The Parthenon

“I got sick of class, started makin’ classics.”

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LBF

Student rappers and the local hip-hop scene

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Fans of hip-hop generally consider the genre’s birthplace to be in the Bronx, one of New York City’s five boroughs.

The sights and sounds of the Bronx are presumably 10 times as different as someone may find in Huntington. Though the people and experiences are different, elements of culture remain the same: more specifically, rap music.

Although on a Billboard Top 40 type of level, there has not been a whole lot of success (if any) in the West Virginia rap scene. Most local rappers are more likely to turn to YouTube and Twitter to gain coverage, and, in some cases, it works.

Appalachian rappers have drawn more than 100,000 views on music videos and several thousands of Twitter followers.

While these numbers do not quite stack up to names like Kanye West or Drake, local rappers remain enthusiastic about making a name for themselves.

Marshall University freshman Garrett Wilson, also known as Wilson, started rapping around his freshman year of high school.

Wilson cites people telling him he cannot rap as a big influence and sees the genre as a way to communicate.

“I started realizing that as a rapper, you’re open to a younger generation, and you can say so much more with rap than you can by just saying it.” – Wilson

“I kind of fell in love with the genre,” Wilson said. “I started realizing that as a rapper, you’re open to a younger generation, and you can say so much more with rap than you can by just saying it.”

Wilson has one mixtape and an EP under his belt with a longer EP to come in April. Wilson lived in Ohio but went to school in West Virginia.

“Kids didn’t really know what to say at first,” Wilson said about the people around him who started seeing him not only as a classmate, but also as a rapper. “I had a rap battle when I was a freshman against some senior kid, and I got demolished. I blanked out. I just didn’t know what to say.”

Wilson decided to take a break and progress in his skills and said people started taking him slightly more seriously after his brief hiatus.

The idea of a rapper being from the Tri-state area still threw off some of Wilson’s listeners.

“My goal now is to prove those people wrong,” Wilson said. “I want to show them that it doesn’t matter where you’re from. As long as you have talent and you know how to use it, you can do what you want.”

When asked for his top artists, Wilson mentioned Notorious B.I.G., older Kanye West, Childish Gambino and Chance The Rapper among others.

“Hip-hop is a very personal genre. It’s a way to get out your thoughts and feelings.” – Jacob Smith

While Wilson raps on his own, friends Jacob Smith and Zach Sanger have more experience with the creative process and rapping in a group including Smith and Sanger along with their friend T.J. Billings.

The three formed Alumni while living in the Marshall dorms and attending school together.

“Doing music with other people,” Smith said, “you’re dependent on and kind of feeding off of each other.”

Sanger said the group would come together and write and listen to music.

“As Alumni, I lived a floor above Jacob, so we were always in each other’s rooms, writing and listening to beats,” Sanger said. “We’d set up a beat and rap to it and then get ahold of T.J. to rap on it, ‘cause he was a lot busier than us.”

“It gave me a sense of confidence I didn’t have when I played other music.” – Zach Sanger

Billings moved away from the area, but continued musical pursuits while Smith and Sanger have continued rapping in solo projects.

Smith shares the majority of his singles, and one mixtape, “Quiet In A Crowded Room,” on Soundcloud, while Sanger’s mixtape, “27” is hosted on a publisher’s Bandcamp.

Rapping has influenced Smith and Sanger’s lives.

“Hip-hop is a very personal genre,” Smith said. “It’s a way to get out your thoughts and feelings.”

Sanger said rap does more for him than other music genres.

“You sort of brag in a way,” Sanger said. “It gave me a sense of confidence I didn’t have when I played other music.”

Smith cites inspiration in Childish Gambino, Kevin Abstract and Kanye West while Sanger said Bones, Vic Mensa and Mac Miller give him inspiration.

“I’m fascinated with the idea of taking something that’s already been made and changing the artistic value or making something better out of it.” – Lars Swanson

Jazz studies freshman Lars Swanson said he is used to rapping with at least seven other people at a given time.

“At one point we decided anyone who knew about LBF was in it, but we were like ‘No. That’s too many people to keep track of,’” Swanson said.

He cites his mom as one reason for getting into hip-hop.

“She really liked Fugees and Tribe Called Quest so she got me into them,” Swanson said.

Swanson said rappers and collectives like Odd Future gave him a glimpse into the mixtape world, something he thought he could do for himself.

Lars raps in LBF, or Lesbian Bondage Fiasco (less offensively known as Let’s Be Friends), a group started by his three friends who went to a private school together.

LBF has several singles on Soundcloud and various full-length projects.

“Everyone brings different things to the table,” Swanson said. “It’s harder being all apart because people do things like not checking their email for a month.”

Although a fan of many different musical genres, Swanson said he thinks hip-hop broadens itself.

“The sampling culture, the digging culture, finding things and making an art of it is great,” Swanson said. “That’s one of the biggest reasons I chose jazz studies and am still active in hip-hop because I’m fascinated with the idea of taking something that’s already been made and changing the artistic value or making something better out of it.”

“As I’m making a beat, I’m like ‘This sounds like a song about blank,’ and when I find the word to fit that blank, it goes from there.” – Shelem

Sophomore engineering major Isaac Fadiga raps as Shelem.

Fadiga started playing clarinet in band leading to producing his own beats his freshman year in high school and rapping the very next year.

“I love music,” Fadiga said. “When I started, it was just great.”

Fadiga said he’s into tons of different music, and it is “hard to put a genre on” the “C.F. Medley” he released last year.

He said he is building a small fan base around Huntington.

His first performance ever was a talent show at Marshall in which he took home first place.

Fadiga produces all of his own music. He writes his raps, produces his own beats, records and mixes by himself. He also makes music videos, a process he’s heavily involved in.

“The entire creative process of everything comes as a whole,” Fadiga said. “As I’m making a beat, I’m like ‘This sounds like a song about blank,’ and when I find the word to fit that blank, it goes from there.”

Fadiga is into a lot of different music, but he said hip-hop brings a certain voice.

“There are certain songs you can really relate to because of what’s being said,” Fadiga said. “I didn’t grow up in the hood, but there are certain songs where a rapper can say ‘this happened,’ and I say ‘I feel that!’ and can ultimately relate.”

Fadiga cites his number one favorite hip-hop artist as himself, but Fadiga said his tastes change and cites Ludacris as the inspiration for his like of hip-hop.

Fadiga said J. Cole’s “2014 Forest Hills Drive” album is one of his favorite albums right now.

Although Huntington’s rap scene is not the liveliest scene around, rappers continue to give it their all. Through continued local support, these artists could potentially lead the scene into something it hasn’t seen before, be it commercial success or even just statewide recognition.

William Izzo can be contacted at [email protected]

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1 Comment

One Response to ““I got sick of class, started makin’ classics.””

  1. Wyco on April 7th, 2015 4:17 pm

    Wyco

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