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How to Make Moves and Pay Dues in the Hip Hop Scene

Ross Norton is relatively new to the Nashville Hip Hop scene. Yet, he’s already got his hands in more things locally than a lot of people; myself included. He emcees as Kid Dead. Also, he’s been performing as part of Last of the Horsemen along with some other projects. He’s also been booking a lot of hip hop shows in Nashville including the weekly Makin Moves show at The End and the monthly Pay Dues shows at Cafe Coco. I thought it’d be great to bring him on to talk about how’s he’s doing it locally in Nashville hip hop.

QE: Tell me about how you got so plugged into the Nashville Hip hop scene?

KD: Well, to be honest, there’s a few people that helped me immensely in breaking into the scene. First off, one name comes to mind, Bobby Exodus.

He’s one of the most inviting and helpful artists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in Nashville. He’s down for pretty much anyone trying to spread the love and hip-hop. He’s also the first person I met that was active in the scene. He introduced me to Blackheart, Kapsole, Jermy J and many other people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with in Nashville. Next up, one of my closest friends and music partners, Simian Says. He was the very first person I rapped with in Nashville. We hit it off immediately and have an amazing chemistry in the studio. It just works. Then, there’s Cody. Cody Bottoms is the sound man and does booking at Cafe Coco. He gave me the opportunity to book Pay Dues, which I’ll tell you more about later. And last, but not least, Kaby.

Kaby rocks. He brings the party, along with Lifegang crew, wherever he goes. I met Kaby free-styling on the front porch of Cafe Coco and we’ve worked in the scene together throwing awesome parties ever since. He introduced me to a whole other side of hip-hop that I had not been introduced to yet. The rest was really just honest footwork. Networking at shows, talking to anyone and everyone that wanted to chat about music, giving anyone a chance at a spot on a show that really wanted it, and just being steadily present in the scene. I came here a little over a year ago not knowing anyone. Now, I feel more at home here than I do in my hometown.

QE: What made you decide to start booking the Pay Dues Shows?

KD: Pay Dues is an interesting beast. I honestly don’t remember exactly how it happened. Last of the Horsemen got asked to play a show there with Bobby Exodus, Jermy J and Darian D and a couple others early in the summer of 2012. After that show, someone (not sure who, Bobby?) sent Cody my way and I was approached about doing a show. I sorta just threw Pay Dues on their not even thinking people would be into the name like they were. Honestly, I was having trouble coming up with a good name and I thought Pay Dues was “the best I could come up with”. With a lot of help from Bobby, Jermy J and the rest of the crew of misfit artists it seemed to catch on right away. We got a good write up in the scene from Sean Maloney, a lot of really good acts to play, some kinks were worked out, lots of fun times were had (and still are happening) and the rest is history. (QE note: Here’s how to get a write up in your local music scene.)

Quiet Entertainer at Pay Dues

QE: How about the Makin Moves shows?

KD: The Makin’ Moves shows seem to be the next step from Pay Dues. For a good while now people have been telling me I should move Pay Dues to The End, or at least somewhere other than Cafe Coco. And, for a little while I considered it. But really, I like the shows at Cafe Coco. It’s a very intimate setting. You can feel a part of the crowd instead of apart from the crowd. But, nonetheless, something new was definitely needed. Jesse, who does booking at The End, has talked me about booking since I started doing shows at Cafe Coco. We finally came up with an idea we thought would be a lot of fun and really get people out. Makin’ Moves is sort of a spawn from Pay Dues that we will hope is even bigger than its predecessor.

Kid Dead at Makin' Moves

QE: Has booking these shows helped you in your artistic pursuits?

KD: Promoting and booking these shows has been hard work, time consuming, and stressful, but most of all it’s been a hell of a lot of fun. It has given me an amazing opportunity to promote my own music along with other artists that I respect and enjoy listening to. I have also met so many awesome people to work with and collaborate with. Outside of hip-hop being a boys club and semi-competitive, it really is a community and a lifestyle. I’ve learned more about making music, playing shows and the music industry in the past year than I have in my whole life. It’s really pushed me as a fan and as an artist. It’s important to support people who’s music you enjoy and to work really hard at what you love.

Last of the Horsemen; From L to R: Jix, Kid Dead, Simian Says, & Trait the Unknown

QE: Tell me about Last of The Horsemen.

KD: When I came to Nashville I knew one person. A very good friend of mine from Nashville that lived in Tallahassee for a while and we became very close because of our love of the music. After a little while of getting on my feet and semi-establishing myself I started diving into the Nashville music scene. I had met Simian through some mutual friends and we had talked about music many times. Our interests were similar and eventually we got together in the studio and messed around with some ideas. Together ,we came up with the name Last of the Horsemen and soon after brought Trait the Unknown into the mix. The first song we ever did called “Lady Killer” was a beat we collaborated on and made together. The basis of the beat is a sample from the song “Twisted Nerve” by Bernard Herrmann. Though, most people would recognize it as the “whistle song” from Kill Bill. We sat down and wrote a kitschy, violent tune about murder, ninjas, roofies, and other more dubious themes. We sorta just clicked from there. All of us began getting together as much as our schedules would allow. Our dark rhymes and similar interests and passions seemed to drive the music itself. We’ had a lot of awesome people support us in our pursuits and played a lot of really fun shows. The Horsemen have recently been low key but, you haven’t seen the last of the Last of the Horsemen.

Kid Dead & Bobby Exodus

QE: Tell me about Kid Exodus.

KD: Ok, so a lot of people in Nashville know Bobby Exodus. Like I said before he was one of the first people I met to show mad love in the community. But not only that, Bobby has become a really, really good friend of mine. We both support each other in everything we do and help each other out when we can. Me and Bobby decided it would be cool to rock a set together.. So basically, we just traded each other our music and listened to it like it was the most amazing music we had ever heard in our life. Pretty much until we couldn’t handle listening to it anymore. We never practiced together once because we were both working full-time jobs at the time, but we got together at the December Pay Dues and rocked it! It happened to be the smallest turn out for Pay Dues since it started, but it was still a great time had by all. Actually, I can say, it was one of the most fun shows I’ve played since I’ve been in nashville. Big shout out to Bobby Sexodus for being the hip-hop apple of my eye (if I was a gangster rapper I would insert a “no homo” remark here).

QE: Any other project you’re working on?

KD: Right now I am currently finishing an album I did with Jermy J. It’s an artsy, indie sounding little album. It’s a little personal, a little weird, a little silly, a little rough and it’s just been a lot of fun for us to do. I’m also working on a project with Darius from Island Hustle Society. He is an amazing producer and I think people are really gonna enjoy what we’re doing. On top of that, me and Simian are working on new Horsemen stuff. We’re gonna be taking some time on this next set of songs and come out with a full length album hopefully by early, mid summer.

QE: Is collaboration an important part of your artistic process?

KD: Collaborating with other artists has been huge for me. I have learned so much about other people and myself working with other artists. I have also had the chance to get to know some really amazing artists better personally. I’ve been able to develop some friendships that I’m really happy to be a part of. For me, the music is all about the love anyways.

Last of the Horsemen

QE: What’s the hip hop scene like in Tallahassee? How is it different from the Nashville hip hop scene?

KD: The Tallahassee hip-hop scene might as well be non-existent. There just isn’t a lot going on there. It’s a pretty small town and it’s a party college town. There’s a lot more of a punk/rock and roll scene and they have some really talented musicians, but for some reason local hip-hop just isn’t very big at all. Basically, the scene is completely different than in Nashville. Up here, there are just so many more opportunities. Everybody and their mother and cousin and dog play music here. That can be sorta difficult because it’s hard to get the exposure you want with so much else out there but there is also a lot more opportunity to play, collaborate and get involved in the scene.

QE: What are some things you want to see happen with the nashville hip hop scene?

KD: Well, like I said, I really enjoy Nashville. I’ve fallen in love with the place. The way I see it, I’m a newcomer. This scene was here way before I got here and it will probably be here way after I’m gone. With that being said, I think people are doing things pretty good here. One thing I don’t like in any part of my life is elitism or people being stuck up or snobbish. That doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen. It’s an inevitable part of any venture, you’re going to find people that either, have something to prove or think they are better than you. The truth of the matter is, not everyone “makes it big” but the more people are working together, the more each individual has a chance of going somewhere and getting their music to more people. That’s my goal at least. I just want to be happy with what I’m making and get it to as many people as possible. That way the people that dig and can relate to my music can find it and enjoy it. So basically, I just wanna everyone to get along. Also, support your scene. Go out to the shows you enjoy, but also maybe go check out something you haven’t heard before. Maybe you’ll be surprised. If you love hip-hop, then show how much.

QE: Who are some artists that are “doing it right?”

KD: Well, ya know, I have a lot of artists that I really like and who’s music I enjoy. And most of them I know personally and are really cool people. One group of people springs to mind when I think of someone “doing it right”. The kids from “Lifegang” have got somethin pretty cool goin’ on.

The first Makin Moves show featured Kaby, PA Lit, and Ducko MckFli with DJ Rjae and DJ Hybrid spinning. Boy, do they have a crew. They also work closely with “Break on a Cloud“, a local music blog. They really get the crowd jumpin’ and like to have a good time. They all support each other. Lifegang, from my understanding, is just about loving life and loving what you do. You could sorta call it a movement if you will. All the kids from their crew are really nice and fun to hang with too. Another group of artists I really enjoy are Gummy Soul.

Kurtis Stanley, Amerigo Gazaway, and Wally Clark are behind most of this I believe and I really enjoy the sound these guys bring. An old school sound with a fresh new look. These guys flows kill, beats kill, videos are dope, everything I’ve heard from these guys is really good. I can’t wait to hang with these guys at Makin Moves this next Monday coming up. (QE note: That’s Monday the 16th. Also Quiet Entertainer will perform on the 23rd!). I could name a hundred other artists that I think are awesome and I wish I could remember and write down every person I’ve played a show with and seen in the past year that I think rocks, but that would take along time. All in all, I love Nashville hip-hop and I’m gonna keep supporting no matter what.

Check out Kid Dead as part of Last of the Horsemen or follow Kid Dead on Twitter.

Photos by Birds Fly Productions, Kelly Hite Photo, Shots On Sight, & FurtherBeyondPhotography.

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