Many might agree that today’s Hip Hop is “not the same” as when it first started. There are many artists and Hip Hop fans that would say that the Hip Hop of today, with all the “mumble” rappers and “trap” rappers, is not true Hip Hop. But what is true Hip Hop? Is Hip Hop a specific sound? Is it even music anymore? Whatever the case may be, as a Hip Hop Artist and fan myself, I think that anyone is entitled to his/her opinion. Here at OTDHipHop, I give you folks my all, whether you agree or disagree. I also believe that Hip Hop can mean different things to different people. I’ve met artists who’ve used music as a way to overcome depression and destructive behavior like drug and alcohol abuse, artists who’ve felt disconnected from their own families who found community in Hip Hop, and even artists/listeners who simply love the music and culture. With that said, I had the pleasure of interviewing Soul Sergeant D-Man (SSD), for this week’s Friday Feature segment. While he is an artist/rapper, his authentic love for Hip Hop/Rap music and culture truly sets him apart.
Born Damion Davis, Soul Sergeant D-Man (SSD) is a 24-year-old Hip Hop Artist/Rapper from Glendale, Arizona. His name may sound a little “out there,” but SSD explained the meaning behind his rap name. “I came up with the name Soul Sergeant D-Man, by the help of my dad because he made believe that I can put my heart and soul into anything I do. My name is Soul Sergeant D-man, meaning I got soul like The Godfather of Soul. As a sergeant, I'm somewhat like the roughest and toughest, and in my own little world I’m just D-man,” said SSD.
Growing up, SSD was always a fan of Hip Hop and was exposed to rapping on his own as a preteen. SSD stated that one day, his older cousin Deshawn was writing with a pen and pad in the dining room, but Deshawn was already brilliant freestyler. “I told Deshawn that he makes want to rap but I didn’t think I would be good at it. But Deshawn believed in me and told me that I could get better with a lot more practice,” said SSD. He went on to say that, “Deshawn helped me write my first rhyme, and picked out 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." instrumental to rap to. I messed up plenty of times until he made sure I was on beat with the flow and lyrics.” Since that time, SSD has been writing his own lyrics, first as a hobby that gradually progressed over time, until he was able to record at the GrayRoom Recording Studio for the first time at age 16.
SSD has a number of supporters via social media, largely due to his accomplishments and the network he has grown from participating in contests like Team Backpack’s (TBP) Mission Underground auditions. TBP is a platform committed to showcasing the best in underground Hip Hop, and serves as the initial catapult into stardom for many up and coming artists. “In 2015, I decided to go for broke and do my online audition. After uploading it on YouTube, I was getting nothing but good positive feedback from the other emcees that was also competing, just wishing each other good luck. At first I felt like I wasn't going to get my invitation so I did another online audition to prove I'm in it to win, and after that I got my invitation email from TBP! It felt like I won the lottery,” said SSD. While in California for Mission Undergound Los Angeles (MULA), SSD met many gifted and talented local like emcees like Gio Martin, Naim Def, D'vision Kurosaki, Nasty Nelo, Mr. E, Mizznekol, $arcast, Sean Curtis, Terry Davis aka Freeze, and much much more. “I even met and talked to almost all the famous Teambackpack Heavy Hitters in the game. I seen street cyphers, merchandise, food truck, interviews, and everything there. Overall, I felt really blessed to see Hip Hop music, artists, and culture all come together to bring positive but also competitive vibes all around. Even though I didn’t win anything or make the Top 12, it was great to be part of the Team Backpack movement,” said SSD.
Going forward, SSD is more than just another local rapper. He is a strong supporter of the variety of talent in Hip Hop, and consistently promotes other artists via social media. In an age where everyone seems to want to always “one up” each other, SSD chooses to uplift, and I believe that says more about an artist than anything else. “What hip-hop communities need is a savior and that savior is yourself and it's all on you. If you don't care or even try to do something about it then the more degrading the hip-hop community will be. It's all about pushing the culture,” stated SSD.
For more information on Soul Sergeant D-Man (SSD), visit his Youtube channel and/or follow him on Facebook.
Like many young Americans, especially in Hawaii, I was taught that there are 3 main choices one can make upon high school graduation: go to college, go to work, or join the military. At age 18, I chose to pursue a little bit of all of those things, including a career in rapping and writing. My personal experience in the Hawaii Army National Guard was exactly that, an experience. I believe that each veteran has his/her own view on the military once they “get out” and the experiences vary. Regardless, I don’t regret my military service, and I’ll always remember the people I met through my unit and other military related duties. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing another veteran, The Marine Rapper (TMR). After serving in Marine Corps, TMR chose to use Hip Hop as a platform to entertain and educate.
I met TMR last year at TeamBackpack’s Mission Underground event in Los Angeles, CA. My girlfriend and I were waiting in line, outside the venue, to go into the live auditions. The first thing I noticed was his boots, aside from him yelling in a familiar militaristic manner to stay in our spots and make sure that we don’t miss our audition time slot (LOL, some people didn’t listen though...) I still remember those high-black-shiny boots with silver bullets. But don’t let my description fool you, this man is on a relentless grind and he deserves respect for serving our country and probably even more so as a serious emcee and producer.
TMR started writing and recording raps around the time he graduated high school. His Youtube channel has more than 2000 subscribers, with over 90 videos that range from cypher-styled raps, music videos, and collaborations with other artists. “I would always freestyle with friends outside the movie theater. Then I would record on a voice recorder that I bought at Walmart for like $10, because I couldn't afford studio time and I really didn't know how to go about recording at the time,” said TMR. Overtime, he upgraded his home studio equipment and eventually started recording in professional studios up until he joined the Marine Corps. “I had to kind of pause my goals and aspirations because the Marines is a full-time job. Towards the end of my military career, I decided to pick up the mic again and take rap seriously. After I completed my time in the Marines, I moved to Austin, Texas and then to Hollywood to learn to be a music producer,” said TMR.
Aside from being an artist, TMR has also expanded his following as the host of TeamBackpack’s show “The Rap Hack.” Check out one of his favorite rap hack interviews below, which features one of battle rap’s prominent and prolific emcees - Dizaster. TMR has interviewed a variety of artists on The Rap Hack including Bay Area’s Babii Cris, TeamBackpack Mission Underground 2015 Champion Jae The Lyoness, and even internet rap icons Hopsin and Futuristic. “I got involved with TeamBackPack about 5 years back, entering their internet and live audition contests. Although I didn't collaborate with TBP as a rapper like most do, having my own segment has allowed me to meet hip hop pros, introduce the world to new talent, and learn more about hip hop,” said TMR.
So what can the world expect next from TMR? Well, he is actually living in Hollywood and currently working on an album that he plans to release in the latter part of Fall 2016. He is constantly creating and promoting new material via Youtube and other social media outlets. His videos are known for his aggressive and creative story lines, with quality production. As a Marine veteran, TMR states that no other rapper he sees is taking the same angle he has with the military and Hip Hop. Although his inspiration comes from many things, he states that his military experience and relationship with other veterans is what drives him to continue pursuing a career in music. “The military is a great organization. It provides structure, discipline, and a sense of belonging. However, there are situations as service members that we all have to go through in and out of the military that sometimes can be difficult. Some of those experiences will be translated into music form on my project that drops this fall,” said TMR. For more information on TMR subscribe to his Youtube channel and/or follow his Facebook music/fan page. You can also see more Rap Hack episodes via Team Backpack.
It’s one thing to recognize talent. It’s another to recognize star quality, and this week I want to acknowledge that special quality in Hip Hop Artist Vhee Riv. With the upcoming release of her debut album, Zero Defects and her latest videos “Let You Know” and “Get It” both approaching more than 3000 views on YouTube, Vhee Riv could be a future break out artist from Hawaii.
Although people might judge an artist by his/her image or appearance, talent and audience connection will always speak for itself. Vhee has been working seriously towards building a foundation for her music career. The artist definitely calls Hawaii home, and has created a buzz for herself here in the islands as well as around the states. Vhee has performed for a number of events and venues in Hawaii and the West Coast.
Vhee Riv’s music is really all about the vibe, and the young artist brings lots of unique vibrant energy in each song, video, and performance. Her ability to connect with fans has enabled her to build a small, but loyal and growing fan base both in Hawaii and around the rest of the U.S. She is also diverse. “Get It,” has a hype and more aggressive type of vibe, while her “Let You Know,” shares her deeper romantic side. “My personal experiences, relationships, friendships, and even the haters are all inspiration behind each project I drop,” said Vhee. On top of all that, both videos were directed by the artist herself.
Read more of our interview below:
OTD Hip Hop: You recently did some work with Rapper Mike Jones and even worked with Singer Mishon. What was that like?
VHEE RIV: Working with Mike Jones was crazy! Thinking back on my younger days when I use to watch him on MTV to him being featured in one of my songs was a blessing. He gave me nothing but good vibes and postive motivation. Working with Mishon was also a big deal for me. I use to listen to his music all the time back in high school and to have him really dig the song we did was tight.
OTD Hip Hop: You mentioned getting into Hip Hop/Rap really young. Did you grow up performing? When did you start taking it seriously?
VHEE: Yeah, at every family gathering I'd always end up putting on a show whether it was singing, dancing or some other form of entertainment. When I was in elementary school my friends introduced me to hip hop music. Once I discovered 2pac I knew that's what I wanted to do. You might say 2pac was my first idol. I started taking this seriously about 3 years ago.
OTD Hip Hop: Since you've spent some time networking, performing, and spending studio time in Hawaii, what are some positive things you saw in Hawaii's Hip Hop/local music community? What do you think Hawaii-based artists need to have in order to expand their reach and appeal in the mainland?
VHEE RIV: Man, I love Hawaii it’s always going to be a special place to me. Hip hop in Hawaii is a hard grind mostly because it's a small community. Hopefully over time it'll grow. I've met a lot of local hip hop artists in Hawaii that have serious talent. In my opinion, the only thing they need to do to compete with mainland artists is to believe in their talent, surround themselves with good people and be ready to work hard.
OTD Hip Hop: What can we expect next from Vhee Riv?
VHEE RIV: The release date for the "Zero Defects" album & launch of my official website VheeRiv.com will be in early September 2016. The next single/video from the album will be "Hold Up, Watch Out Feat Mike Jones which will be released a few days after the album.
In my opinion, Vhee Riv is on her way to the top. With collaborations with artists like Mike Jones and Mishon under her belt, there is no doubt that the young rapper is making moves. She is definitely a humble character with the professional attitude and ambition to do what it takes to reach her goals.
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.