Photo: YungFate, Ah’mayzin, John Lor, Phrase, KillerKay, YungLo. (AAP staff photo by Tom LaVenture)
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. (May 9, 2011) – A group of emerging Hmong hip hop artists have the guidance of a mentor and label, Silver Bars Entertainment, to help shape the young talent on the art and business of recording and performing music for a living.
YungFate, Amayzin, Phrase, KillerKay, YungLo, are some of the youngest hip hop artists with dreams of making it on the local and perhaps national music scene.
You can see them perform live in the “Talk of the Town Showcase” on May 29, 2011, 7:00 to 11:30 p.m. at the Fine Line Café.
The 18+ event is $5 per person and will feature each performer with their own set. They will also have the support of popular area hip hop artists, T-Dubbs, Dreamers, Nicki May & DJ Diatonic, and DJ Frank Castle, and Da-wreck Threat. If this showcase performance goes well the troupe may take it on the road on a nine-city summer tour.
Silver Bar Entertainment founder, John Lor, was raised in St Paul and graduated from Arlington Senior High School in 2001. He is an artist and musician who wanted to get into the music business.
“I started silver bars entertainment as a outlet for young and hungry artists that are trying to get their music out to the public,” said Lor.
Asian singers and recording artists need more outlets to plug in to, and Lor said he wanted to set up a “running independent record label.”
“We are also getting into the artist management side of things as well,” he added. “My goal for this label is for the artists to reach their goals. Only time will tell – but we are here and we ain’t going nowhere.”
The label’s manager, Gao Nou Vang, is a graduate of McNally Smith College of Music. She has taken on the role of booking, and management of the artists.
“She really likes this group and jumped on to the label as a booking agent and is doing a lot of shows with them right now,” said Lor, who noted there are more shows this year than in the past.
Lor said its an amazing transition from the home studio to a professional studio at IPR. They also enjoy the facilities of the new Radio Hmong office and the use of its studio where they can record and run one of the station programs on 1710 AM.
The performers said the studio offers a motivating atmosphere and that the engineers and other staff are very supportive. They want them to have the best recording possible, they added.
In fact, one of the engineers was so impressed from making their mix tapes that he let them know he is an artists and was invited to perform with them in the show.
YungFate is the youngest of nine children in a musical family raised in St. Paul. He first tried rap at a young age and signed with Silver Bars in 2009 to launch his fist mix, “A Day Not In School”, which yielded the popular song, “On My Own”.
He is the first in the group to be releasing an album of material, “The Beginning of Fate” due out in July 2011.
Now at 19, YungFate said his three years of experience has given him a chance to focus and know that he is ready to give his all. He has performed in front of Hmong crowds for some time and said the experience of a more diverse audience will be difficult but that it’s the best way to grow and gain confidence on stage.
“I know it will be better for me,” he added.
“We are gaining from the experience,” he added. “Its amazing how we have come from so low to so high up.”
Lor said the realization that is emphasized is of hard work and not to expect to reach their goals fast or all at once. They will have to do free-shows, open mic events, and take the venues as they come, he said.
Once they develop a name for themselves the money will start coming once their popularity gets them on a tour of other cities and states. They give away samples, mixes, and Silver Bar T-shirts.
“That’s the way they market and promote themselves,” said Lor.
Lor said each one of the artists will have a chance to make an album once they have more experience in the studio and with a producer. He said nothing is like experience and it usually inspires the artists and they grow by working harder and longer nights in the studio.
“It should pay off sooner or later,” he added.
Comments from the artists were that the things that keep them going are proving their talent to themselves and to others that doubted them as individuals and as Hmong and Asian performers in hip hop.
Hip hop is the music form of this generation and their goal is to make it the performers as diverse as the fans. First-language performance would be the only time they would be performing to their own community.
They said it takes guts to go on stage and that the applause is encouragement to do their thing. They like that hip hop fans don’t have expectations and like to see what a new face has to say rather than judge them by their color.
Phrase said he was nervous the first time he performed in front of a crowd, but that the experience convinced him that he wanted to sing and perform. He credits the label for that and for getting him connected with more events and opportunities.
YungLO, 16, still attends high school in Winona, and comes to the Twin Cities on weekends to perform and learn from the label. He started performing two years ago with friends and said he got serious about it this year.
“Even if I mess up, there is a lot of love around you always and you can draw from that,” said YungLO.
Phrazed, 17, grew up in St. Paul and is a senior at Johnson High School. He started listening to hip hop as a boy and developed an appreciation writing and performing about four years ago.
“It became a passion and I started writing about my life, my struggles and decided to express that through music,” he said. “I also liked to do poetry and spoken word, but I liked the melody and the cadence of hip hop and song.”
Phrazed said his songs are not hard core, and that he enjoys making good music as much as good lyrics. The smooth, catchy rhymes are meant to be remembered from the first listen. “I don’t want to make the image bad,” he added. “I like it to be calm, relaxing, and like a good night drive.”
Killa Kay, 18, was born in St. Paul and lived raised North Carolina and Green Bay before returning to Minnesota. He took classic hip hop and took to the Midwestern style as it emerged.
“Around nine I began writing poetry and eventually it all turned in to rap lyrics,” said Killa Kay. “It was a way to express my bottled up feelings.”
Ah’mayzin, 18, is a St. Paul youth who grew up in a traditional home but enjoyed writing poetry and that became a passion when he entered high school. Whether love letters or creative writing or poetry, he enjoyed English and his developing creativity that seemed to yield things “out of nowhere”.
“I tend to express myself better through writing,” he said.
He began reciting his work out loud and started recording on his own for fun. He began practicing and eventually the idea of hip hop arrived and his cousins introduced him to the label.
“I could do spoken word but I like the bang, the beats and the bass,” he added. “It just helps me express myself better.”
Visit online at www.silverbarsent.webs.com, on Facebook at silverbarsent, or call John Lor at 651-231-4006 or email [email protected]