Independence Day – Druzi Baby Savors Freedom and Fulfillment on ‘I J Q S D’

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Druzi Baby embarks on a new quest for independence, ownership and fulfillment on “I J Q S D.”

These days, Druzi Baby relishes a newfound sense of personal freedom.

The Ypsilanti hip-hop artist and producer embarks on a new quest for independence, ownership and fulfillment on his latest introspective single, “I J Q S D (I Just Quit Sellin’ Dope),” now available on all streaming platforms.

“I literally just quit sellin’ dope last summer and was dead broke. Bills paid and all, but not much extra – it was time. I had some weird ass vibes while I was on vacation in Florida and just had a hard gut feeling it was time to move on in life,” said Drew Denton, aka Druzi Baby.

“In reality, there are so many better ways to make money. Yeah, it’s harder work, but there isn’t a price you can put on a peace of mind. I hope people can take away that you really ain’t gotta take yourself so seriously. Most people are living beyond their means and portraying an unrealistic lifestyle, and that shit ain’t sustainable.”

Throughout “I J Q S D,” funky electric guitars, shimmering beats, thoughtful electronic drums and confident bass encourage listeners to think ahead and move forward.

Druzi Baby thoughtfully reflects, “I can’t spend no more time livin’ outside of my means/I’ve been lyin’ to myself/That’s not following my dreams/Put my life at risk because I’m lazy/Had some other options/Didn’t take ‘em/Can’t stand these little jobs/All these people fake/Gotta be my own boss/That’s the only way.”

“I just turned 30 this year. I’m not about to be out here living a pipe dream. I just wanna work, take care of myself and my family, and make some music while I’m at it at this point,” said Denton, who wrote the track and produced the beat.

Druzi Baby also celebrates taking charge in his new “I J Q S D” video, which features him proudly strolling along empty Ypsi railroad tracks and conducting recording sessions at The Workshop. He teamed up with director Christopher Kulick to record and edit the project.

“I met Chris through our intern, M33shka, and (Chris) is out here a bit from California and just getting started shooting videos. I wanted to work with him because he’s got a good eye and needed some experience. We recorded most of it at my studio, The Workshop, here in Ypsi, and it was shot all in about two hours,” Denton said.

“My business partner/mentor, Mello, makes an appearance in the video. That’s the OG, he runs The Workshop with me. Super talented dude who definitely doesn’t get the shine he deserves because that dude has been putting in the work behind the scenes these past five to six years.”

Continue reading “Independence Day – Druzi Baby Savors Freedom and Fulfillment on ‘I J Q S D’”

Tru Klassick, Approachable Minorities and Mark Cooper to Ignite Saturday Grove Sessions Livestream Show

Grove Studios April 24 Livestream
Saturday’s Grove Sessions hip-hop livestream will feature electrifying rhymes, fiery beats and explosive grooves.

Three local hip-hop acts will ignite the Grove Studios livestream stage Saturday.

Tru Klassick, Approachable Minorities and Mark Cooper will spark electrifying rhymes, fiery beats and explosive grooves for a Grove Sessions livestream audience. Rod Wallace, Grove Studios educational programs coordinator and Zero Noize Podcast host, will oversee the show’s festivities.

“We want to bring a full Approachable Minorities experience to all who come and watch the stream. Since last year we have been working hard to bring new material for our fans, and we are excited to share that with everyone,” said TJ Greggs, aka MC Lewy Seifer of Approachable Minorities.

“We plan to play some new songs for the Grove Sessions set to give a small glimpse of our new album that we will be releasing over the next year. We continue to practice and work on our craft regularly so that we may bring the best performance for any event that we are a part of.”

Along with his Approachable Minorities partners – MC Druzi Baby, aka Drew Denton, and DJ OnDemand, aka Marcus McKinney – Greggs relishes rejoining Tru Klassick for another live show and teaming up with Soundproof’s Mark Cooper for the first time.

“Tru Klassick always brings superior lyrical diversity and captures the true essence of hip-hop. We have worked and performed with Tru Klassick on many different occasions, and it is always a great time to watch his talent at work. We have not yet had the chance to perform with Mark Cooper, but we are excited to have the chance to share the stage with him,” said Greggs along with his bandmates.

Outside of performing, Approachable Minorities continue to write, record and release new material. The Ypsilanti party rap and conscious hip-hop trio recently contributed and produced tracks for last summer’s community-based hip-hop album, Formula 734, along with Louis Picasso, Sam Watson, Beretta Shells, Konphlict, King Ogundipe, Tru Klassick, Jamall Bufford and Wallace.

One of the project’s most compelling tracks includes Approachable Minorities’ thoughtful, percussive “See Me Dead,” which was inspired by last summer’s Black Lives Matter marches.

Together, they reflect, “Why they wanna see me dead, why they wanna see me dead/Probably cause my skin/Why they wanna see me dead, why they wanna see me dead/Probably cause my hair/Why they wanna see me dead, why they wanna see me dead/Probably cause I’m Black/Why they wanna see me dead/See another brother take two to the head.”

“We were on vacation in Florida when the protests initially began. We had to drive back through the country seeing alerts about the curfews and were worried about our safety while being in the south during these times. We spoke with Rod Wallace, Jamall Bufford and Louis Picasso on our way back, and they explained the situation in Detroit to us,” said Greggs, who formed Approachable Minorities with Denton and McKinney in 2016.

“We had friends down on the front lines being tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets, and it was horrible to see the videos of the events. When we got back home, we immediately went into the studio and began writing.”

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Hip-Hop Hope – Formula 734 Brings Sense of Community to Washtenaw County Men of Color

Formula 734 brings intergenerational men of color together to create hip-hop anthems about overcoming struggles and sharing successes. Artwork – CW Creatyv for Be Creative Studios

As a fresh community-based hip-hop album, Formula 734 poetically encapsulates shared stories of struggles and successes for men of color in Washtenaw County.

“I feel as though we’ve created a historical document for this particular time in history for Washtenaw County that people can refer to, or they can gain some primary source analysis of what it was like to be in Washtenaw County during the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest related to the death of George Floyd,” said Rod Wallace, who co-executive produced the project with Jamall Bufford.

In partnership with Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper (WMBK), the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Wallace and Bufford assembled an intergenerational group of disparate male creatives to write, record and release a compelling 12-track album with emerging hip-hop artists, producers and engineers.

“Jamall and I started to talk about our desire to engage young people with hip-hop in a positive way that taught a number of different skills. We started planning for the project, and our first meeting was in November,” Wallace said.

From November to February, Wallace and Bufford hosted Formula 734 meetings and recording sessions every two weeks with male creatives and hip-hop collaborators to build trust, teamwork and camaraderie at Grove Studios, The Workshop and The Neutral Zone’s Orpheum Studio.

Each gathering included a meal and a huddle to enrich, energize and inspire participants before they wrote and recorded music with Louis Picasso, Tru Klassick, Sam Watson, Beretta Shells, Konphlict, King Ogundipe and Approachable Minorities’ Drew Denton and TJ Greggs.

“One of the intentions of WMBK is to engage in discussions with men across generations as opposed to only focusing on young men. There are men across the spectrum of color who need support and who need positive experiences, so we try to bridge that gap, and through this project, we were able to do so,” Wallace said.

Concocting Formula 734

With Wallace and Bufford at the hip-hop helm, Formula 734 weaves introspective rhymes, thoughtful monologues, crisp beats, old-school jams and deep grooves while authentically amplifying the voices of local men of color. All 12 tracks challenge false narratives about men of color and raise awareness about the underlying causes of systemic racism.

“We want change to happen in our communities, in our neighborhoods and in our schools. One album probably won’t accomplish that, but we want this to be a stepping stone in the right direction to some of the systemic changes that we want to see for black men and young men of color in our community and around the country. We want this to hopefully be a catalyst for the conversation that needs to take place about what’s happening in our communities,” said Bufford, who’s a WMBK project specialist and Formula 734 co-executive producer.

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Dream Ticket – Tetra Music Project Hosts FutureDream 3 Dec. 21 at Detroit’s Tangent Gallery

Tetra Music Project will host FutureDream 3 and feature emerging EDM, hip-hop and rock artists on two stages.

Kim Tetra Wiesner will bring the sparkle and soundtrack of spring to Detroit three months early.

The Ypsilanti electronic, chillwave and world bass vocalist-guitarist, aka Tetra Music Project, will host an indoor visual art and live music garden party Dec. 21 at Tangent Gallery. It will be an exhilarating visual and auditory experience to awaken the mind, body and spirit during the winter solstice.

Known as FutureDream 3, the atmospheric festival will feature emerging EDM, hip-hop and rock artists on two stages, including Tetra Music Project, Pandora Love, Gyp$y, Y-Not, Dancemyth, Dos Lopez, Approachable Minorities, Mynah, Neural Patterns and Jena Irene Asciutto.

It also will showcase visionary floral sculptor Anthony Flowers Ward as well as a special performance from Botanical Burlesque and a magical imagination playspace by Astral Matter Experience. Additional FutureDream 3 support will come from Unique Groove Entertainment, Silky Grooves and 3D Planted.

“Instead of trying to set up a bunch of shows throughout the year, I really just focus on the one big, extravagant performance, and I like to have it be this really art-centered display of people who I personally find are very talented and dedicated to what they do,” Wiesner said.

“I like to give everybody a decent amount of time to perform and make it worth their while. I curate the event in a way that I can get behind, and I have people who have a good attitude and a good vibe about them.”

Outside of art and music, FutureDream 3 will donate festival proceeds to the St. Clair Butterfly Foundation, an Auburn Hills nonprofit that uses creative arts, mindfulness and mentorship programs to help youth overcome trauma.

“If I’m putting an event together, usually it has some sort of cause involved, and we may or may not make a whole lot of money to donate or contribute, but we focus on it, make a little bit and say, ‘Well hey, we did our best,’” Wiesner said.

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Five Alive – After Hours Radio Reflects on Band Anniversary, Hosts Show Tonight at Club Above

Five years ago, the University of Michigan’s co-op scene led to the formation of an emerging Ypsilanti band.

U-M’s Nakamura and Luther Buchele co-ops introduced Greg Hughes and Nate Erickson, co-founders of After Hours Radio, to a burgeoning underground, do-it-yourself (DIY) music community in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor.

Together, Hughes and Erickson cut their growing musical teeth performing at co-op open mic nights and formed After Hours Radio, a progressive, groove-heavy indie rock band, in 2014.

“The high energy and large crowds at co-op parties drove the band to write catchy grooves and riffs that co-oppers could dance to,” said Hughes, bassist for After Hours Radio. “This funk-inspired element flavored our initial indie-alternative style, which was influenced by open mic nights during the band’s infancy.”

Hughes also sought inspiration for the band while working as a late-night college DJ at WCBN-FM (88.3), a U-M student-run radio station. He used a “freeform” approach for the station’s programming and believed a similar philosophy could be applied to After Hours Radio’s musical approach.

After Hours Radio co-founders Greg Hughes (left) and Nate Erickson (center)

“‘Freeform’ describes a perspective that doesn’t conform to a traditional setlist structure restricted by genre and embraces mixing different musical styles,” he said. “We’ve gained a strong sense of improvisation that has translated to the way we find influences for our original songs.”

That fluid musical approach resulted in the band’s self-titled debut EP in 2015 and the “What Happened?” EP in 2017. With Hughes and Erickson (vocals, guitar) at the helm, After Hours Radio went through several lineup changes, including several drummers, and expanded their sound to encompass keys, synths and other electronic effects.

Last year, the band launched their own DIY music venue, The Late Station, in Ypsilanti to showcase local emerging artists and musicians across a variety of genres. Bandmates and friends help promote events, run the door and assist with gear at The Late Station.

“I got acquainted with the whole DIY culture in Chicago, and I was so enamored with the scene there that I wanted to become more involved in it,” Hughes said. “That’s where the direct inspiration for The Late Station came, and we all decided we were going to move to the same location and start our own space.”

Today, Hughes and Erickson will celebrate the band’s evolution with a five-year anniversary show at Club Above, 215 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor, and feature special guests Stop Watch, Approachable Minorities and Summer Like The Season.

“We decided to celebrate the band’s anniversary with a special show because we thought five years for any band was a big milestone,” Hughes said. “Almost none of the local bands existing when we started are around anymore, and most lasted just one or two years.”

For the show, After Hours Radio will play an extended setlist that encompasses the band’s entire career and feature visuals from GSW Art & Design, a southeast Michigan-based visual art, web and graphic design firm. It’s also a valuable opportunity for After Hours Radio fans to embrace the artistry and musicianship of the show’s three special guests.

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‘Be Careful Be Safe’ — New E-Man Bates Album Honors Mother’s Memory, Addresses Inner Struggles

Emmanuel “E-Man” Bates releases “Be Careful Be Safe” today. Cover artwork by Leo James Willer.

Emmanuel “E-Man” Bates keeps the phrase, “be careful, be safe,” close to his heart.

The Canton hip-hop artist frequently heard that cautionary, heartwarming phrase from his mother while growing up.

“Every time I left the house, no matter what I was doing, no matter if I was going out with friends or doing some sports stuff or going out to shows,” he said. “It was ‘be careful, be safe, make smart decisions.’”

Bates decided to name his latest album, “Be Careful Be Safe,” which drops today, as a tribute to his mother, who passed away in January. He also timed the album’s release to coincide with his mother’s Oct. 6 birthday.

“The original title was going to be ‘Green Balloons,’ which is the theme for the whole album, but then my mom passed, and I decided to go with the quote she always said to me,” he said.

Throughout the eight-minute title track, Bates sings about heeding his mother’s timeless advice and the lasting impact it’s had on him.

The song speeds up and down against a jazzy sonic backdrop, courtesy of metro Detroit’s Honey Monsoon, to chronicle the rollercoaster of emotions he’s experienced since losing his mother. Bates also included the lyrics from the slower part of “Be Careful Be Safe” in his mom’s obituary.

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