Photos by Nikki Hedrick and Edward McGrath
I reached out to five hip-hop artists in the area, asking them about their influences and connections to the music. Even with the differences in style and approaches, there is a common thread—by making music, they share a piece of themselves with listeners.
Micky Mouth’s approach to music lies in being himself. “Most forget that music is art, and art is self-expression,” he says. “Now if you asked most people who know me, they would describe me as ‘Micky.’ There is no real explanation or way to describe it. There are concepts and opinions that are applicable, but for the most part we are all ‘art.’ I am a living song, and so are you.”
Micky performed at the Sixth Annual Beachcomber Music Awards—and took home the Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and Best Original Song awards—which he calls one of his favorite performances to date. The night also marked four years of sobriety for Micky.
“The stars truly aligned that evening,” he says of the gig, during which he sported a shirt with the word SOBER in big bold type. “I rocked the stage and had a wonderful chance to hear many people tell me they didn’t like hip-hop in the slightest bit and that they had a blast. I also had a brief moment to address the crowd of my personal accomplishment of continued sobriety, and the feedback was breathtaking while standing on stage fighting back tears of gratitude.”
Although Micky has been a little quiet lately on the music front, he is working toward the release of a new EP. The time away has helped him gain a different perspective on creating. “Through the phases of my development as a person and an artist, I’ve learned to stop judging myself on what to create and started to embrace creating what I love.”
Strange Tang’s Price and Obliq
The hip-hop duo Strange Tang won Beachcomber’s Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist two years running, and Price sees music as an opportunity to share new ideas with an eager audience. “I love teaching,” he says. “After college, I was a tutor at a nonprofit scholars program. It was there I realized how kids don’t remember anything from textbooks, but they remember every word to every song on the radio. I decided that if I’m to teach kids, I needed to go to where they’re learning.
“My favorite compliment that I get daily is from people who don’t like hip-hop but they love my music. They say it makes them feel the way only good music can, and they forget all about their prejudices.”
Pensacola’s Big Lo was drawn the power and rawness of hip-hop in the late ‘80s. He calls opening for Ghostface and Raekwon and being asked to do an encore one of his favorite experiences to date.
“My music is like a Choose Your Own Adventure, and I’d like to leave it somewhat open for interpretation,” he says of his often-complex lyrics. “I make it for myself so it’s not really up to me to determine what the listener connects (with) or whether they connect at all.”
I believe part of the reason Pensacola’s hip-hop scene is experiencing a growth spurt is because of Big Lo’s Bars Over Bullshit showcases and Dee Villain’s Safety Meeting showcases. Both give hip-hop artists a platform to raise visibility and cultivate fan bases.
Dee Villain admits that his siblings are the ones who turned him into a hip-hop fan. He now uses music to express his life. “What separates me is myself,” he says. “It is ‘my’ story, ‘my’ vibe, done my way.”
He finds joy in the creation process, even dubbing it “fun stress” when he doesn’t perform or write for stretches. “I hope they connect (it) with their reality,” says Dee of his songs. “Own yourself and love yourself. It’s all I could ever ask.”
For iTz GileS, music was an escape. “I was attracted to the freedom of speech and the release of emotions through lyrics,” he says.
“The goal is for people to connect emotionally, and to be able to feel what I’ve been through or how I’m feeling at that moment. We all deal with life everyday, whether it be relationship problems, self-doubt, or depression. I hope for my music to move you spiritually.”