Whiteout, and running mate RT-FaQ, will never be accused of not showing up. Literally, in that they can be found at as many St. Louis hip-hop shows as anyone, rapping along with their peers as fans. And on stage, where they come to work, to get people moving and shouting.
It's Whiteout's birthday, and it should come as no surprise that he's celebrating with a showcase of St. Louis hip-hop. Tomorrow night, December 8th, at the Gramophone (4243 Manchester Avenue, 314-531-5700), you can get in for free any time between 8 p.m. and 10. After that it's $5 ($2 minor surcharge), and the bill's crowded: Doorway and Parlor Knights, Tef Poe, Rockwell Knuckles, The Chalk Boyz, Family Affair, St. Orleans, Scripts N Screws, Legend Camp, T-Prince, Lightman McCloud and 2Famous are all confirmed, and we're guessing you'll see Whiteout and RT-FaQ onstage at some point as well. We talked to the birthday boy about the state of St. Louis hip-hop and how he went from an east side kid to a city mainstay.
Kiernan Maletsky: First of all, Happy Birthday. You said this is close to your dream lineup -- what are some of the most important things you've learned from other artists playing this show?
Whiteout: Thanks for the Happy Birthday! 23 years old: It's my Michael Jordan year!
It is definitely close to my dream line-up -- not all the way my dream line-up, because there's a couple other acts I would love to have hop on stage, but we just don't have enough time in one night to accommodate everybody.
I've learned a lot from the people I got performing Thursday night. A lot of people I look up to in this music world are from St. Louis, like Tef Poe, Black Spade, Rockwell Knuckles and Family Affair, and watching these guys and others perform over the last year helped me mold my stage presence.
For example, when I first performed with Tef Poe over at the Urban Lounge back in 2010, I was rapping over my songs, not lip-syncing, but just rapping along with the track, and since then I've changed it. I just have instrumentals when I rap, and that alone has taken my performance to the next level. I've also learned about how to handle and carry myself in the local hip-hop community. If you want to be part of the St. Louis hip-hop community, you gotta get your voice out there and be active, and these guys performing with me are prime examples of that.
How did you start working with RT-FaQ?
RT-FaQ and I started working with each other towards the end of 2010, and I believe it was fate. In 2010, on the East side, I used to host weekly showcases every Thursday at a spot called Mister G's in Fairview Heights, and RT-FaQ used to come up there and spit every now and then, and we had instant chemistry ever since we first linked up.
I respected his grind and his positive attitude about his music, so I knew I wanted to work with him. I've always been about branching out, working with people anyways, so I knew it was bound to happen. One day I found this nasty beat with an awesome Saxophone in it, and I came up with a concept for it, and I just knew I wanted RT-FaQ on it as soon as I heard it. One day we had him come over to work on the track, and that track was "On and On."
What was it like getting to know the St. Louis scene as a native of the east side?
Getting to know the St. Louis scene was fun as hell. Being from the East Side, we have our own 618 scene over here. It's a small community, where everybody pretty much knows your name, and for the most part it's all love. However, when we started linking up with Tef Poe and doing shows over in STL, it added a whole other level of excitement. It was discovering new territory and more crowds to rock, with more and more fans, and with honestly better stages and better sound systems. So every time we had a show, and opportunity to expand our fan base over in STL, we were on it!
What are you seeing now in the scene? Do you think things are changing?
With the scene now, over the past year or so, I see a lot of rappers. I can't lie, everyone and they momma be rappin'! And frankly, to an artist who is serious about their craft, it's annoying.
However, if a person is truly involved in the music scene, they will be able to pick out who is serious, and who isn't serious. I can see a lot of talent in the area, and a lot of people making steps to get out there on a national level. My iPod is filled with a lot of St. Louis acts, whom I listen to on a daily basis, not because they're my friends, but because I actually enjoy their music.
There are people that rap in STL just 'cause they wanna be rapping, just 'cause they think it's the new thing to do. And then there's those people in STL that make quality music, and if you pay attention, you can find those people.
Also, really, you ask me if I think things are changing, and personally I think as much as things are changing, is as much as things are staying the same. There is so much out there...as many improvements as I see is as much b.s. I see as well. What are the best things happening in St. Louis hip-hop right now?
The best things that are happening in the St. Louis hip-hop scene right now are things that are happening to the hardest working artists. It's a good feeling to see other people in the same boat as you, getting recognition for working hard, whether it's Prince EA getting millions of views on YouTube, Rockwell Knuckles getting on AOL Music, GLC getting on a Tef Poe/Tech Supreme and Nato Caliph record, or things like the Doorway to The Force Tour we went on in October. It's good to see progression being made. The hard working wave of rappers in St. Louis, the ones who haven't got that fame yet, are hungry as hell, and it's a beautiful thing to see. And it's inspiring.
What still needs improvement?
The thing that needs improvement is, oddly enough, in my opinion the same thing I just talked about. That work ethic and that hunger needs to stay there. That hunger for national and international exposure through handwork and quality music, needs to stay and continue to grow for things to get better, and I think it will as long as people continue to stay inspired and inspire each other. Another thing that needs improvement, in our area, is the business side of the game. People outside of the Lou, need to know that we can be taken seriously. People with money won't come to the Lou looking for rappers unless our business is straight, unless they think there is something in it for them. So we as artists and entrepreneurs need to make sure we have everything these particular people are looking for, for us to take us to the next level.
How do you think your local music community relates to the national (and international) music community?
I think personally, our local community is a melting pot of all the different regions. You can come here and find someone with that raw lyrical East Coast flow, someone with them down South hood/trap bangers, you got the midwest fast-rapping melodic hits, them West-Coast-type joints with a certain swang to them, that Chi-town "cool" flow, or classic STL club songs. You can find them all here.
The thing about being here though is that outside of here, that fact is pretty much unknown. Someone is gonna have to eventually get out and bring that national attention back here so people know what they're missing. I do however, commend people that have the opportunity to bring up and coming national stars to perform at the venues here in STL. It's a good thing for our city to have the Big Krits and MGKS come here and rock shows, at reasonable venues, with other STL acts.
The only disclaimer I have for this is: People who throw these shows need to make sure the best supporting STL cast is there to perform as well, to make sure that we're getting a good reputation for quality. Overall however, and maybe I'm biased or optimistic, I believe STL is next up again. 2012 has the opportunity to be a big year for STL, and we as artists gotta do the best we can to seize these opportunities and make the best of it.