Stand up, Seven Mile!
When you come from one of the most storied roads in the Motor Gritty (a term appropriated for hip-hop correctness), you'd better learn to represent it well. Interestingly enough, repping your hood tends to land Detroiters rap artists particularly in hot water.
But the members of Raw Collection manage to skirt friction, while fronting for their neck of the woods. They do it by making music that balances humor and a Detroit-bred sense of fuck-you-ity.
Yes, in the world of Raw Collection, that is a word. Since forming in 2001, Bareda aka Mr. Wrong, along with Reddbone, Lodown, Vanzetti and Sky Scrilla, have made it to the brink of stardom. Their swagger is brilliantly confident. They're in your face, just like the conflicting abundance and blight of their beloved thoroughfare.
"One thing Raw Collection has over most," Vanzetti says, "is that we appeal to everybody. We manage to find our niche in the crowd. We manage to give you enough energy. The whole show is an adrenaline rush."
The man just might be right. Raw C is an experiment originally brought together by D12's Swifty McVay. (He's not down with the crew these days D12 business consumes his schedule.) McVay and Bareda's group, the Rabeez, were respected for their song "If the Beat Don't Stop" during the late '90s. Meanwhile Lodown and Reddbone were part of Rabeez's affiliate crew, Trump Tight. It was the era of the Hip Hop Shop they were all involved and it was all good.
But even in McVay's absence, the crew moves on. A collective of solo artists and one duo, they released an album, Private Party, in 2002. It sold a few thousand and it got them some buzz.
The sum of their individual parts, Raw C's style is straightforward hip hop. They don't give real names or ages. "We got warrants," Vanzetti says. But they do acknowledge their history.
Bareda is probably the most distinguished member, having appeared on MTV's defunct Lyricist Lounge. He also released a solo record last year, Wrong as Hale. It was easily one of the most lyrically engaging, well-produced projects to come out of Detroit. He is now putting finishing touches on a deal with Tantrum/Universal. If all goes well, Bareda will lead his crew up and out to the level of national visibility they desire.
Reddbone, the elder of the crew, is admittedly the den mother. She's the one most responsible for keeping the camp focused. "It gets discouraging, but when it's time to shine, you gon' do it," she says.
Sky Scrilla and Vanzetti make up the Executive Board, the duo within, leaving Lodown as the remaining solo cog. Executive Board, Lodown and Redbone all have projects coming out this spring.
These have been good years for Raw C. Their mixtape, The Re-Up, was released last year to interest from around the world. They look at their appeal in places like South Africa, Norway, Germany and Britain, made possible through healthy Internet promotion. In China on the other hand, they say with a smirk, only one dude bought a CD.
The mixtape featured "host" MC Serch, the hip-hop legend who moved to Detroit two years ago to be a personality on WJLB's morning show. DDT, another one of the morning show's contributors, also appeared on the project. It helped the group's credibility and, though they are appreciative, the appearances have not helped them break the political reins that make it difficult for local artists to get significant amounts of airplay.
Bareda says commercial radio is their biggest obstacle. Lodown agrees, adding that an overall lack of local support undermines unity among Detroit hip-hop artists.
"Back in day," Bareda says, "if a song was hot, they'd put it on. Now, hip hop in Detroit is somewhat sad. There's not a lot of camaraderie."
And while Bareda concedes that things might be changing a bit as of late, it's not something they can afford to wait on. There are events taking place in the city that have captured the nation's attention. Super Bowl XL made a successful run here. The Detroit Pistons are that team from now until June. Bareda says the country sees Detroit as a cool spot right now, and that means there's a prime opportunity for Motown emcees to sell America "our way of life."
Chances are Raw C will be in the mix when that opportunity presents itself. Their individual outlooks on life, which are bright, rather than bleak, can only help the cause. A common question asked of Raw C one that many journalists ask hip-hop artists, expecting to hear gloom and doom stories is, "What would you be doing with your life if you had not been involved with hip hop?"
Raw C says they would be raising their children, running a landscaping businesses, etc. In other words, they'd do what most Americans hell, most hard-veined Detroiters would do: make a living and sort life out by the day.
That's life, real and raw.Khary Kimani Turner is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]