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Living in the Covid world as an independent artist

“It’s hard out here for a pimp” – Three Six Mafia….

Everybody’s catching hell in some form or fashion these days. But I suspect that full time artists, venue owners, hospitality staff, hotels and airlines are fairing a bit worse. As our respective industries have been all but decapitated with no end in sight to the hobbling we’ve endured since late winter this past year.

Almost a full year into the “new normal” winter is at our doorstep. And all major media outlets continue to tell us to prepare for a “dark winter”. CREEPY!
Now to add onto what is already the most weird and chaotic year of most of our lives, there’s some kind on “monolith” situation I cannot seem to avoid knowing about. I guess we’ll have to keep our eyes on that one.
How bizarre!

These days I am as busy as ever….

However with that said, I am like many in the entertainment industry, unemployed. Living “on a wing and a prayer”.
That said, I’ve been a true-blue “hustler” since I quit a horrible job as a cook in a breakfast and lunch café on the beach in Melbourne Florida at the end of 2011.

Before I did, I said to myself that if I could even earn a lower middle class wage on my art and music, I would consider myself rich and wealthy. LOL! The irony. Because for the past few years I’ve lived way below the poverty level of western civilization. Even spending two years up until very recently in a tiny stone shack that had no indoor plumbing, running water, a toilet, or heat.

Yet, somehow I’ve managed to survive. And in many ways, thrive.
Now that we live in bizarro world, I can now see that the way I was forced to live in order to remain here in Sweden to be an active father to my six year old child was actually a blessing in disguise.
I got a proverbial “dress rehearsal” for the type of life that the entire world has now been thrust into.

I see the posts my peers make about the current situation and my heart goes out to them. As I truly feel their pain.
It was mine. And it took several years for me to learn to adapt and cope with it. And unfortunately for my fam-nem, I at least had the “hope” of rebuilding an making a “comeback” because the clubs were bumping and gig opportunities were plenteous. Unlike now.

“Time marches on. Nothing stays the same”…. – Jungle Wonz

I live by this and am not at all one to live in the past. To the point of not even sharing fake-book “memories”.
Been there. Done that. Moved on is my way. So with that said, I embody this fully in many ways.
Contrary to most, I am relishing each day right now as is. Versus wasting precious moments living mentally in past glory days. Or worse yet, in an ideal tomorrow which may never come.

Last year in late October, I proclaimed on social media that in less than six months, we would consider all the woes, fuckery, and hassles of life in the year 2019 as “the good old days”. Little did I know how true this would ring by March of 2020. Yet, I am here again as the resident “watchmen” of my scene, peer group(s), and family to say it again loud and clear… “we will look back on 2020 as the good old days next year”. So get to living and enjoying life.
Please focus on what you have? Versus what you do not, and or what you lost because it can always get worse.
And history shows us that it typically does.

So with the adapting to the times or being left a relic of a bygone era artistically, I am onto new horizons as an artist.
At this point, my love and dedication to the House, and Techno culture/Art-forms should be undeniable. YET, these days I cannot even bring myself to listen to it.
This is for a few reasons. First off, as an artist I require two things in order to create. “Context, and a feeling”.
Before Covid, the context was rocking a party in a club, and or sweating it out dancing on the floor with my people-nem. This gave me a feeling with which to draw upon.

With my music, it starts with a feeling. I then set about creating a sound/vibe that recreates that feeling within me, and induces it in the listener. By appearances, I am pretty successful with this approach, but alas….
The “context” has been snatched away from us all. Thus for me, there is no feeling.
I simply ain’t feelin’ it these days.

YET, I am a creative creator. I make music. This is my passion. This is my profession. Therefore, I continue to create.
The context changed. The times have changed. And truth be told, sound has changed.
Vanguard Sound! is not just a catchy slogan. It is a philosophy, an ethos, a mission statement, and a way of life.

House and Techno as respective genres are well into their fourth decade. My thing in these realms is “innovation”.

I came into this on that type of time and am “that dude”. In this regard, ain’t nothing changed but the calendar.
That said, there is nothing new under the sun, and one can only flip and refresh something that is in reality a niche relic only so much. I as an artist need a challenge. And I need to feel that I am breaking new ground to stay motivated. Thus my new project.

I come from Chicago. I was not born there, but I lived there longer than I lived anywhere else by far. I was drawn to the music. And when I first discovered Chicago House, it was a very new and fresh sound.
Living there for so many years as I struggled to “come up”, I absorbed and embodied everything to do with being a musician living that life there. All the crap jobs, hate, hopelessness, a few good people, and the undeniable love of the party, dancing, DJing, and digging in the city of wind.

While I was there I was fortunate to see how Chi really gets down with regard to how street kids from the ghetto innovate and create new forms of music that then take the entire world by storm. In fact, I witnessed two forms.
The first was the whole Juke/Footwork movement. Which as a dancer I was instantly drawn to. Shout out my Big Bro in the game “Traxman” by the way. He too has continued to re-invent himself and stay at the forefront of the fresh and new.

The other form, and one I am completely ensconced in is Chicago Drill. Which has now influenced every form of popular music worldwide. The Drill/Trap sound is the FUTURE!!!! It is the most complex and advanced form of beat-making and rapping bar none.
This is my context and thus feeling generator these days.

Old Heads….

A somewhat derogatory and dismissive term for people in my generation which is code word for “out of touch” and not current in their styles and attitudes.
Basically NOT HIP.
By age, I am squarely in the “old head” category. But in practice, I am more hip and clued into the streets than I have ever been. Aging and getting old are two different things is what I always say. And I live these words. Mind, body and (creative) soul.

I feel for folks-nem in my generation who decide to “stand still and let time pass them by”. Of course , I respect their choice to do so if they so choose. But it does appear that many do not realize they’ve made this choice by default.

If you ever loved Hip Hop, you should love it now, as it is. NOW!!!!

Because it’s WILD lit! Hip Hop grew up and is more advanced than ever. I have a good mate from London whom we’ve often discussed this. He refuses to accept the modern sound. His choice. And I respect this. But bruv, you’re missing out. As is anyone who simply refuses to dig for modern artists they can relate to. Because there are millions of them.
Perhaps I am one.

And what gets me is that for anyone who loves House, Techno, Drum and bass, Jungle, and Electronic/Drum Machine Beats, Synth music, and Bass, the “Modern Sound” encapsulates all of these elements and distills them in the most perfect fusion one could ever imagine.

Even playing field with regard to self expression…

With the internet and modern technology, any and all crews, artists, sets, and cliques can truly express and get their message out. Crystal clear. This is done by “spitting over dope beats”.
Now of course we all love the fact that so much expression can be conveyed by mere instrumental “tracks”.
The culture and scene was built in a great part due to this undeniable fact.

However, NOTHING beats the spoken word when it comes to communication. And in the modern world of today, if you (or someone in your crew) ain’t “spittin” raps” to represent where you’re from and what you’re about, you’re not saying much. The entire game has changed. Every artist should be rapping. And or using the spoken word to directly communicate with their audience.
Rap is whatever the rapper feels. Whether conventional rhyming flows, Ursula Rucker style spoken word, or simply waxing poetic over a beat. Just freaking talk. Don’t be scared, Your people want to know you.

So as always, I walk my talk….


Doing my part to “give back”….

Words from a post I made earlier this week on the “book”…

DANG!!!!The Chicago Rap scene been takin’ HELLA Ls this past year.
So glad I was wise enough to move around off that. The entire world tries to emulate their swag, and the most popular form of modern music originates from there. But they so “lab-ratted” up that they took a dump on they whole movement. Duck, Von, Dex, G. Herbo, Lil’ Reese, Tray Savage, Boss Smooth 800, KTS Rio, Lud Thumpa, SLG Spazz, Oski Baby, and Bando Hothead just to name a few. Some of them shot up and gimped for life. On the run from the feds doin “The Race”. Some indicted on R.I.C.O. charges, and the rest of ’em dead!

Chi Rap is so Lit! But the videos are like pied piper brainwash commercials selling a “death style” to children who’s brains aren’t fully developed. Vanguard Sound! has always been about combatting the “bad frequencies” in the music forms I love. My O.G. (original) alias “Guerrilla Soul” utilizes “Sonic Weaponry” to do battle. This Ricky Spitzz album is me doing my part to actually make a difference to and for the youth. I know them. I was them.

I am hip to all the slangs, gangs, music, sets, who got how many bodies, and ALL that. My first and unreleased Chi-Drill album “Chicago Gun Times”, along with my 2018 “Separate Myself” mix-tape was me demonstrating that despite being an “old head”, I can relate to them on THIER level. It appears that to a degree, I accomplished this. So if you support my rap project, you in some way are doing your part to stem the tide of the urban genocide gong on in my former home city. Our beloved fallen comrade Mike Huckaby “gave back” with his amazing Youthville project. THIS is how I do the same. Walking my talk and really going hard for the children. I wonder how many of them grew up with fathers in the home? What a waste. Clouted up. Paid. Bussin’ hella thotties and look at ’em! Stankin’ Rotten worm food. SMDH Fr Fr

This was the post that came after….

This is my favorite track from my un-released Chicago Drill Music album “Chicago Gun Times”. In it, I detail to people living outside of Chicago how and why there’s so much murder and how it’s so easy to get away with it and never get caught. Revenge and retaliation going back decades. You kill one of ours, we kill two of yours. And on and on.
I follow a young child who is killed for simply living in a neighborhood. He’s not in a gang but that doesn’t matter. This hood is “at war” with the adjacent block. His best friend becomes traumatized. Losing loved one after loved one for years. Then grows up to pick up a gun and become a gang leader himself by default. This culminates in his own death in his early 20s.
I never released it for two reasons.
1. because it was all one take recordings done late at night when I lived in an apartment in Sweden’s infamous “No-Go” Zone Rosengård. I could never get as loud as I needed to in order to really “perform” the raps. And after I finished the first run through, I had already moved on to the next project.
2. And because at the time, I did not want kids to confuse me for glorifying the “death style” they lead. But this one…..I loved it as is. It finally gets a proper video. Versus sound-tracking one of my BMX over 40 vlogs. I think I’ll release it as is on Spot-a-lie eventually.
Enjoy!
Spitzz!

So with that said…..

I rap (and make beats). WELL! I stay hip and study the craft. I seek out the best and work to create output on the level of theirs. So to any real fans I might have with regard to my work as a creative entity, as well las fans of Hip Hop, join the movement!
I’m doing BIG things over here. (Much to the chagrin of my numerous and transparent haters. You know who you are x)
I only know on one, perhaps two other artists in the whole entire scene who can rap. So it’s a bit weird that me doing so isn’t at least recognized. Much less celebrated.

But then again, I am all too familiar with the human tendency to view the artistic world as a “zero sum game”.
For those not familiar with the term, please check my post about being a “Modern Philosopher and Iconoclast”?

At any rate…
Never one to sit still, the Vanguard leads the pack. Sometimes so far ahead, it seems that I am behind.
This is something I am both loved and reviled for. A sad fact that is and has been since my first Berlin gig. A seven and a half hour set at Club Der Visionaere in September 2012 when one of the best friends of the promoter who brought me there walked up off his face on party chemicals said to me “I LOVE you! BUT, I HATE you!”
Since then, I’ve heard this at different clubs around the world about a hundred times.
it is what it is.

In closing…

I just dropped a new project on Bandcamp as a lead up to the release of my upcoming album. Which will be 50% classic Boom Bap Hip Hop, and 50% Modern Rap. i.e. Trap and Drill Music style beats and flows. As I’ve been rapping since 1992/93.

I first released this as a way to see if I was as good at rapping as I felt I was, as well as to test the waters and establish myself to the youth as an “old head” who gets them. It is the antithesis, to all the killing, drug abuse (nothing wrong with partying, but come on…), and negativity ubiquitous to the music the young heads vibe out to. But now more than ever, especially in the “new normal”, I am taking my rap super seriously. To the point of prioritizing it over all over forms of my musical creativity.
I now officially release it, re-mastered. New mix-down, and the vocals properly tracked.

For all the reasons stated above. And because this is the ONLY form of music that’s still raking in the cash by the barrel. And I AM a professional musician who’s sole way of earning a living is my music.
So I’ve “diversified my artistic portfolio” as it were.

Time marches on. Nothing stays the same. Adapt, or live in an echo-chamber bubble and cease be relevant.
The choice is yours.
With all due love and respect.

Name your own price as always….. if you’re broke like me, simply like, share and or subscribe somewhere on the socials.

True Story…

Richard Amir Alexander (aka Ricky Spitzz!)

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