Lobotomix is Birmingham’s point-man for Hip Hop artists, and their namesake stage will blast 1st Ave North both Friday and Saturday night. Two Saturday groups talk hype for the festival as they prepare to travel long hours to Birmingham: Jabee and DJ Smash Lames hail (as Jabee) from Oklahoma City, and Mane Rok, DJ AWHAT! and Ichiban come from Denver as Stay Tuned.
Katy Ward- Where do you draw your musical style from? Is it a mashup of a few styles, or have the same kinds of beats always driven your music?
JABEE- I’m from Oklahoma City, so the music inspiration is a melting pot. I think my style is drawn from East, West, and South, conscious to gangsta music. I grew up listening to Pac, Nas, Scarface, EL-P, Mf Doom, to Ice Cube, to Hieroglyphics.
DJ- I’m from the hood, so my story does have that element in it. From an OKC point of view.
ST- The beauty of Hip-Hop itself is that it’s built from pieces of all musical styles (aka sampling). So, from Hip-Hop itself. Each song, like the lyrics, are made as a reflection of what’s being felt at that moment. This is also what pushed the name “Stay Tuned”…as this is always changing and evolving on it’s own.
KW- Jabee, I was just watching your music videos, and I appreciate how often you use kids as a storytelling device. It’s effective! Your new EP Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt (EWBANH) has a toddler on the cover and refers to childhood. The EP makes me curious: What are the ways childhood inspires your work?
JABEE- I have my daughter on the cover of my EWBANH album, I think childlikeness inspires me because they are the tomorrow, they are innocent. We were all like that once.
KW- If you could perform for any person or group, who would it be? All-inclusive or exclusive, close to home or someplace exotic?
JABEE- If I could perform for anyone it would be my grandparents, and for my elders who have never seen me perform. I want to perform in Africa too, for a village of youth and young adults.
ST- For as much as we’ve all performed, both together and separate, I (Mane Rok) would say that we are not necessarily concerned about a single person…but more so the group, and that the group themselves be inclusive and open and ready to have a good time being entertained-whatever that means for them. Whether it’s the ardent student of Hip-Hop checking our every word, or the casual fan who is most concerned with the beats.
We want them all present and engaged.
As for location itself…hmmm…all over the WORLD! That’s where we’d like to play.
KW- Secret Stages is a unique kind of music festival that plays off of the in-the-know feel of urban geography. Do you prefer your own fanbase, or will the festival atmosphere suit you?
ST- Yeah, we’ve played quite a few festivals. We’ve played Denver’s Westword Music Showcase many times, Denver’s Underground Music Showcase, Warped Tour, Southern Comfort threw a festival where Gnarls Barkley headlined some years back that we played (forgot the name)…Colorado Crush and Color Codes-both Graffiti/HipHop festivals in Denver and Iowa respectively.
We welcome any chance to play a show…especially away from home, so the idea is just amazing. And we are so thankful. Festivals- especially those with multi-genre stages, can be so much fun because it’s really about folks being there to discover new music. So as they float around from venue to venue, it’s up to you the artist to earn their attention.
So. To have the opportunity and to give our best in doing so, well, it’s what we love to do. (Shouts to Lobotomix!)
Stay Tuned will perform on the Lobotomix stage at Matthew’s bar on Saturday at 8:15, and Jabee on the same stage at 11:15. Seven other stages to be found downtown will cover genres from folk to indie pop. Secret Stages begins at 6:00 Friday night, July 31, and tickets can be found via secretstages.net.
Katy Ward is an artist and journalist who loves all things Birmingham. Her artwork, articles, and special projects can be found at katywardcreative.com.