelson and Spoon are probably the only inarguable names on the list) and, like the city itself, tend to pride themselves on their weirdness, their refusal to fit into existing notions and norms of music.
Given the massive popularity of hip-hop music in modern culture, it is perhaps (at first glance) no surprise then that the hip-hop community and scene in Austin is not thriving. It’s just like Austin to shun the genre that is dominating popular culture, to stand by their strange strains of psychedelia and celestial pop-funk. That said, to consider hip-hop a genre without room for “weirdness” is a massive disservice to the music and to those artists creating that music, just like excluding an entire aspect to the music industry and culture is a disservice to that community. There are, of course, some very talented rap and hip-hop artists here in Austin— they just need our attention and our support. With The Bishops leading the charge, there are some name emerging from Austin’s hip-hop community with a promising buzz to them: Clee and Ronnie Lott are two of those names. This Thursday, November 16th at Empire Control Room, Vinyl List is going to see what the buzz is all about, as these two musicians have been given the opportunity to open up for Chynna Rogers, who has the notable distinction of being the “first lady” of the A$AP Mob. We invite you to join us in discovering and supporting some of Austin’s best-kept treasures.
Clee is a rarity in the world of rap music for a couple of reasons: as has been mentioned, she is from Austin and (as is by now obvious) she is a woman. This appears to set Clee against the odds from the first moment, but somebody, somewhere has to be the one to change the world for everyone else.Having released a debut EP almost a week ago that showcases her teasing, taunting flow alongside a futuristic selection of electronic beats, Clee is determined to be the one to break the mold.
Being a young musician, Clee’s music is still rough around the urges and perhaps a bit juvenile, a bit too invested in (I think) what the hip-hop industry expects of a young female rapper. She stands at an interesting cross-section of hip-hop and electronic music (see her well-received first single Mean Grrl below), a merging she has not yet mastered but is doing well to negotiate. In those instances when Clee shows her innovative mind and her diverse musical influences, however, like in the chorus of stand-out track Parasite, it is clear that Clee’s ideas are refreshing and much-needed in a quickly-staling hip-hop scene. Rave reviews abound about her enthusiastic and energetic live show; Thursday night will be the time and place to see for ourselves.
Ronnie Lott is perhaps more immediately accessible than his female counterpart considered above, as his music more closely follows the dominant norms and trends of the hip-hop industry. His sound is well-polished and clearly draws from the current generation of superstars—even if Drake’s name wasn’t included on Lott’s SoundCloud bio, his influence can be felt all across Lott’s discography, flexing itself at times in Lott’s cadence but more dominantly in his slower-tempo singing (as in Taste Better). Lott is another young artist working to carve his own path in a world saturated with amateur rappers, but he possesses an immaculate ear for the sounds of success. Though nothing is ever promised in music, all signs point to mainstream success for Lott. All he needs now is for his fan-base to catch up with his own ambition, and that starts here in Austin. Ronnie Lott, for me, represents the best chance of an Austin rapper breaking into the national mainstream.
For these two artists to have the opportunity to open for Chynna Rogers is a big deal; she has been described as “rap’s high priestess” and is poised for major success with her brooding, atmospheric strain of rap. There is a substance and complexity to her music (see asia black market)that is often ignored (or at least under-appreciated) in hip-hop music. Combining her raw, powerful persona with an impressive propensity for networking that has brought her into the inner circle of A$AP Mob and other prominent figures in the music industry, Rogers’ success is a question of when, rather than if. See her now before her market value inevitably multiplies; tickets are available for $10 here.
Photo Credit: Profound Aesthetic Clothing