New Rap City: A Conversation with Group Member Tech Chambers

Luck is said to be when preparation meets opportunity. That saying rings true for how Tech Chambers met C-Style to form New Rap City.

Tech Chambers From New Rap City

One day while hanging out with one of his friends at their house Tech Chambers heard music coming from a back room. Curious to find out who the rapper was he asked his friend. To his amazement he found out that the person on the track was sitting in that same room.

Two weeks after meeting each other they entered their first competition which they won.

Raised in Harlem the music of New Rap City reflects the desires, struggles and hopes for the future of both C-Style & Tech Chambers. Having both lived less than ideal childhoods listening to rap and hip-hop was a way they could both escape the hardships of life.

At an early age C-Style, who is now 26, new that being in the world of rap and hip-hop was exactly where he was supposed to be. At nine years old he began to record himself on his karaoke machine.  With the help of his karaoke machine he made his first mix tape which he titled “In the Time of Crisis.”

By the time he got to high school he was selling CD’s in the hallways. The title of the CD was “The Resume.”

Tech Chambers, who is now 25, grew up in a family where both of his parents were addicted to drugs and his father was truly never around. His brother dropped out of school to get a job and support the family.

The earliest memory he had surrounding music was his brother rapping “Children’s Story” from Slick Rick to him so that he could fall asleep.

C-Style was not available for an interview, but his partner Tech Chambers spoke about the path of the duo and their new album.

When asked about what makes their music different from the rap music that is out there today Tech Chambers said that it was their versatility and their ability to hit multiple different genres and markets. He said “we can use street music, we can do commercial music, we can do dance music, party music. It doesn’t matter it depends on how we feel when the beat is on.”

When it comes to their music they say that they are trying to show people that there are other ways to express oneself other than violence. “If you listen to it it’s not ‘I’ma shoot you in the head, I’ma rape your mother’ kind of music. We inspire people.”

Tech Chambers says that his biggest influence, when it comes to music, is Tupac:

“Because he elevated rap to what it is today. Without him, and unfortunately without Biggie [Smalls], rap music wouldn’t have had as strong of an impact as it has. He wasn’t afraid to be versatile. He could make a song like “Ambitious as a Ridah” where he’s talking about being a real dude and doing what he has to do to make it then he can make a song like “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Bomb First” and “Dear Mama” where he’s talking to his mother. His versatility made him shine out through everything else.”

On the website ReverbNation the music of New Rap City is described as “a mix between 50 cent and Cassidy with the chemistry of Redman and Method Man.”

So far they have entered 39 competitions. They have won 37 of them. The biggest monetary award that they have received is 500 dollars. They worked with Paul Wall and DJ Jeevus in the production of their first album. The largest crowd they have performed in front of was 400 people.

ReverbNation goes on to say that for winning a showcase “their grand prize was a mix tape hosted by the Rap Champ Paul Wall, a slot of the highly acclaimed hip hop website www.allhiphop.com and an album release party in the heart of Manhattan.”

With a song like “Pick Up a Book” New Rap City rap about learning through education and striving to be someone good in life. Letting young people now that it is your intellect and not your “street swagga” that gets you places.

However those positive words get drowned out when in songs like “Goldfish” and “It Don’t Make You a MC” the ‘n’ word is used repeatably. I am not here to argue about the meaning of the ‘n’ word or if it has changed, what I am saying is that these guys have major talent and great beats and lyrics, but the overuse of the ‘n’ word makes it so that is all you hear when you listen.

I am aware that many rappers use that word the way the stereotypical person from the Vally uses “like”, however aren’t they trying to be different?

If that word wasn’t said so much their message would come through much clearer.

On their Facebook page they have 32 ‘Likes’, on Myspace they have 99 friends and on Twitter they have 120 followers.

They have performed at Club Element, Sultra Lounge and the Secret Lounge.

Tech Chambers wants many more things in the future. He wants to go into acting, producing, directing and writing: “anything where I can express myself in; that I can turn my talent outward for people to recognize.”

The duo is currently working on a new, as of yet untitled, album. Some of the issues that they touch on in the new album have to do with the status of the music industry.

One aspect is what they see as the radio being one-sided. “You could listen to the radio for five days straight and it will be the same ten artists all day and that’s not exciting” says Tech Chambers.

They also discuss the issue of how, in their opinion, when it comes to the music business it is not talent that gets you noticed, but who you know. If you are not lucky to know anyone in the business then you will be “sitting at home working at Home Depot.”

“The first album was just me letting you know I was here. This album is letting you know that I am serious about making an imprint. I don’t want to be one of those rappers that you see everyday that come out with a hit then two years later they don’t have no more music on the radio cause they just stopped their inspiration’s gone.”

When asked if there was anything else he wanted to say his final words were “watch me.”

Singer/ songwriter Brooke Campbell Shares Her Talent at the 92nd Street Y

There she was- with her black hair in a ponytail wearing a black shirt covered by a white sweater and blackish-gray denim jeans. Her wardrobe was accessorized by her brown six-string guitar.

As folk singer/songwriter Brooke Campbell readied herself for her performance at the 92nd Street Y Tribeca she walked on and off the black mini stage, which should rightly be described as a small square in the corner where naughty children would be placed for time-outs, placing candles on a table to add to the ambiance and illuminate the small stage.

Campbell is originally from North Carolina and although her primary residence now is Nashville Tennessee she is residing in New York until this summer.

Campbell, although she would sing songs such as harmonies, Christmas songs and songs from the fifties with her mom in the car growing up, did not really commit to becoming a musician until she attended college. As for picking up a guitar she did not do so until she was 21. Campbell, in an interview for the website thehighcalling.org, said that she began taking her talent seriously the same time she began to for a relationship with God.

When it comes to writing and sharing her music she feels, as she told the website, that it is “a great responsibility to tell the truth before God.”

As she walked on the stage again to do her mic-check, and fiddle with her strings to make sure they were properly tuned, just a couple of inches from her stood a  four foot stool, the color of dirty grey, which had a coffee and a glass of wine placed on top of it. As she finished preparing she would take sips of each one.

The couple of people who were there prior to her showcase where busy talking either on their phones or to each other to notice that the singer/songwriter was there.

As she began her set at 8:15 PM, 15 minutes prior to starting time, she announced to the small group and those who were still getting themselves seated, with a smile on her face, who she was and that she would play for them for a while.

Singer/ Songwriter Brooke Campbell

As soon as she began to sing it felt as if you were transported into the early to mid 90’s. Closing your eyes you would’ve believed that it was singer/ songwriter Jewel up there; both having a soft melodic folksy sound to their voice. The kind of sound that is appropriate for a coffee house style venue. The sort of music that when song the amount of people in the crowd becomes irrelevant because no matter who you happen to be that song, no matter how long it is, is about you and is being song for you. The type of music that causes you to connect with a complete stranger.

The title track from her album Sugar Spoon is a 3 minute 5 second version of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. In the upbeat folk track Campbell sings about locking herself “inside the house and melting down the key turned it to a sugar spoon to talk to my coffee.” Later in her lyrics she mentions climbing into a bottle and going down a rabbit hole.

A connection to Jewel can also be made there. In her 1995 album ‘Pieces of You’ in her song ‘You Were Meant for Me’ Jewel sings about breaking the yolks to make a smiley face and consoling a cup of coffee that didn’t want to talk. The huge difference in both tracks in both tracks was the topic; whereas Campbell’s song was upbeat Jewel’s concentrated on a breakup.

Unlike the album’s title track where Campbell’s lyrics suggest that she welcomes the confusion, ‘Why?’ is a song that speaks about the confusion brought on when it comes to love and her emotions surrounding it.:“I slam doors close and even I don’t know why love scares me so.”

Listening carefully it becomes apparent that Campbell makes a transition from feeling love in her relationship to feeling ignored.  Some of the most poignant of the lyrics were: “I am full of bullet holes through my back and through my soul as I bring you your beer/ You don’t even know my name you look pass me to the game.”

As she kept playing her songs, every once and a while stopping to adjust her guitar to the tune appropriate to the next track or remove her sweater, she would tap her foot to keep along with the beat. She was wearing black shoes that seemed to have a weaved overlapping zigzag design to them.

Every once and a while the people would clap and she would respond with a “thank you” and a smile to the small gathering. Over the course of the performance there were people still coming in to sit down, and even though it was not a pack house she appreciated those who were there.

Kari Pulizzano, who did not attend the showcase but did listen to Campbell’s tracks feels that although she has “the upmost respect for self-made musicians” in her view Campbell was “an average chick with an acoustic guitar, singing little bits of her life to strangers in a small bar with a brick backdrop.”

Pulizzano did say that Campbell “appears to have a great passion for what she’s doing” and that she would not mind hearing her on a weeknight out having drinks and dinner, but that Campbell’s voice seemed “strained and nasally” and that her guitar playing was average and that she, Pulizzano, wouldn’t go out of her way to catch the singer/ songwriter’s set.

She also preformed covers in her set. One of them was for her brother who, she informed the crowd, had just returned from a tour in the army.  The song had no title but she explained that it was found in a church a long time ago and was written about soldiers who died in war.

Another cover was Patty Griffin’s song “Long Ride Home.”

Brooke Campbell-Long Ride Home

When she finished her set she walked up to the people sitting in the front tables (those who seemed to be really paying attention to her) and said “thank you for coming” and smiled.

Brooke Campbell’s album ‘Sugar Spoon’ can be found on iTunes.

The Artist and the Listener: An Unspoken Connection

I love music. I have loved music since I was a zygote. I listen to at least one song everyday and I’m not exaggerating! The choice of songs I listen to has in large part to do with the way I might be feeling for the day. One day I might listen to one song repeatedly another day I might listen to a mixture of artists. Take note that I wrote artist, not singer.

Don't you Just Love My Drawing!!! Especially The Mic!!!

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a singer as someone who sings which is defined as a person who produces “musical tones by means of the voice.” That same dictionary defines an artist as “one skilled or versed in learned arts.”

I see an artist as someone who sits with their thoughts and then links them together like a chain that is made heavy not by metal, but by the emotions and time spent crafting it together. Each lyric acts as one link in the making of the chain. When the chain is complete the writer has gotten used to its weight and although it might still be somewhat heavy the person can carry it, and they carry it with pride.

Singer/songwriters Jewel, Sara Barilles, and The Script (Danny O’Donoghue, Mark Sheehan, and Glen Power) are several people who come to mind.

Jewel's Album 'Spirit' (1998). Taken From My Computer From My iTunes Library.

Barilles, when it came to writing new songs for her album Kaleidoscope Heart, said on her website it felt “like pulling teeth to write them.”

While writing for their self-titled debut album Sheehan’s mother became terminally ill. This had a tremendous affect on the band’s writing: “That was pulling on my heart strings in a big way. Lyrically it was pouring out of me” said band member O’Donoghue whose father also passed away during the album’s creation. “But then amidst all this travesty and disaster, these songs have risen out of it. That was the time when it finally came home to me how important music was to me, cos in my darkest moments that’s what got me through.”

Sara Barilles' Album 'Kaleidoscope Heart' (2010).

What O’Donoghue and Barilles said on their websites proves my point. Every word, lyric and chorus that the artist writes is an outward expression of an inner emotion. Time after time when pen hits paper or finger hits keyboard that person is acting as their own therapist.

Every time someone decides to listen to a music track they are giving themselves permission to feel something and they assume the risk that the emotion they feel may not always be positive.

The Script's Self- Titled Debut Album (2008) (THEY'RE IRISH ♥!!!)

I have an unspoken deal with the artists I listen to. Since they have put a lot of themselves in to their music they have earn some privilege to co-exist with my emotions. If I don’t want to share my emotions with them, be it happiness, sadness or anger, I simply change the track.

As You Can Tell (Hopefully) I Love Music & My iPod!!!

Every time I listen to a singer who didn’t write their own lyrics I am not connecting with them I am connecting with the songwriter.

Songs are called tracks for a reason. Songs are placed in order on an album because the artist wants to create a journey for their listeners. Tracks are laid down so that a train may ride on them. As a listener you are a passenger on that train and you can decide to take the entire journey or only make a couple of stops.

In today’s music industry anyone can be a singer, but not everyone is an artist.

This Oyster Can Keep Its “Pearl”

The beats of “Pearl Remix” create the image of a club scene filled with flashy strobe lights and hundreds of sweaty people rubbing up against each other. Although It would have been much better without Tamar-kali singing. Without her voice it is a song that you probably hear at a beach party, with her it sounds like an older woman screaming at a bunch of kids to get off her lawn.

A Song that Left Me with a “Head”ache

Radiohead’s new song, “Lotus Flower, is the kind of music you would hear in a mental institution. A slower and more horrible version of the music of Fatboy Slim and their song “Praise You.” The music that would accompany a deranged dream that was brought on by an acid trip. By the end it will leave you with a headache that leaves you thinking “why in the hell did I listen to that?”