DC MUSIC DOCS LAUNCH WEEKLY WEB SERIES

VIDEO PROVIDED BY DOMINIC ELLIOTT

Dominic Elliott and Mylie Durham IV began playing music together in 1997 when the pair started their first band, FREELOAD, while attending Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md. Since then, the two local musicians, who’ve grown up in the Washington, D.C., metro area, continue to perform in various ensembles. 

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AIN’T NO MAN ABOVE THE PIFA CRU

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY KESHAWN PALMER

Dealing with the death of a brother is a burden that no one should have to bear, but in 2013, the members of PAID IN FULL ALLSTARS (PIFA) lost their CEO and founder Eric Wilkins aka AllstarEazy. Despite this devastating blow, the men continued to press on to achieve the success that Wilkins sought for himself and his brothers. After performing to a sold out crowd at Shaggfest 2015 this summer in Virginia Beach, that dream is getting closer to becoming a reality.

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THE FLAVOR PROJECT REMIX MUSICAL INGREDIENTS ON UPCOMING ALBUM, FRIJOLES NEGROS REFRIED

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY JASON BALL AND CRAIG ZIRPOLO

Food is not defined by the end product but rather by the ingredients it takes to make something special. With a dash of funk, a cup of hip-hop, a few teaspoons of neo-soul, and some Latin flair, THE FLAVOR PROJECT from Richmond, Va. have some fresh grooves cooking. Formed by bassist/vocalist Gabriel Santamaria, THE FLAVOR PROJECT released their debut album Frijoles Negros in 2014, and they have taken their multicultural recipe to new temperatures, performing at local music festivals with some of the top names in their genres.

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NODIS LEADS THE PACK OF RISING D.C. HIP HOP ARTISTS EMERGING ONTO THE NATIONAL SCENE WITH THE RELEASE OF HIS DEBUT MIXTAPE AND PERFORMANCES AT SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS AND VIDEO BY DJ FAM PRODUCTIONS AND JOHN SHORE

It has been said time and time again that the youth are the future, and they will lead the way to better times. NODIS is no exception. Off the stage, he is known to his family and close friends as Sidon Faris. This Washington, D.C. resident is only 19 years old, and he is making moves that most kids his age only dream of. Last month, NODIS released his debut mixtape, which features his partner of BRADDOCK ROAD, as well as long-time friend GRAMMAR, in addition to local producer BALA ORTIZ. Just two weeks after its release, NODIS had the opportunity to perform in Austin, Texas at South By Southwest (SXSW). We spoke with him to discuss his mixtape 22nd Century and his unconventional method of promoting it on social media, as well as how this lion will lead the sheep of the universe to make a turning point in their lives.

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ROBERT MCFARLAND “MAKES KNOWLEDGE BORN” WITH THREE UPCOMING ALBUMS CURRENTLY IN PRODUCTION TO BE RELEASED WITHIN THE NEXT YEAR

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY ROBERT MCFARLAND

Taking inspiration from historical black leaders, such as Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcom X, as well as religious and cultural influences in hip hop, ROBERT MCFARLAND is taking on topics not talked about in pop music and the majority of hip hop in order to spread his message and “make knowledge born” to the masses. Originally from Virginia Beach, McFarland has been living in Brooklyn for the past year while making connections with other artists and music industry professionals.

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NEWPORT NEWS R&B SINGER/RAPPER JAE PREPARES FOR RELEASE OF DEBUT EP, DEAD LUXURY, AND WILL PERFORM AT SHAGGFEST 2015 IN VIRGINIA BEACH THIS JUNE

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY BWARD PHOTOGRAPHY AND JASON COFFEY

Though he is relatively new to the Hampton Roads rap and R&B scene, vocalist Jason Coffey, who is also known as JAE, is a native of Newport News, Va. that has been making quite the splash. With two mixtapes self-released in 2014, and his debut EP scheduled to be released later this year, he has already set himself up in the local scene as a rising star.

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VIRGINIA BEACH INDEPENDENT RAPPER NAY NAY AND SINGER-SONGWRITER BRYAN MAHON TO PERFORM SHAGGFEST 2015 THIS SUMMER

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS AND VIDEO PROVIDED BY NATHAN SWIHART

Though you probably haven’t heard of NAY NAY yet, this 20-year-old rapper from Virginia Beach is on the verge of breaking out of the underground and into the eyes and ears of the mainstream local community. After paying his dues in the local music scene, NAY NAY and fellow Virginia Beach musician BRYAN MAHON have been selected to play Z104’s annual music festival Shaggfest, which is hosted by the namesake of the festival, Shaggy — one of the radio station’s main DJs.

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ALBUM REVIEW: LOST IN SPACE BY NAY NAY

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Lost In Space by NAY NAY

https://naynay.bandcamp.com/album/lost-in-space

ALBUM REVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

Though he is no stranger to the rap game, 20-year-old Virginia Beach resident Nathan Swihart, who prefers to go by his nickname NAY NAY, is on the verge of breaking out from unknown independent artist to local celebrity. In February 2015, he released his debut album Lost In Space, which combines his personal easy-going style with the various producers he worked with, including 6ix, who is the most well known having worked for the hip-hop artist LOGIC. The first track, “Star of the Show,” really sets the scene for the album, providing the listener insight into NAY NAY’s flow that’s simultaneously laid back and aggressive. The soul of the background vocalist’s voice provides a nice compliment to NAY NAY’s autobiographical rhymes about him coming up as an aspiring rapper.

The fourth track, “Daps and Pounds,” stands out as a reflection of the preceding and following tracks, showing NAY NAY’s style and swagger. Though at times he comes off as a bit nerdy, it is not necessarily a bad thing, and he uses it to his advantage. As a song about confidence, it shows through each verse, and it will surely get your head bobbing. NAY NAY’s album really hits a climax with the title track “Lost In Space,” which is easily the most hype and aggressive track. This song is a party song, and there is no mistaking that. Yet it will be enjoyable whether you are listening to it in your car on the way to work or getting turnt up at the bar.

Combining classical elements with a modern flair, NAY NAY is definitely an artist to watch out for. If you are a fan of MAC MILLER, KID CUDI, or CHANCE THE RAPPER, you need to listen to NAY NAY.

ALTERNATIVE RAPPER HOUSTON HEARD PROMOTES NEW ALBUM, ABOVE BELOW AVERAGE, AND PERFORMS SHOWCASES FOR SHAGGFEST 2015 IN VIRGINIA BEACH

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY HOUSTON HEARD

Though he is still an up and coming rapper from an unlikely music scene, HOUSTON HEARD from Williamsburg, Va. is a name you should know. Finding influences in the alternative hip-hop genre, the rhymes of HOUSTON HEARD are more stylistic and refined, while simultaneously working in element of pop, dance, electronic, and classical music into each well-crafted song he produces. Though he did not respect the classics as a young boy, he has grown to appreciate the art of the piano as he has developed as a songwriter, and it too flows skillfully across the tracks on which it is played. Having established some notoriety in the Williamsburg scene, HOUSTON HEARD has set his sights on playing bigger shows on a much larger scale. Currently, he is busy promoting the release of his debut album Above Below Average, which was released on Jan. 20, 2015 and chronicles some of his struggles in the early years of high school, as well as performing showcases to play this year’s Shaggfest in Virginia Beach, which he hopes will help to bring more attention to his music and help more people relate to it.

What initially got you into rapping and making hip hop?

To be honest, it kind of just happened. I was in sixth grade, [and we had to do] a science project on something. And we made a song. It was absolutely terrible, but it was fun. I just went home that day and found beats on YouTube, and then I started rapping over them. I guess [from that] here I am now.

Who are some of your primary influences, as far as rapping goes?

I guess I just go off what I listen to, mainly alternative hip hop, like what I make. If I had to pick one it would be this guy named GEORGE WATSKY, who is a poet and a rapper from San Francisco. I go off of him for producing, writing, and the general flow of things.

HH2Has growing up in Williamsburg, Va. affected your rapping style and what you rhyme about?

I don’t think growing up in Williamsburg has really affected anybody, to tell you the truth (laughs). Obviously there is not as big of an influence as there would be in Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York. Obviously, Williamsburg, Va. isn’t really known for its hip hop. So I would say, not really.

I really enjoyed hearing you play piano on this record, in addition to your rapping. How long have you been playing that instrument?

I started playing piano a while ago. I was [about] eight; my mom always wanted me to play. Then my piano teacher actually told my mom that it would be a waste of money to be spending the money on the lessons because I didn’t want to learn any of the classical stuff. I kind of stopped for a little while, and a few years ago, I taught myself again. I like to incorporate it in everything, so I’ve gotten a lot better [throughout] the years.

One of the most standout tacks on your debut EP, in my personal opinion, is “Society,” which is very critical of the norms within American culture. Can you please explain in more detail how this song came to be?

I wrote that last year [2014]; it was actually the first song on the new album that I wrote. I put it out [before] and just redid it for the album. I made another beat for it and stuff. I was going through a pretty tough time … in my first two years of high school. … I was in the awkward, early teenage years. I was so obsessed with what people thought about me, and I got to the point where I just got tired of it. Then I sat down and wrote that song. It got me through it then, but now I’m past it.

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CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO HOUSTON HEARD

Are most of the songs written on Above Below Average from that timeframe?

I think, to be honest, everything I write is going to be effected by stuff of that nature. [On] the album that I am working on now, basically every song has that general feel to it, besides the more nonsensical ones like “Ain’t No Way” and “What’s Up Now.” Those I kind of just wrote to write. But “Hourglass,” “Won’t Be Easy,” “Society,” and “Brain Drain,” obviously, [can be applied to my years in high school].

In addition to performing on your own, you also are a member of the hip hop group DISTORTED AFTERSTORY, which also includes rappers BRIAN B and Chandler Matkins of BIG MAMA SHAKES. Is this more of a side project for each of you?

I hate to say it, but DISTORTED AFTERSTORY is just Chandler Matkins and his friend Ryan Foster, who produces the beats, and BRIAN B isn’t in it either. I just collaborate with them a whole lot. They are good friends of mine. I’m on their stuff, and they are on mine.

burgfestHave you performed any shows yet on your own, or do you have any booked?

I’ve got a friend that has a really nice basement for shows and parties, so last June for the heck of it, we did a concert in his basement. It was my first time performing. We made a stage out of pallets, and about 80 people showed up. It was great fun. On Dec. 20, 2014, we did this [show] called Burg Fest, which was initially supposed to be something like that, but then DISTORTED AFTERSTORY and BRIAN B got on board. And my friend named Colin McGuire, who is a DJ and goes by SHIP WRECK, [got on board as well]. We went all out; we packed the basement. There was absolutely no room, and we had a full sound system with lights. That was all done by Colin Cross, who runs Unkempt & Overcaffinated [Recording] Studio. I’ve also done a showcase, and I have another coming up on March 28 for Shaggfest at Sidelines in Virginia Beach.

In addition to “Society,” which track stands out the most to you as a personal favorite?

I would be lying if I didn’t say “Won’t Be Easy.” So far it is my favorite song that I have ever written. Tommy [Vereb], who sang the chorus on it, just made it fantastic. I just think, overall, it came together really well.

Going forward, what do you hope to accomplish in the rest of 2015?

I am working on an album right now, and I’m gonna try to get that out. I need a little bit of money first so I may do an Indiegogo or something like that. I want to get that out later in the year, and I am definitely trying to do Shaggfest, which is why I am doing the showcases. That would be sweet. Basically, I don’t see myself getting famous to the point where I am selling out huge venues. That was never my intention from the get-go. Obviously, I would love for people to know my name, and I’d love for people to connect to [my music]. That’s one of my main goals, to generally connect to people, because I’m not generally rapping about the “normal” things. I’m trying to be as relatable as possible and write just what comes to my mind. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to nationally known by the end of the year. That may be farfetched, but it would still be cool and my mom would be proud of me for once.

For more updates on HOUSTON HEARD, be sure to “like” his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter, listen to his debut album Above Below Average on Bandcamp, and be sure to check out his next showcase in Virginia Beach at Sidelines on March 28.

ALBUM REVIEW: ABOVE BELOW AVERAGE BY HOUSTON HEARD

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Above Below Average by HOUSTON HEARD

https://houstonheardmusic.bandcamp.com/releases

ALBUM REVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

On his debut, 11-track album Above Below Average, alternative rapper and composer HOUSTON HEARD delivers sharp, quick rhymes with a flow so eloquent you might forget that he is just a teenager. Based out of Williamsburg, Va., HOUSTON HEARD is unapologetic track after track and the pop synthesized beats are equally captivating.

Following an intro track just shy of two minutes, HOUSTON HEARD introduces us to his skills with a few strokes of his keyboard before initiating his rhymes. The music itself is very bright and melodic, with a syncopated beat that can simultaneously get your head bobbing to the song and put a smile on your face. On the second track, “Tell Em,” he does not miss a beat in bringing the same energy and emotional reactions. The music is very reminiscent of OWL CITY and MC LARS.

The fourth track, “Society,” also features  another Williamsburg, Va. rapper BRIAN B and Chandler Matkins of BIG MAMA SHAKES. Together, along with HOUSTON HEARD, they form the group DISTORTED AFTERSTORY. The song itself is very unique in that it criticizes what society considers important, including having to meet expectations set by others, how “people judge you how you dress and the people that you slept with,” and how social media is more important than building real connections with other people. In the end of the song, HOUSTON HEARD has that last word in an a capella rhyme saying, “The only thing changing with the seasons is the weather. As people we’re supposed to get together but our ties are constantly severed, and we’re left on our knees with nothing but our diminished pride.”

After a brief interlude lasting just over a minute where HOUSTON HEARD lets the piano do the talking, he breaks into the eighth track “Won’t Be Easy,” which discusses moving on from a break up. The song is easy going and carefree while reflecting on what he may have done wrong to cause it. But he realizes that he is better off without that person and is happy to move forward. It’s a feel good pop song, and it helps to show more of his vocal range.

The album concludes with “Brain Drain,” opening with more key strokes and cultural criticism. His lyrics flow out so smoothly, and the elements of the song mesh together so cohesively, one might assume that HOUSTON HEARD has a higher status than he currently does in the music scene. Regardless, this album is proof that he will be one to keep an eye on as his career develops.