It's been a great year for local hip-hop and rap — with idiosyncratic indie artist Cities Aviv and major-label-signed hardcore rapper Don Trip making national waves and truly exciting, locally groundbreaking music this year. But the most promising sleeper artist on the scene might be Tim "Royal'T" Love — a gifted, prolific 20-year-old rapper whose music has been evolving quickly in 2011.
This weekend, Royal'T will take the stage at the Hi-Tone Café to celebrate the release of his third full-length album in the last 12 months, 4 All Seasonz.
Royal'T's December 2010 Raw Gospel Muzik was a decidedly old-school hip-hop affair, a guest-packed collection bridging the gap between the younger scene and some familiar names from the past decade of Memphis' indie hip-hop scene like Jason Da Hater and Fathom 9. This summer's I.D.K. (FUMZ) found Royal'T developing deeper partnerships with local MCs of his own generation — including Cities Aviv, Preauxx, and A Quest — while tapping into electronic music and rock for a sound and tone that evoked the recently erupting, Los Angeles-based Odd Future collective.
On 4 All Seasonz, Royal'T's most confident collection so far, he pulls back on the collaborations — three of 13 songs having "featuring" credits — displaying a diversity that draws on his records while still pushing his sound forward. "Pump It Up" evokes golden-age late-'80s hip-hop. "Party and Bullshit" is a smooth, jazzy traded-verse track in the vein of '90s heroes A Tribe Called Quest. "Spazz (devil muzik)" is a return to the menacing, rattled Odd Future style. And a second half trilogy — "Street Dreams," "A Gangsta Story," and "Hood Talr (On This Side)" — finds Royal'T bringing a sharp, moral approach to so-called gangsta rap somewhat in the vein of his physical doppelganger, Notorious B.I.G. (Though, actually, Royal'T looks less like Biggie than like the actor who played him in the biopic Notorious.)
Elsewhere, on collaborations with Cities Aviv ("Crazy") and jazzy local singer Fille Catatonique ("Geat Away"), Royal'T sounds more fully contemporary. Which of these many sides is the "real" Royal'T? He doesn't seem to know yet. Maybe all of it. But part of what's interesting about this emerging young artist is listening to him figure it out in real time.
Royal'T celebrates the release of 4 All Seasonz with a release show at the Hi-Tone on Saturday, October 22nd. Joining him onstage will be Preauxx, A Quest, and DJ Hush. Grim will perform a DJ set post-show. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $5. All of Royal'T's albums are available for download at royalttopmc.bandcamp.com.
Memphis Does CMJ
One artist not slated to join Royal'T at the Hi-Tone this weekend is frequent collaborator Cities Aviv, who has a good excuse. Cities Aviv will be in New York City, performing as part of the CMJ Music Marathon, an annual, high-profile industry-showcase event sponsored by College Media Journal. Cities Aviv will share the stage at at least one showcase event with another Memphis-connected act, Bosco Delrey, a New Jersey native whose blend of electronic music, glam rock, and rockabilly was created in part via time spent living and recording in Memphis. Spin magazine lists Delrey among 30 "can't miss acts" at CMJ 2011.
Indie Memphis Does Music
After announcing a partial slate of films for its November 3rd-6th Indie Memphis Film Festival last week, Indie Memphis is releasing a full slate (barring potential late additions) this week. Among the highlights is a local debut of the finished version of Better Than Something, the documentary on late Memphis rocker Jay Reatard.
Better Than Something screened as a work-in-progress earlier this year at the On Location: Memphis film festival but has been making the festival rounds as a completed work in recent months. It will join the filmed-in-Memphis rock-band flick Losers Take All for a nice double-bill of Memphis-connected rock films. Other music selections will include the hip-hop docs The Wonder Year (about producer/DJ 9th Wonder) and Beatboxing: The Fifth Element of Hip-Hop and local documentaries on stepping and the band Black Rock Revival.
See indiememphis.com for a full lineup and ticket information.