This past month has seen Colorado Springs' profile continue to rise in the music world at large, particularly when it comes to hip-hop and R&B.
You may recall that back in April, we reported on the X Music Group signing Tony Williams, who's racked up writing and vocal credits on just about every Kanye album. Now comes word that the local label has recruited former RCA hip-hop artist Mickey Factz.
"Yes, we are based in Colorado. Yes, we did just sign one of the biggest artists the Internet has seen since 2007," XMG's John Stewart bragged on Facebook last week. "He's released revered mixtapes, been on the cover of XXL Magazine as a Top 10 freshman, and recorded songs with everyone from Drake to Marsha Ambrosius."
The esteemed hip-hop publication's other picks-to-click through the years have included Lupe Fiasco and Wiz Khalifa. Like many of his fellow "freshmen," the Bronx native was swept into the major-label world and found the experience less than satisfying. After he signed to Jive Records and released 2010's "Paradise" single — which has since scored nearly 2 million YouTube hits — the label went under and Factz moved to Sony/RCA. He ended up leaving last year, but retained the rights to his masters.
Along the way, Factz has released several mixtapes and appeared onstage with fellow backpack rapper Fiasco. His 2012 release, Mickey MauSe, was especially ambitious, a 17-track concept album about a fictional graffiti artist's coming of age alongside Keith Haring, Fab Five Freddy and Jean-Michel Basquiat. (Don't know how that concept never occurred to Sean Combs or Soulja Boy.)
To preview what Factz will be bringing to XMG, check Amazon for his mixtapes, or spring for Mickey Factz: The Artistic Collection Box Set. A bargain at $25, it's a limited-edition collection of 10 CDs, with the original cover art beautifully emblazoned on each disc, and, well, no music whatsoever.
The songs themselves can be downloaded for free at datpiff.com. And yes, that's the same copyright-evading trick that Danger Mouse pioneered with his 2009 Dark Night of the Soul project. In fact, Mickey MauSe includes several prominent Danger Mouse samples, while XMG's Stewart was written up last year in Forbes, of all places, for his unauthorized remastering of Danger Mouse's The Grey Album. Small world.
So will upcoming X Music Group releases be featuring cameos by Kanye and Lupe Fiasco? Stranger things have happened.
Moving on to the smoother R&B side of the tracks, local artist Terrill Paul, aka Rellion, has been out on tour as Bobby Brown's backing singer, something he's been doing on-and-off for more than a half-decade. Colorado Springs saxman Tony Exum Jr., who recently began hosting the Soul Live Concert Series at Stargazers, tells us he and Rellion are working on a new album together called Perfect Wind. Exum and his production partner Armed Green have also just added Rellion as opener for a June 27 Stargazers show featuring Troop, the platinum act responsible for No. 1 R&B hits like "Mamacita" and "Spread My Wings." The group was also one of the principal architects of the "New Jack Swing" movement, still one of the best musical genre names of all time.
Moving on to the great outdoors, fans of free local music shouldn't forget the Acacia Park summer concert series, which is now in full swing. On my way to last Saturday's Black Sheep show by much-buzzed Australian artist Willie Moon — who, backed by bassist Juliette Jackson and drummer Gigi Golderro, rocks a whole lot harder live than on record, by the way — I stopped by the park to catch Edith Makes a Paper Chain.
Naturally, the outdoor setting, combined with Edith's distinctive indie-folk sound, brought out the obligatory legion of hula hoops. (I counted six.) The Be Good Tanyas-influenced musicians also played new songs from their forthcoming album, including one they wrote after driving through the devastation of the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Looking ahead, this coming Saturday's Acacia Park concert will feature the more rockist Lazy Spacemen. Fronted by Chuck Snow, who recorded his own Waldo Canyon-influenced "Whichever Way the Wind Blows" while the hills were still burning, the group plays with a sound that's a lot less country-influenced than Snow's mostly dormant Lo-Fi Cowboys. Fans of bands like the Replacements, Television and Big Star should find much to like.
And let's not forget Nosh's Thursday night patio concerts, which this week will bring us the indie-rock pairing of We Are Not a Glum Lot and Knight in Colors. Upcoming concerts in the series, which runs through August, will include Edith Makes a Paper Chain with Chauncy Crandall on June 20, and El Toro de la Muerte with Grant Sabin on June 27. Find the full summer schedule at tinyurl.com/noshconcerts.