Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight we delve into an array of artists signed with Trill Starr Mafia, an independent R&B and hip hop label based out of South Texas. They put together a sampler of their new artists for me to take a look at, but first, let’s give a bit of context to the label:
Trill Starr Mafia was founded in 2007, and they’re home to quite an array of artists. They pride themselves on being “true and real,” a mantra that’s immensely important to their endeavor. The label cites a void in the genre as their reason for inception - “Nobody was making the music we wanted to hear so we took it upon ourselves to make it!” Hey, that’s essentially how Def Jam came into being. Some of the finest independent labels of all time were born out of a desire to create music not present in the mainstream.
Hail Gatsby is the first artist we’re going to be digging into it. His first track, ‘COOLIN,’ has production featuring Skinny. The piece is an interesting exploration of both Gatbsy’s persona and Skinny’s prowess for producing. The former is a slick enough wordsmith, dancing through rhymes with a dynamic R&B flair. The track is, however, a bit inundated by tropes and predictable lyricism. The modern hip hop scene is starting to move away from the self-indulgent “I’m a badass” mentality in the pursuit of more meaningful lyricism. ‘COOLIN’ feels dated in that sense.
Next is Shaun Mecca's ‘Cocaine,’ an effort featuring KiddRokket and also produced by Skinny. KidRokket’s presence on the track is a widely beneficial one, contrasting Mecca wonderfully. The production of the track is much more notable, elevating it into a realm more enticing if you were to compare it to Hail Gatsby. At times, ‘Cocaine’ does fall victim to the same stereotypes that ‘COOLIN’ does. It does that, however, with incredible enthusiasm, and as a result, is an infinitely more powerful endeavor.
AKdaRockStarr’s ‘Dance for Me’ is one of the better pieces of the sampler I received, connecting some of the finest R&B on album. It isn’t a terribly deep track, but it is a joy to listen to. Fortunately, Billy Young fills that void with ‘Ponciana St,’ the most poignant lyrical pursuit of the album. Young actually has purpose and meaning in his vocals, and man, he’s a talent. ‘Ponciana St’ is a resounding triumph of independent hip hop, setting it several echelons above anything else I’ve heard from Trill Starr Mafia.
Finally, AKdaRockStarr’s ‘We Do’ extends his good-feeling, R&B sound space for an effectively splendid experience. Lisa Anita’s ‘Alone’ stands resolutely as the instrumental highlight of the sampler, exhibiting an incredibly passionate young woman with some serious hip hop chops. Thus, I’d argue Lisa Anita and Billy Young are the two most redeemable efforts on Trill Starr Media. They should focus far less on Hail Gatsby and Shaun Mecca, let AKdaRockStarr do his thing, and then hone Anita and Young into the talents they clearly are.