BLAT! Pack 10th Anniversary Show

Hosted By Clok of F.O.S.

BLAT! Pack 10th Anniversary Show

Ozay Moore, DJ Ruckus

Sat, August 24, 2019

7:00 pm

$7.00 - $15.00

This event is 16 and over

Chris Orrick (Red Pill)
Chris Orrick (Red Pill)
Chris Orrick is the patron saint of a poisoned world. The blue-collar Michigan MC writes spiteful chants for the permanently scarred, death letters for the forgotten, surly hymns for charcoal lungs. Think Bukowski on an eloquent bender, swapping wine for whiskey, a notepad for a glowing LED screen, the race track for the recording booth. These are anthems for the irate, over-educated and under-valued.

Over his last three albums ("Look At What The World Did To Us," "Instinctive Drowning," "Day Drunk") Ferndale's Chris Orrick has embodied the idea that all great art is a form of complaint. Before the alienation of the Midwestern working class became a top political cliche of 2016, the pundits could've learned everything from a quick study of his back catalogue. Orrick made the generational manifestos of an ex-machinist in his mid-20s, saddled with crippling debt, substance addictions, depression, and dim job prospects. Thoreau's quiet desperation turned into a bitter yawp. He makes hip-hop to give Horatio Alger a stone cold stunner. He prophesized an American dream that swiftly turned dystopian. Then he'll balance it out by rhyming "listening to Bitches Brew," with "eating chicken vindaloo." Somehow, it puts the fun back in dysfunction.

As Pitchfork said, "his pain never feels like a put on." XXL declared "if [Chris Orrick] is not on your radar, it's time to change that." He combines the emotional chaos of early Atmosphere with the incisive satire of Open Mike Eagle. If escapism is our most sought-after currency, this is the opposite. It's serious as a third-degree burn, real as roadkill, poignant chronicles of our domestic failures. The late night conversations you have with your closest friends, your defenses down, glass bottles and cigarette boxes stacked, infidelities and flaws openly admitted.

We need artists like Chris Orrick and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. In a world of constant lies and artifice, his music cuts through the banality and reveals what's most important -- the search for meaning in the meaningless, the notion that there has to be something better than this, the idea that despite of all this madness, we can find fleeting shards of solace. He'll tell you a story about chronic genetic alcoholism and then offer a toast, write songs about certain death but allow for the possibility of healing through music. He understands the complexities and contradictions of life as well as anyone, but would never openly admit that. As for everything else, that's fair game.
Jahshua Smith
Jahshua Smith
Jahshua Smith’s wardrobe tells as much of a story as his music. Despite rocking the latest designer streetwear, he rarely leaves home without his wristband that sports the Pan-African flag. Smith’s conscious, sociopolitical lyrics about his experiences in Detroit hit just as hard as his fly, cocksure rhymes—and that balance has a platinum-selling producer, some of Michigan’s most respected rap names, and a league of blogs and fans behind him.

“My music is an extension of the things I learn,” says Smith, who was recognized in the DXNext column on top web site HipHopDX in July 2011. “After so long of rapping about the experiences of my adolescence, I knew that speaking on the things I learned in college would balance out my arsenal.”

Smith has music in his blood – his great grandfather, Maurice King, was the musical director Motown Records for ten years. Jahshua began his own career as an affiliate of Dramasetters Productions, a stable that crafted beats for iconic Harlem rap group The Diplomats. After the group dissembled, he continued as a solo emcee under the name JYoung the General. Influenced by legends like 2Pac, Nas and AZ, he paired a multi-syllabic flow with lyrics that honored rap’s traditional braggadocio while maintaining a keen awareness and opinion of Detroit and the world around him. His 2006 debut, The Megaman Mixtape, earned online acclaim and a development deal with Universal Records that he declined to finish his tenure in college.

“Turning down that deal was a tough decision, especially with the momentum I had built up,”Smith remembers. “But I knew that things would work out the way they needed to.”

After graduating from Michigan State University and leaving his post as co-host of the campus hip-hop radio show Cultural Vibe, he continued to pay dues. Singles such as the female-friendly “She Likes Me” and the uplifting “Black Nationalists” nabbed college and Internet radio spins, and earned placements on top web sites such as HipHopDX. He opened for the likes of Wiz Khalifa, eLZhi (of Slum Village) and others, and co-hosted two monthly hip-hop nights in Lansing, Mich. Smith also co-founded BLAT! Pack, a Michigan collective of music professionals that have won various city, state and national competitions since its inception.

In March 2010, he teamed with DangerousNEGRO Apparel and Nick Speed—Detroit in-house producer for 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records—to create Black History Year: Installment One. Inspired by his passion for African American studies and his day job as a residential counselor for at-risk youth, he aimed to enlighten listeners on complex issues in a digestible, entertaining way. The project was featured on prominent blogs such as 2DopeBoyz, and helped Smith fatten his show resume with performances around the region. The next month, he dropped Jahshua 1:6, an EP that satisfied fans with favorites like the aforementioned “She Likes Me” and “Black Nationalists.”

In the sequel to Black History Year, Smith raised the stakes by enlisting Michigan hip-hop staples like OneBeLo, Mae Day, and Buff1 for guest appearances, and T. Calmese to help cover topics like the Black Panther Party and gentrification. Nick Speed is again executive producing, and is sponsoring the Black History Year: Installment Two. Now, he plans to continue showcasing the versatile dichotomy that earned him his rep.

“Much like history, the [Black History Year] music should be not be forgotten,” he says. “But I’m focused on what the future brings because this is only the blast off stage.”
James Gardin
James Gardin
James Gardin (formerly known as P.H.I.L.T.H.Y.) has used his music to fuel dance floors, radiowaves, and varied social causes. But before opening for national acts (The Pack, Grieves, Cool Kids), teaching music to children in South Africa and using his lyrics to champion cultural unity and HIV/AIDS awareness, James Gardin had to learn to create for himself.

Gardin was born in Germany to two parents in the Army before moving to Arizona at four years old, and settling into Lansing, Mich. at ten years old. He got involved with music early through church choir, guitar lessons from a mentor, and his first raps as part of an anti-drug song competition. After failing a fifth grade test to play violin at school, he took matters into his own hands and dug into books to learn how to play sheet music. “I didn’t understand music in their systematic way, but today, I don’t approach music with rules set to it anyway,” he remembers. “I’m glad I learned it for myself.”

Gardin’s interest in hip-hop rekindled after seeing Eminem’s film “8 Mile,” and he joined a group with two other emcees. He invested in a home studio and took audio production classes. Inspired by the success of Kanye West’s The College Dropout, he decided to be himself more in his music by changed speaking about his faith more and cutting profanity. After his first solo mixtape entitled Young Black Hope, he released his debut Save Us All in August 2008. Fans were impressed by the authenticity, and he became a go-to opener when national acts like The Pack, Cool Kids and Grieves would perform in town. His solo success reached its apex the next year with Love Songs For Losers & Ballads For Ballers, an EP with Los Angeles producer Jansport J that garnered over 5,000 downloads and was featured on various blogs, including 2DopeBoyz. He also began to donate performances and workshops to initiatives such as Michigan State University multicultural organization MRULE, youth art programs, and more.

Shortly after Love Songs’ release, Gardin went to South Africa for three months, where he volunteered and spearheaded a music/arts program at a center for children affected by HIV/AIDS. When he returned to the States, he teamed up with fellow BLAT! Pack member The Amature for “Whatupdoe From BLAT!,” an EP that featured the two rhyming over instrumentals from a recent Blue Scholars EP (complete with a blessing and vocal drop from Blue Scholars themselves). In 2011, Gardin headlined his own successful City Limits tour, maintained a weekly leak series and fan appreciation project entitled “Coolest Dude In Sunday School,” and performed on several dates of Rhymesayers artist Grieves’ Together/Apart tour. In 2012, he is heating the blogosphere with his EP “A Little Light For You,” and with his album “The Living Daylights” coming soon, Gardinis just getting started.
Detroit singer/songwriter Chell was virtually born a musician. She was imitating Whitney Houston’s role in “The Bodyguard” at two years old, began songwriting in sixth grade, and played myriad instruments as in school band during her childhood. But she didn’t have hopes of crafting and singing timeless vocals until a high school event, when international media were flashing cameras in her face. The stage: the retirement of Hall of Fame football player Jerome Bettis’ high school jersey, when Detroit was hosting the Super Bowl.
“When the lights came on, I was nervous,” she remembers. “But singing that last note and seeing peoples’ reactions to me, I knew that was what I was supposed to do.”
From there, it was time to take things seriously. She had already attended various art camps and played virtually every woodwind instrument, but she enrolled in one-on-one vocal coaching to strengthen her skills during her senior year. She earned a jazz scholarship to Michigan State University, where she studied under world-renowned musicians such as Rodney Whitaker and Sunny Wilkinson, and even took two masters courses with future Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding. She also performed at Detroit International Jazz Festival and the African World Festival, along with other performances in the area.
Chell continued to keep good company after leaving MSU. In between writing sessions for her own original material, she lent features to artists like RenCen CoolBeanz, Ketchphraze (of Street Justice), and BLAT! Pack, the Michigan collective of music professionals she joined in 2009. She also built relationships with several of the city’s most respected vocalists: L’Renee and Kem.
“People see my willingness to learn, my persistence, and my sincerity, and they like that. A lot of people are headstrong and want to act like they know everything, but if I have a question, I’m going to ask,” Chell insists. “In collaborations, I love being able to come to the table and bring my ideas to someone else. It’s like painting a picture.”
Thankfully, despite her continuous work with other artists, Chell has maintained her own individuality: something listeners will be exposed to with her solo debut, Coming Out My Chell. The first of a set of EPs, COMC uses personal and outside experiences—romance, family death and illness, and other highs and lows from her hometown of Detroit—to fuel writing that is trademarked by a vivid first-person perspective, stark attention to detail, and a keen sense of relatability. Once she emerges, fans will see the same thing that Chell’s high school principal and reputable musicians have seen for years now: a superstar in the making
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Yellokake’s moniker is based on a dessert–her slogan reads, “They were starving for good music, let them eat KAKE”—but her music is a full course meal. The Michigan-based vocalist’s sound is an amalgam of the R&B and pop music of her generation, the classical jazz she studied in college, and the hip-hop she lends contributing vocals to.
“One thing that was pretty clear from early on was that I really needed to be individual,” Yellokake says. “When singing others’ songs, I tried to take in how they were written and sang before me, but I never wanted to sound exactly like them.”
A child of parents who passionately supported the arts, Jasmine “Yellokake” Hamilton-Wray sang along to legends like Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul before taking a musical workshop as a child. She would later exercise her skills in talent shows and at school, reworking Faith Evans ballads into homework assignments and singing the Black National Anthem during African American studies. Despite accolades from schoolmates and others, she became frustrated when she was refused roles she auditioned for in musicals and bands.
“I felt I was better than what [auditioning judges] were trying to tell me,” Yellokake said. “I went into fashion school because I thought that was more practical, but that kicked me in the ass—it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.”
She spoke to Michigan State University jazz professor Rodney Whitaker, and she transferred to Michigan State University’s Jazz Studies program. From there, she meticulously trained her voice and continued to sharpen songwriting skills that she had discovered in high school.
“Other musicians and professors would tell me, ‘You can make it, you have the skill—you just have to hone your instrument.’ That got me on the right track,” Yellokake says. “It wasn’t easy, but the results were definite. I became a better singer, and I found my sound while I was there.”
That sound was first utilized when area hip-hop artists, including her crew BLAT! Pack, would enlist her strong, harmonious voice for choruses or back-up vocals. Nationally-lauded acts like Jahshua Smith, P.H.I.L.T.H.Y., and more all laud her praises.
But Yellokake’s solo material is much more diverse. Her lyrics delve into romantic connections and her relationship with herself. “Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but I think it’s relatable,” she says. “Things that are the most honest are important for your personal development, but also, fans can tell if you’re being honest or not. They can feel that.”
That honesty translates into her shows and her records. Her live performances pair a jazz-tinged live band set up with the bounce and youthful energy of hip-hop, and her upcoming EP, “Gradation,” blends those influences with alternative music and electronic elements.
“It’s great to be rooted in organic things, but it’s always good to propel forward and look into the future,” she said. “I’m going for a marriage of all these things. I can’t just dip into different styles in my singing—I have to do it in other ways, too.”
Labels aside, Yellokake will satiate music fans’ appetites—one sweet tooth at a time.
Ozay Moore
Ozay Moore
Venue Information:
The Loft.
414 E. Michigan Avenue
Lansing, MI, 48933