I spent my last night in Austin yelling out the lyrics of 2Chainz music and giving high fives to random black people in cars, taxis, and walking down the street. The trip to South by Southwest is a blur of long walks, taxi rides, hip hop music, and Jameson; putting events in order is nearly impossible. It was overwhelming.
The excitement at SXSW is contagious. Musicians are there following their dreams and excited to talk to the media. Fans are there following the GPS on their phone, running down sixth street ready to grab (another) drink, and excited to watch their favorite bands perform inside intimate venues.
For those who have never been to downtown Austin, 6th street is basically six blocks of college bars and hole in the wall pizza shops–during SXSW each bar becomes a venue.
“Man I threw up blood this morning,” Cory Kendrix told me as we walked with Illa to take shots of Saki and watch Chiddy Bang perform at the MTVu stage. “I was headed to the sink to get some water, but I didn’t even make it. I had to make a U-Turn back to the bathroom.”
Cory is originally from Salem, but he now lives in Austin. After getting into trouble as a youngster, he bounced back and forth between Austin and Salem before sticking in Austin. The LNS and 512 tattoos on his neck, representing his crew (Leaders of the New School) and his Austin area code, scream “I don’t have a fucking day job, so fuck you I rule!” He parties like a rock star and lives off his music, working as an engineer, producer, and emcee.
“It’s like this every weekend here, just a little toned down on other weekends, but they close down 6th street every weekend for people to party.”
He performed alongside fellow Austin rapper Kydd at the XXL Freshman showcase on Wednesday. On Saturday, we stood in the back of the crowd at the Thrasher Presents Showcase drinking whiskey and watching Kreayshawn perform “Gucci, Gucci”.
“I’d hit it,” he told me as if to suggest the whiskey was starting to settle in and right before asking if I did _______. (I don’t do drugs, but I thought it was friendly of him to offer.)
A big part of Cory’s look involves not being concerned with fashion; he has a “this is just what I’m wearing right now” attitude about clothes that I can relate to. This attitude contrasts starkly with Illa, who is an active boutique shopper best known for his track Cranberry Vodka (which currently has over 100,00 views on YouTube). Illa is also one of the lead artists in the Coast2Coast Mixtape movement.
Illa received looks from majors after releasing an album with Dekk (of Shadows of Stars) under the group name Moxie Black.
“Within 24 hours of dropping the album, we had record deal offers on the table,” he told me. “I don’t think we really knew where that project was going to go when it came out…He had people in his ear and I had people in my ear, and we just didn’t get things figured out.”
Illa and Cory both have mixtapes scheduled to be released next month. Illa’s is called Max Ernst; and Cory’s, Free Beer.
After taking a quick nap on Thursday night, I ended up taking shots with Illa at three in the morning and arguing about how cost effective silicone bracelets with flash drives are. (I say for the price they aren’t worth it.) He’s a great person to chat with late at night because of how excited he gets. For a moment, I was convinced he was actually selling me silicone bracelets with flash drives.
“Okay, I’ll buy them,” I said to him–lying my way out of a conversation.
A major difference between Illa and Cory is that Illa has a much more developed idea of where he would like his career to go. Cory has a one project and one tour at a time sort of agenda.
“For my solo shit I feel like a deal is necessary to take it where it can go,” Illa told me. “I want to do all kinds of music, I don’t really consider myself a rapper. I feel like I don’t want to be put into a box I love all kinds of music. I feel like I can be successful in all kinds of music. I just need a situation that will give me room to do it.”
With nothing in common other than music and a developed taste in a good party, Cory and Illa got along great wherever we went. This is part of what makes SXSW such an amazing event. People travel from all over the nation (and world) to be exposed to new music and see some of their favorites.
Other than a few rappers from New York, everyone was happy to be there and ready to spark up a conversation. (Every story I heard about someone getting “Cool Guy’d” involved someone from New York. Maybe it was the heat?)
Standing in line for Pizza I ran into and chatted with Mikey Rocks of The Cool Kids. Backstage at the Thrasher event Cool Nutz introduced me to Theophilus London. I saw Raekwon and Hopsin perform at 2pm on Thursday in a fairly empty dive bar.
Not intentionally name dropping, but it is pretty amazing the type of people and opportunities you run into.
While at the SXSeattle event I met Peter Wilson, who is the head of Facebook’s Seattle office and a member of the EMP board.
Having so many different people come together for a positive experience was a beautiful thing.
Simply put, if you like music and a good party, SXSW will be your shit.
Bring your business cards, be ready to network, buy an extra coffee and make a friend.