We can’t deny that the world seems to get crazier every day. Stories of violence, corruption, and abuse fill our media. But remarkably, it is often in states of oppression or repression that creative minds produce the most unique art. Recently, I’ve been watching Netflix’s newest show, “The Get Down,” which tells the story of the very beginnings of Hip Hop music and culture. Hip Hop itself began in the ghettos of New York City, with strong roots in the South Bronx. During the 1970’s, the South Bronx was a borough known for its highly impoverished population of low-income black and Hispanic people. Remarkably, pioneer DJs like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa took old vinyl records, began “looping” beats, and developed “scratching” and “cutting” techniques that changed the entire sonic experience for the next generation of music listeners...and that new sound was Hip Hop. Today, Hip Hop & Rap has not only grown into a multimillion dollar industry, but has also developed into a cultural lineage that is now two to three generations deep and growing.
This brings me to Leair, a very good friend of mine, who despite faced many challenges growing up, has worked hard and continues to make a name for himself as an all around artist. With skills ranging from singing to songwriting to producing, Leair’s music brings elements from R&B, Hip Hop, Acoustic Soul, and Neo Soul together to create his own experimental sound. His latest single “Earth” was released earlier this year, and showcases his unique writing, arranging, and performing abilities.
The song’s hook echoes “I’m from the ghetto of the universe,” which Leair states is a reflection of how he feels about the planet earth and the people that inhabits it. “I wanted to correlate this song in the the same way as someone given an outsider a tour of their neighborhood, like what really goes on,” states Leair. “In a lot of neighborhoods I grew up in and around, you would hear things like, ‘Bruh dont go down this street it’s fonk, or on this block, such and such happens.’ I took that same approach with the world to show that this entire planet is most likely a ‘ghetto’ to possible outsiders. But in the majority of ghettos, there’s always room for improvement, a lot of spiritually nourishing ideas, movements, and out-of-this-world creativity that sparks from them. I simply broadened that lense of how people view the ghetto, and painted the entire world with the same brush.”
With the same elements as the origins of Hip Hop, Leair realized that he can used the world that he sees, and transforms it into a piece of art through lyrics, imagination, creativity, storytelling. Leair is a 26 year old musician, singer, songwriter, composer, and producer from the Bay Area. Although currently based in Oakland, the artist has lived in many cities including Hayward, Oakland, East Palo Alto, Stockton, Oklahoma City, and others. Leair always had an appreciation for music as a listener, but it wasn’t until he was 17 when he fell in love with music while taking a class in high school. From there, he learned how to play piano, guitar, and read and write sheet music, all while teaching himself how to sing from a kit he bought online. Leair highly credits his Bay Area upbringing for giving him the inspiration to create and perform music. His very first EP, “The Musician Next Door,” was released last Fall. He continues to perform around California and build his fan base around the world through videos and social media. “Music is my heARTwork. I’ve also learned on this journey that to be treated like a professional, you must carry yourself as a professional. As an Indie artist, it’s tough business wise and promoting while working full-time. But, I’ve learned that you have to learn your own numbers, know your value in your market and other markets, and surround yourself with genuine people who can guide you toward the right direction ,” said Leair.
We have again encountered a time where hip-hop is being embraced and incorporated into all facets of music; dubstep, edm, electronic, and even trap-style artists have seemed to incorporate more hip-hop into their melting pot of sounds. Recently there has even been an increase in types of musical presenters, with female emcees being on a recognizable rise in the game. Joining Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea in their glory, we've seen the continued rise of Tink, the evolution of Dreezy's recent signing to Interscope Records, and we've welcomed Bre-Z ("Freda Gatz") into our hearts during her hard-hitting segments on, "Empire." Its only right that the ladies continue to step up in the scene; showing eveyrone that we, too, can be just as fearless.I had the pleasure of interviewing "Hawaii's Homegirl," AlliCat, another game-changing emcee that's currently based in Honolulu, Hawaii. She provided great insight on her hip-hop/r&b career, as well as some of her successes and roadblocks in music while living on the island.
Born Allison Danielle Lindsay, AlliCat is originally from Northeast Ohio in the city of Mansfield. Growing up on the city's South side, AlliCat lived a pretty fulfilling childhood, that always involved family, church, sports, and music. Whether she was singing in a church or school choir, or playing instruments that she's learned over time, she had a musical passion that has yet to diminish. She grew up performing in multiple school and holiday stage plays, and began writing spoken word poetry in high school as a means of communication with a former boyfriend.
AlliCat went on to study at The Ohio State University before joining the United States Army in 2003, where she continued to participate in spoken word events, freestyle cyphers, and open mic nights while off-duty. Her passion for music continued to grow, and while deployed to Southwest Baghdad, AlliCat recorded her very first track; a freestyle remix to Timbaland's "Indian Flute."
"The experience was surreal to me, honestly. Looking back, I still wonder how we were able to carry out the mission for the day and still have energy to write letters, keep in touch with our families, and then work on music, but I think our environment kept driving us to make it happen and I'm just grateful for that opportunity," said the artist.
Present-day, AlliCat continues to perform throughout Honolulu, Hawaii, citing 2016 as her most successful year on stage thusfar. She's slated to join lineups that headline Kevin Gates, Mike Jones, and Freebandz latest signee, Zoey Dollaz. AlliCat has already received raving reviews on her performances during Boosie BadAzz's and MIGOS' recent visits to the island. Truly an emcee, AlliCat gives the audience a great live performance. She’s confident, passionate, and definitely has fun on stage. I think that’s what makes her connect with the audience.
AlliCat describes her sound as unique and versatile. She credits a lot of her recent progress in music to simply learning to just to stay real to herself, stepping out of her comfort zone, and thinking outside of the box.
“I spent my first few years in Hawaii reaching the scene as a versatile artist, doing more hosting and promoting than performing; just taking time to connect with other artists, promoters, DJs, and venues. I was eager to join the ranks of the ladies in Hawaii hip-hop at the time, but found a greater advantage staying in the background getting to know everyone from a different perspective.
As far as the versatility in my music is concerned, I'll say its definitely been a trip! I've always felt more confident as a rapper than a singer, but I'm getting more requests and features for me to sing so it'll be exciting to watch as everything comes together this year."
Today, AlliCat continues to grind in all aspects of her music career. Recently releasing "Where Do I Go," featuring rapper Jonathan Wes and singer Sam Watson, AlliCat speaks on challenges of being an independent female artist, and the difficulties of finding balance. This is her 2nd single released from her Debut EP appropriately dubbed, "Hawaii's Homegirl." Slated for an early summer release, AlliCat isn't slowing down there. When asked what she had forthcoming, she mentioned the nearby conclusion of her 1st collaborative effort with one of Hawaii's most established rappers.
"Im really excited for the release of my first EP because this is really going to give everyone an overview of what I see, and how I'm feeling about life right now. Just a lot of good times and great vibes. I do also have other projects coming together and am open for collaborations. Just looking forward to seeing whats in store and hopefully releasing some music that everyone will enjoy."
Stay tuned for all updates with Hawaii's Homegirl at www.iAmAlliCat.com and on all social media outlets @iAmAlliCat.
ALLICAT'S NEW SINGLE, "WHERE DO I GO" (feat. Jonathan Wes & Sam Watson) IS AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE FOR DIGITAL DOWNLOAD. VISIT YOUR FAVORITE STREAMING SITE TODAY OR YOU CAN PURCHASE HERE! http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/allicat
Cover image created by Dac Flames.
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.