8/15/18 - Omaha, Nebraska
Day 23: 14th Interview, 14th State
While I thought finding an artist in Omaha would be a challenge, a few hashtags on Twitter, and I stumbled on a Soundcloud post, a track titled Drowning by Naylon. The cover image caught my eye and it had several thousand plays at the time, so I was intrigued. Her voice begins around 25 seconds in, and it immediately draws you, powerful and seductive with a lot of soul. If there was a comparison I’d say a mix between Ariana Grande and SZA, and coincidentally enough she’s got clips of her doing covers of their songs and killing it! Check em' out, including more covers by Frank Ocean, Kehlani and more including some originals on her YouTube.
As good as her voice is, I was surprised to see she only had a few tracks on Soundcloud. But no worries, she teased of new material in 2019.
“...be on the look out for some cool new music, some cool songwriting...”
We met up and did the interview at Edward Zorinsky Lake Park. It was raining all morning long, which stopped right before we linked up, so perfect timing. The only caveat was bee’s kept attacking her during the interview and a few deers got curious as well. Other then that, it was dope getting to know Naylon a bit more, hearing about some of her previous work, upcoming plans, her inspiration, some of her favorite musicians she likes to listen to and see live, and apparently concerts get to her, but in a good way. When responding to why she cries a lot during concerts, she said:
“It’s just a surreal feeling to see people giving their all, and doing what they love.. its inspiring”
She credited Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift as her two favorite concerts she ever saw live. Maybe one day sooner then later, they’ll share the same stage. One artist she did have the opportunity to share a stage with, was none other then grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Logic. Earlier this year Logic sold out a 2018 Spring Concert hosted by Mavericks Productions at the Baxter Arena in University of Omaha, the same University Naylon attended. They wanted someone from the school to open for Logic, and out of the 12 thousands students enrolled they of course chose Naylon, who at the time went by Maria Corinne.
Below is her cover of Thinking Bout You by Frank Ocean
From growing a fan base of over 33k on Vine (RIP), to opening up for Logic in spring of 2018, to growing a listening audience of over 40 thousands on an original song on Soundcloud without any marketing. Naylon is a star in the making and a musical force that continues to shine, continues to write and continues to sing. I wonder what achievements lay ahead for her in 2019???
Afterwards we met up with another one of her friends at a cool sushi bar restaurant called Blue Sushi Saki Grill. I’ve had some great sushi, but this was definitely up for the running. Our waiter, who recognized Naylon from school, recommended this dank dish, and dank it was...It's called.. "Triller"
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After the 14th interview with Naylon, singer in Nebraska, the 14th state in the trip, we and her friend dined at @bluesushisakegrill Who would’ve thought Nebraska has amazing sushi! This dish was called the ‘Thriller’ #bluesushisakegrill #thriller #sushi #naylon #diversalstate2state
Off to the next state, South Dakota...
8/14/2018 - Davenport, Iowa
Day 22: 13th Interview - Xavy Rusan
Where many would say living in big cities like NYC or LA places them in an advantage over others, hip-hop artist, Xavy Rusan says being from a place no-one has really heard of, gives him the advantage.
“...you’ve heard the story of what it’s like to be in Brooklyn, Compton, Detroit, Miami, but you don’t know what it’s like to be from here…”
Good point. Referring to where he’s from, Davenport, Iowa, apart of the metropolitan Quad-Cities, Xavy Rusn said he could only speak for the eastside and not the west side of Iowa, but mentioned that opportunities and fan bases were mostly geared toward Folk and Indie Rock genres. So as a hip-hop artist from Iowa, “you got to pave your own way”. To him, this differentiation is a plus and opportunity to stand out. He went on to say that there wasn’t yet, a pioneer in rap, no one in the hip-hop community really speaking for them. This lack of representation in rap, along with his older cousin, were his inspirations for getting into music back in 2013--the same year he released the video for his single "The Christening".
As passion drives us to fulfill a need, his was being able to be that voice in hip-hop for his hometown, for Iowa, for the middle of the map.
As I wasn’t finding any luck or substance via Facebook Open mic events for the time I was going to be in town, I turned to searching for artists via hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. This is how I found Xavy Rusan. I was diggin’ as I did in every city I went to, and I found myself listening to his projects from 2016 posted on Paste Magazine. His confident swag in his tone, thought-provoking and visualizing wordplay with that southern-authentic hip hop vibe, had me like “OK IOWA!”. The vibe took me bobbin' to his YouTube and Soundcloud. He got some hits coming out the middle of the map! Quad City Times even listed him as one of the top 5 local artists playing 'the soul of Quad Cities'.
So what should we look out for from Xavy Rusan moving into 2019? A continuation of his catalog of good hip-hop. According to Xavy, projects, collaborations, and a lot of visuals.
“I’m trying to get people to look into this world I live in”
#hiphop #xavyrusan #iowa #middleofthemap
8/13/2018 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Day 21 - 12th Interview - Cullah
Previewing his music via social posts of his project Cullahsus released April 27th, 2018, I was expecting a first impression personality to reflect those vibes on that project, which was energetic, funky, upbeat, etc. (It's really good, y'all got to check it out..) Not only that, just stream through his videos on Youtube, a mix of chill, fun and upbeat, funky vibes, with hiphop lyrical flows and some of that soul-sanging. When meeting Ian McCullough who goes by the stage name Cullah, he was surprisingly very calm and collected, poise, soft-spoken but with a lot to say, and extremely intelligent. From the historic forested and rolling hills of Wisconsin, to its deep germanic roots, and the earliest breweries in America and Milwaukee, and much more, Cullah was full of interesting facts, one after another. He was also full of wit, joking around with me for possible pun-titles of his album project next year set to release on April 27th, 2019…’Spectacullah, Cullahtavation, Cullahflower...' Spoiler Alert.. he’s already chosen Spectecullah, so stay tuned.
We first met at Colectivo Coffee, but then decided to do the interview across the street, right off the water. While getting to know Cullah a bit more while walking there, through his answers during the interview and then afterwards as we kicked it a little bit shooting some pool at nearby bar called Vintage, although very poise and calm, there’s an undenying fierce energy for his passion for music.
I asked what genre he considered himself, and it was hard to pinpoint one genre he resonated with, rather, he accredited many genres being influences over the years, from electronic, to hip-hop instrumental, to folk, blues, parsimonious funk, drum n’ bass, uptempo, downtempo, and more. He did mention a cross-discipline or cross-fusion of multi-genre and Future Blap. Check out his Soundcloud and you be the judge.
Beats and Open-sourced
When he’s not laying down raps on stage over funky and groovy AF vibes, Cullah is also a talented producer, producing his own beats he’s flowing on, and they’re good. Just check out his catalogs at https://cullah.com.
Prior, he was also a computer engineer, and actually makes a correlation between music and code, stating music should just be like code, open-sourced.
“...It’s information, just like code. Music should be free and accessible….”
Via Creative Commons, all his albums are open-sourced, as he believes in the beauty of royalty-free music, which is how he builds his fan base—collaborators using his music on their own projects, usually film, credits his name, people here it, and he gets new Spotify listeners, about 20k listeners per month to be exact. That’s correct two, zero.. 20 thousand.
“People get access to them, you get YouTubers with Influence, people hear about it, then they go on my Spotify, and then thats how I pay rent”
Come to find out through several stories of people recognizing him, and the name, Cullah, he’s also pretty popular, especially around town. While playing pool someone recognized him from a performance at an open-mic years ago. We ended up playing doubles…and of course won.
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But back to the music..
Milwaukee Music Scene
He discussed the scene out in Milwaukee, saying there’s a lot of talent there and 'things are changing', yet many creatives he knows are leaving and going to larger cities like NY. But there's definitely a scene and opportunities for artists are changing for the better. While there’s a lot of Punk Rock, he’s seeing a lot of success and shows being sold out in the hip-hop community and Americana Folk, two genres (of many) he fuses together within his own music.
When asked what his goals are he responded about Spectaculluh releasing next year and also mentioned his open-sourced goals. ”I’m planning to release free music every year. By 2020 I’ll have done an album a year for 50% of my life. That’s my next goal..”
If you like to support Cullah for upcoming projects, check out his Patreon Page. https://www.patreon.com/Cullah
August 12th - Chicago, Illinois - Xavier Keyz
I first met Chicago-native R&B singer Xavier Keyz back in 2015, through AnywhereButHome (ABH) singer/rapper from Northern Virginia, who I would interview apart of the DMV area later on in this trip. We and another Chicago-native hip hop artist, R.O.E., caught up at Heartland Brewery Co. downtown NYC after an event held by Xavier's friend Ryan Leslie. I didn’t attend the event, but them three did and had a chance to chat it up a bit with Ryan. The motivating vibes carried to our discussion at the brewery as we ate and talked our about each and one of our grinds and goals.
So after three years it was good to finally catch back up and like the other two artists, R.O.E and ABH, Xavier Keyz has been working, growing his fanbase, selling merch, and performing outside of the U.S, doing international tours across Europe and Asia. He’s performed so much that now his time has been devoted to not only working on future projects, but also setting up his own Masterclass where he’ll be teaching the art of performing live, overcoming stage fright and more—so stay tuned for the knowledge and insight he's about to drop.
Xavier Keyz style of music is mostly R&B and hip-hop, but demonstrates some of that pop/dance sound as well checkout some of his tracks below.
Link up, Interview
When we linked in Chicago it was only right that I greeted him sporting his fitted-branded hat I bought a few years. He got a good kick out of it and it was a good seg-way to kick off where we left off, talking about the grind. He’s got his hat now in different colors, which you can select and buy here. He choose to do the interview where, according to him, his love for music began, Kenwood Academy his old high school.
Ironically it just so happened to be the day where his school was having a reunion block party for all the classes. So after the interview we walked around the ticketed area in the parking lot, which he caught up with some old friends and then ended giving me a brief tour down memory lane inside the school.
The need for grub was real, so he recommended we check out one of his favorite spots to eat at, an authentic Jamaican Cuisine call Ja’Grill, downtown Chicago. People… this place DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. I got his recommendation which was their ribs with their jerk seasoning, and damn they were amazing, the flavor was juicy to all types of levels, and the meat slid off the bone and everything as they say a characteristic for some good ass ribs. It was a nice hot day so we sat outside in their seating area, the atmosphere was right and the prices not bad, definitely not bad for the quality and amount.
A week prior, Chicago made national headlines with a spree of shootings and killings, a reason why I didn’t want to stay in Chi-town overnight, but Xavier mentioned that the violence is only in some parts and that the city is often overshadowed by the negative media. The area where he lived, went to school at and where we ate at was safe. The funny thing though, while we waited for food, we heard shouting down the street that got everyones attention. A fight was about to happened, a guy got out his car, while people were holding him back yelling at another dude. I kept the camera rolling… Police soon came though and broke it up, so all good.
While we left, walking back to the garage, we stumbled across an art show tucked away in that same plaza. The art was friggen ridiculously dope, and actually symbolic to anyones experience driving around and taking in the artistic nature of Chicago. Sculptures and wall murals decorate the colorful city. The artshow was hosted by Chicago Top 5 with Connect Gallery. See below.
TURN YOUR DREAMS INTO REALITY
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Day 19th - 20th: August 11th Interview with The Lobby.
Next stop, Detroit Michigan for the 10th interview, a creative collective known as The Lobby comprised of Freebxll Will, Demigod, Freebxll Rome, Kerwin Clemens, Milf Melly, and Joseph Cook. They got a certain wave that’s addicting and catchy, wavvy hip-hop with a lot melody, bounce and energy. While some of the members have dropped solo projects with a bunch coming up, such as Milf Melly’s recent ‘Milf Tape’, and Freebxll Will’s upcoming project ‘King Of The Free’, collectively they've released a few singles so far, but much in the works. The track, 'Love Lost' below is one of them. But do you feel this??
Living in NYC for the past 5 years my mind was use to a certain time perception when looking at distance on maps. So when meeting up with them at their studio in the metro area I miscalculated where I was in relation to them and ended up being almost two hours where I needed to be. They had a show that night starting at 8pm and it was already 4/5pm, so we had to put the medal to the pedal. Luckily I didn’t get stopped, however several states later my luck with that would run out, but we'll get to that later...
I made it there in good time for us to do the interview, and just kick it a little bit with them. The energy was dope, and they had me listen and feedback on some tracks they were working on. See below.
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tbw to when we stopped off in #detroit and interviewed @thelobbyus . #Dope group with so many #bangers . They graced me with some unreleased music by @freebxllwill - Be on the look out for his second project dropping November 4th #kingofthefree #newmusic #thelobby #freebxllwill #rnb #detroitmusic #independentartist #interview #diversal #diversalstate2state
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Really excited to hear more of their upcoming projects set to drop later this year. @thelobbyus #newmusic #thelobby #hiphop #r&b #independentartist #musicmanager #travisscott #kidcudi #pharrelwilliams #detroit #upcomingartist #musicmanager #goodmusic #singer #recordingstudio #whoa #chillmusic #diversalstate2state
After vibing heavy, we left and I followed them to their show Vamp Night hosted by CrowdFreak, a promotion service that book artists to get on shows and sometimes open for big acts. We got there early on, but little did I know, it was the spot where Eminem notoriously did that rap battle on stage made famous in 8 Mile, The Original Hip Hop Shop.
The spot was dope, artwork hanging in both rooms, DJ spinning bangers, host cracking jokes, red cups getting refilled, and just chill vibes. With over 30+ Artist on the ballot to perform, It was pretty lit throughout the night.
Day 17th - 18th: August 9th - 10th, Interview with 'Los Lemons'
While Cleveland had a large pool of finding accessible local talent, and the next two upcoming cities were already confirmed with the upcoming artists. The struggle of finding some substance began to set it, however, fortunately that was short lived. While scrolling through the Facebook events for local music performances, I came across a band called Los Lemons performing at a locally popular and booming craft-cocktail lounge in Fort Wayne, Indiana called HT2. The event invite provided a link to the band's bandcamp, and I immediately fell in love with their wavvy, California-beach chill, psych/garage rock sound, a different vibe from the previous genres from the artists we’ve already linked up with.
I reached out on FB messenger, and we set up the interview. The vibes felt through the music were also felt with them in person--really chill laid back dudes who've only been playing together for a few years—Kodi on the guitar and backup vocals, Victor on the main vocals and rhythm guitar, and Wade on the drums.
We did the interview right outside where they were going to be performing, and right before it started raining - perfect timing? By the way, the clouds in Indiana are no joke.
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Live music venue alert! This was taken right before @loslemonsband set last month at @ht2fortwayne A chill spot, lounge atmosphere, that often has upcoming music acts perform and vibe out - home of the Hotel Tango spirits. . . #livemusic #craftcocktail #cocktaillounge #hoteltango #musicvenue #wheretoperform #fortwayne #indianamusic #ht2 #ht2fw #venue #lounge #performinglive #whereto
HT2 provided a nice atmosphere for Los Lemons to jam out, where they did a mix of covers, originals and often just freestyled in between tracks.
“...that’s what music is..you got to feel it” - Victor
…and they definitely felt it. Below is a clip from the gram of them going off of a vibe with two guitars and drums.
The first of their tracks uploaded intended to just be demos, but one of those tracks, titled ‘Slow Down’ spread like wildfire and now has over 100k listens just on Soundcloud. Listen below.
With a chilled-out wave of a project out since then which you can stream below, if you're from the Midwest area expect to see more of Los Lemons performing live near you, but in all they’ve got a lot in the works to release in the near future, so wherever you’re at be on the look out.
We continued lodging with Airbnb in Indiana not just because of the convienience and price, but because of the world-renowned ‘Fort Wayne’s Hanselmann House’, or at least that’s what it use to be called since it was built in 1971 by the famous architect Michael Graves. However, now dubbed ‘The Cube House’ by the current homeowner, who by the way recommended the trip out to the only brick n' morter Sweetwater Sound retail spot where he works at--The Cube House has been used to rent out for Airbnb and other hosted art and music events. The comfiness is to the max, and the elegant and luxurious interior mixed in with the eclectic mix of wall art, sculptures and cool decor makes this spot a hands-down must for anyone traveling to the area of Fort Wayne, Indiana. This isn't a sell pitch also, it's just a dope spot!
Day 15 - August 7th, 2018 - Underground Music Showcase, Cleveland
Our next stop was Ohio, as we arrived in Cleveland on the 7th of August, a day prior to the interview with hiphop artist Case Bargé.
Since I was in the city a day earlier I figured I check to see if any music performances were going on in the area. Luckily that night the Cleveland chapter of the Underground Music Showcase, UMS, was having an event at the locally famous bar and music venue The Grog Shop. 'Striving to showcase live music, The Grog Shop has played host to countless local, national, and international touring acts for over twenty years, booking all ranges of indie rock, hip-hop, hardcore, jam, reggae, metal, electronic and more. (Source grogshop.gs)
The host, Brady Payne, was the perfect example of how hosts should be for these types of events and showcases -- funny, kept the vibes up throughout the night, and facilitated a theme of opportunity and encouraged the crowd, the artists to collaborate and network with one other. Click here to view some photos taken of the night, and click here to follow the chapter!
Day 16 - August 8th: Interview with Case Bargé
Prior to this State2State tour we’ve been in contact with Cleveland hiphop artist Archie Green, however the man was grinding and was not able to meet up and do the interview. So he did the next best thing and referred to reach out to his manager of ALOOF Recordings, Alexis Manalo, to set up an interview with another hiphop artist on their team, Case Bargé. Checked out his music online, and I'm glad Archie made the recommendation! Below is probably one of my favorite tracks of his, titled 'Manifest'.
I then went through his previous project 'Ascension' and liked what I heard, so the next day on the 8th of August we ended up scheduling that interview with Case at the studio where the magic of ‘Manifest’ was created.
A humble and creative soul, with a lot of passion for hip hop, Case Bargé has got some big things coming up! You can find teasers of his music video he directed, wrote and starred in on his gram’ titled ‘You & I’, but definitely follow so you can stay tuned to his upcoming projects.
The energy was positive and real, and before I left he gifted me a necklace with an Aventurine stone, said to be the luckiest of all crystals and source of positive energy, “The Stone of Opportunity”. Stay tuned to his vibes, and keep them coming brotha!
Lodging: Airbnb - upstate NY, VT to OH
It took an airbnb overnight stay to get from Vermont to Cleveland, but driving upstate New York is always worth the drive if you ever get the chance. Big shout-outs to “superhosts” on Airbnb by the way for providing the amazing hospitality! The Airbnb host in Rotterdam, NY had a cozy spot with a small friendly dog she left alone to greet the guests. Being in NYC for the past 5 years, it blows my mind how the host trusted each guest to come and go to the spot leaving the dog there by herself - but I guess that’s the beauty of Airbnb.
For those who are weary of the service or don’t know, there is a vetting process the superhosts go through where they can approve the new guest, or not. My profile has nothing but good reviews, plus this is a business trip so there’s that credibility factor. Also, to become a superhost is also a process boosting their credibility. So if ever using Airbnb, make sure you keep the superhost box checked! You just might get lucky and end up at a spot with a chill dog.