The Ongoing Journey as an Artist in a Rap Group

Music has always been a huge part of my life. When I was younger I used to listen to The Beatles sing their classic songs like “Hello Goodbye”, “Birthday”, and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”. I frequently remember listening to classical music as well such as Mozart. At the time, music was just something that made life good and I felt great listening to it. Music has always been a constant in my life, even right now as I’m playing classical music to help me write. Here I am today with a musical group that gets together to record and is currently working on putting out their second full-length project. The people I make music with I’ve known since these young ages and I basically grew up with them. The first time I remember hearing rap was my friend Bryce playing “Rap God” by Eminem and my memory is of him somehow knowing all the lyrics to this weird genre. I was enthralled in rap from this point on. I listened to the classics, I listened to modern contemporaries in the genre, and honestly fell in love with the art that was rap music. I honestly probably did not listen to rap before this point at all if I had even heard it. I fell back to my roots after this and grew really deeply attached to the likes of Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Nirvana. Music was my favorite thing after hearing the thunderous sound of Nirvana along with the drifting ballads that shifted into each other on Pink Floyd’s albums and the discography of The Beatles was always spectacular. I think I knew that music would play a big role in my life even at this early stage in my life.

It was the beginning of my sophomore year of high school and everything was normal. I had friends at this school but not the same ones that I had from middle school. We kept in touch through a group chat we had and sometimes we would meet up. One day, one of my friends sent an audio message to our group chat that I saw in class but didn’t end up listening to until I got home. I had no idea what this would turn into. I played it and it was my friend rhyming lyrics onto a beat about topics that he had heard on different fringe parts of the internet. He was rapping about things such as vaccines, estrogen in the water turning frogs homosexual, and things that he saw on the Alex Jones Infowars show. I really thought it was hilarious if you want me to be honest because I wasn’t looking too deep into any of the lyrics and I was mainly focused on how he was able to keep the rhythm. It was very interesting to me and we all talked about it in our group chat. Over the coming weeks, my group chat would send more and more of these audio messages in the same similar fashion rapping about obscure topics and things of that nature. After a while our friend David got into it as well creating songs, David did have a background in rapping since he was a kid. The group started to make various diss-tracks on each other. Bryce had to say this about the diss-tracks “We weren’t ever really beefing. We would just make them for fun and started sending them to the group chat and the rest was history.” Bryce, David, and others went back and forth making these diss-tracks on each other until finally, I made my own diss-track of sorts called “Bryce is Arby”. The track featured me in interpolation of Biz Markey’s “Just a Friend” which was an already interpolated version of Freddie Scott’s “(You) Got What I Need”. To say the least, it wasn’t the best song I had ever made, but it was my first song. I constructed it on the video editing program Final Cut Pro by Apple on a Macbook. I still tell this to people today and they are baffled at how I managed to not only create music on Final Cut Pro but how I even mixed some of my pieces too.

From this point, it was established within our friend group that this rap media creation was a thing. We started to collect these audio files he had and as the files made the rounds in our friend groups there was only time until we got together to make some music together. I still remember showing up to school and hearing people almost chant different lyrics from the songs we made and released on SoundCloud. As a group, our musical influences range from a variety of artists. Genres like rock, rap, even classical music have influenced us and inspired us to create music and listen to more good music. For all of us, rappers such as Eminem, Kanye West, and Jay Z were influences on our sound. We used to watch videos of Kanye West and Jay Z together in the studio making beats together and would think about how we wanted to be like that. Bryce and I would grind late into the night using Apple earbuds as our microphone and Final Cut Pro as our software of choice. We would often find beats in our own time and write to them and come together to create something. Soon after we started our SoundCloud with our name on it being “The HeadChoppers”. We’ve actually had that name in our pocket for a long time since around the 4th grade because of some old jokes. We thought it would be interesting to use this name for the metaphorical aspect of just literally blowing someone away with our music that their head gets chopped off. Weird metaphor, perhaps, but we ran with it as just our name the music was under and we created dozens of hours of music with it. 

The Album Cover for our Upcoming Album
The Album Cover for our Upcoming Album

Seeing the process we created unfold was extraordinary and after about a year we were starting to see some real differences in our streams. We used to think getting a hundred views was crazy. If we could get a hundred views, our 15-year-old selves at the time were ecstatic. Then we were aiming for 300 views for a song trying to outdo ourselves each time with new intricate flows and ideas. After that, we were trying to push for more than 500 and we got it. Over time we had various songs being dropped that hit 1,000 views and it was just remarkable to us. Around this time I decided to learn to play the guitar and I feel like the added music theory lessons helped a lot in our creative process as well. As our music spread throughout our schools we knew we had to rethink, recoup, and possibly rebrand.

It was about two and a half years after our first song officially posted that we decided to bring our old friend David into the group to finally see what we could make together with all three of us. David had a history of recording as stated earlier but was pretty fresh with recording as a group and after making a few songs we realized he fit well. The result was a connection between us that I hadn’t felt making music at any point before, to be honest. “The HeadChoppers themselves are what first got me wanting to make music. I saw how much fun Richard and Bryce were having making it and wanted to enjoy it with them.” said David. His interest in the group then turned into him having a pivotal role in the songs with us three being the vocalists for all our songs on our debut album titled Saber Tooth. We had tracks on Saber Tooth such as “Saber Tooth Tiger”, “Metal Detector”, and “Bloodhound”. From the period of our first tracks to this point we had not only added David to our group but also moved from Final Cut Pro to mixing and mastering software FL Studio which is primarily for making music. This was a huge upgrade for us and it is definitely heard within our music. Not only did the switch from Final Cut Pro to FL mean a sound upgrade, but we were also able to construct beats that fit the style of the song meaning it was 100% our own creation. Then, our debut album Saber Tooth dropped and it met some different reviews. We reached a wider audience by putting it on all platforms through the distribution network Distrokid and saw the support from our audience roll in. I asked David how he felt being a part of the music process for the first time and he said “Making music together, in the beginning, were some of the best times of my life. I enjoyed every part of the process, we’d meet late at night and argue for hours then finally get to work to piece together a song for hours.”

Our Debut Album Cover "Saber Tooth"
Our Debut Album Cover “Saber Tooth”

Our debut album did well but we wanted to push our sound to the next level. Over the course of months, we still stayed in Bryce’s guest room in the outer part of his house to meticulously craft songs that we felt were good to release. We weren’t the most pleased with how wide our outreach on our first project was so we decided to release more singles. We dropped a single that got 1,200 views and we thought, wow, maybe dropping singles for right now would be the way to go. I started my own beat leasing entity called “Richie Lee Beats” where I uploaded beats on YouTube, Beatstars, and SoundCloud. I did this to get just as much exposure for ourselves as possible. Everything was going well but we had a slump for about 5 months. We didn’t know exactly what to do. We had tried to get our first performance and though we got some people to talk to us we never got a confirmed opportunity. This came to the point where we decided we needed to tackle the problem head-on and take it as professionally as possible. We went to a studio. We paid for the studio time and made a few songs there. We enjoyed the experience and the things it taught us but decided that our sound could only progress on its own and considering how good it was already we thought that mixing and mastering on our own would lead to the best results. We made a few more singles and then there it was. After posting regularly on beat accounts, promoting music from other local artists, and even grinding away at our own music progressing our sound we got a few that really stuck in the underground. Our two singles “GG” and “KILLZONE” got 2,500 views respectively with dozens and dozens of comments encouraging us to continue. This is around where we are now with our community only rising. We have over 300 followers on SoundCloud with hundreds of followers on other social media and we have decided that our next album will be dropping very soon. We are glad to have a dedicated fan base that supports us and that looks forward to the things we create. We hope our platform can only grow from here and that our outreach can be used for good in the future. To listen to any of our new music you can click the link here as well as the images throughout this story.

 

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