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Stix – The Rapper from Watts

Apr 15, 2011 by Miles Villalon

Turntables sit in a row on empty barrels; the building is stripped down with gritty brick walls–creating the new and hip urban environment consisting of Graffiti in many parts of our nation.

On one of its walls “LA” is sprawled across it as graffiti art; and on the other side, painted vinyl records are on display.

Here at Scratch DJ Academy, in Los Angeles, is where I meet Watts-the hipster native rapper. Here, Stix and DJ Hapa–director of Scratch LA–were hard at work to present a performance event that they were hosting for the following Saturday.

“Right here 16 bars,” Hapa says to Stix.

They were producing one of Stix’s singles “Champagne,” during a DJ set by Hapa. Stix finally settles on a a verse to play from his single after doing a verse as his homage and respect to the gone but never forgotten, the famed, Notorious BIG’s classic “Juicy.”

“I don’t want to overdose our creative energy,” Stix remaked.

As he continued to practice, at one point he turned toward me to remind me that what he does is hard work–and he works a lot.

“This is my life, a hundred things at once,” he said.

Born and raised in Watts, Stix (his real name is Brandon Salaam), grew up in a rough neighborhood and early on made the decision that unlike many young people in that area; but he was going to pursue a different path rather than to become a gang-banger–at first he thought that route would be sports.

“I had older friends who were gang members, who saw I was different and told me to stick to sports, you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t going to be professional,” Stix said.

Music came later for him. In 2003, Stix said he got into music first as a dancer, helping to create the Krumping dance scene.

“My goal was to make a whole movement in dance history.”

A friend of his from Watts known as Bad Lucc, who wrote some songs for Snoop Dogg, took notice of him and started to teach Stix how to create and craft songs–thus his future was subsequently set into motion.

“I make songs that appeal to a diverse crowd and which are relevant to what’s happening now,” Stix said.

One song Stix suggests that people listen to is Let’s Go, which is about politics and how people are getting robbed by a higher power.

“I made it in vein you digest it and think about it,” he exhorted.

Stix also makes it a point that while he is from the West Coast, his music isn’t the typical West Coast rap music one would expect.

“My sound isn’t ‘West Coast’ like gangster rap, but I’m a rapper from the West Coast. I like to have fun and see people happy..”

Much of the music Stix told me is is inspired by woman–adding that they talk about things that people assume men wouldn’t normally talk about. He also makes it clear that in his music he doesn’t denigrate women, and also he doesn’t curse because he feels it limits artists who do that. This was his inspiration from Will Smith.

He added, “I look at Will Smith and a lot of people think he’s a cornball (rapper), but he’s definitely an inspiration, but I’m just a bit more edgier.

He has an mixtape available for free download called Better Late Than Never as well as his first solo album, Late for Sound Check and he worked on an album with musician Bobby Valentino, called Next of Both Worlds, a play off of the Jay-Z, R. Kelly collaboration album Best of Both Worlds.

According to him, “We take their whole concept and said if they are the best, we are the next,” Stix said.

Watts plays a big part of his music as he always represents the city whee he’s from. Los Angeles, he says, has a competitive spirit, which is apparent in his music video, I’m Fly, which is currently available to the public.

“I always shout out to Watts (in my music), and if your home and don’t embrace it, how will anyone else embrace you,” he said.

I asked him about the support from his community and if he’s faced any criticism, it’s for not being hardcore enough in his music.

“I get more support for being something different, even the rawest of gang members see me ask what’s going on,” he added.

Stix also gives back to his community by hosting charity events that gave away backpacks, school supplies and clothes– something he hopes to do annually for his community.

Recently Stix decided to go back to school, since he said he can’t still be rapping at 40, hoping one day to enter politics:

“I want to enhance my intellect by going back to college, it only does yourself a service, you always have to have a plan b, c, d and e,”

From his music and charity events, many others acknowledge the hard work that Stix puts in. I’m probably one of the hardest working artists.

In my opinion, I think he’s very diverse and is constantly evolving. It is usually a hard thing to find an artist who genuinely is a good person,” DJ Hapa his partner added.

In August, he will be touring around bases around California. and he’s working on an EP to be released in May. Stix is not one to forget that his beliefs is what got him to where he now is.

“I am a firm believer in God, and God always reveals something to let you know, don’t stop and if I stay persistent I’ll definitely make it to the top,” Stix said.

With the word-wide phenomenon of the mixtures of Graffiti, Rap, Dance, Multi-Culturism, Film and Freshness, and Art–among other arts–is what Stix embraces and it’s here to say–it’s urban, its hip, and it’s our future.

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Art, Entertainment, Just for fun, Los Angeles, Music, SoCal
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