As an emerging hip-hop artist, Carter Erickson travels between two different creative dimensions – Detroit and Columbia.
In Detroit, he combines catchy beats, raps and melodies with personal experiences to share with growing crowds at open mic nights and DIY shows.
In Columbia, Erickson becomes the main character, Booker DeWitt, from the “BioShock Infinite” video game and battles racism and elitism in the namesake fictional dystopian society.
Together, those two creative dimensions lay the foundation for Erickson’s latest EP, “Columbia,” an immersive six-track hip-hop, role-playing game-like (RPG) experience that dropped last week on all major streaming platforms.
“These songs are based on real-life experiences that I’ve had, but they also coincide with certain elements of the game,” said Erickson, aka Eric Carter. “When you play the game, you don’t know what the character looks like because it’s first-person. For me, this EP is more about how I felt playing this character.”
Immersed in his musical RPG world, Erickson takes Booker DeWitt to another level on “Vanishing Point,” the first sci-fi, synth-filled single from “Columbia.” He combines Booker DeWitt’s persona with Kowalski, the main character from the 1971 cult car film, “Vanishing Point.”
“They both feature two guys who have nothing to lose and are working toward this goal. All in all, they both don’t get there,” he said. “At the end of ‘Vanishing Point,’ the main character needs to get to California by 3 p.m., and he’s got this beautiful 1970 Dodge Challenger. In ‘BioShock Infinite,’ a guy has been tasked with trying to find a woman’s father. He eventually learns he’s her father, but in a different universe.”
Erickson’s sonic travels continue through “The Handbook” and “Cha$e” and allow listeners to draw deeper parallels between his personal experiences and “BioShock Infinite.”
On “The Handbook,” Erickson introduces a slow, introspective jam about how actions have consequences, whether good or bad. “I thought it was something everyone could relate to cause as humans we all have run ‘what-if’ scenarios through our heads regarding one thing or another, and sometimes the perpetual regret we live with and/or die with no matter the outcome we choose.”
For the “Cha$e,” Erickson opens the EP’s closing drack with deep synth beats reminiscent of early ‘80s Atari music. The track was influenced by an earlier portion of the “BioShock” video game series that intersected with Erickson’s life.
“When I first played it, it was almost like a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ kind of moment, which is wherein it intersects with life. You know, one day you’re eating cereal watching Saturday morning cartoons, and the next thing you know, you’re graduating high school and/or college, and then life pretty much happens,” he said.
“When I wrote ‘Cha$e,’ I wanted to define this same approach with the harsh instrumental, but the lyrics sort of glide over it, and this is like a metaphor for life and people. Meaning, life can be tough, but as long as you keep a positive outlook, everything will be OK.”
“Columbia” isn’t Erickson’s first foray into hip-hop. Last year, he released his six-song debut EP, “Rapture,” which also draws creative inspiration and thematic elements from “BioShock.”
Erickson wrote, mixed and mastered his debut EP after graduating from Michigan Technological University with a degree in management information systems and moving back to Detroit.
“I started to learn about reverb, ambience, delay and stuff like that,” Erickson said. “On the engineering side, I learned how to manipulate the sound of my voice to make everything sound crisp and clear, like I’ve been recording in a soundproof booth rather than my studio apartment.”
“Rapture’s” opening single, “Hyde,” starts with a quiet, poignant piano beat that quickly transforms into an energetic force. The beat’s dramatic transition musically symbolizes the Jekyll and Hyde theme woven throughout the track.
“It was going from living at Tech for five years where everybody knows me as Carter, and I’m this laid-back cool kid who shows up at frat parties, and everybody knows him, but he can’t recall everybody’s name,” Erickson joked.
“Then, coming back home to Detroit and being boring old Eric who might go to the bar once a week and do his taxes as soon as he gets his W-2s. It was like a night and day difference.”
Tracing Erickson’s Hip-Hop Origins and Future
Despite his transitional challenge from college to work, Erickson has a deeply rooted musical history in the Motor City. As a kid, he learned how to play his grandmother’s organ and later graduated to the guitar. By age 16, he performed duets with a friend during lunch in high school, formed his first band and started rapping.
After graduating from high school, Erickson went to college at Michigan Tech and shared his music with friends. He gained a strong loyal following and released his raps and beats via mixtapes on SoundCloud.
Erickson quickly expanded his music production skills to include a MIDI controller, a microphone, a new laptop and Logic Pro X recording software. He’s continuing to write and record new material in his home-based studio.
Now, he’s gaining a strong foothold in the Detroit hip-hop scene by performing at open mics, such as SoundoffSundays and MusicTown Detroit, and DIY spaces, including Nice Place, across the city.
His next show will be June 21 at Tangent Gallery as part of Found in The Underground III, an artist exhibition featuring live music, films and food.
“I want to book some more shows for later this summer and into the fall and winter,” Erickson said. “I hope to have a feature slot somewhere someday.”