Although most of Tulsa's hip-hop artists bubble under the surface of our local music scene, there are still a healthy number of them out there, slowly working their way to the top.
Everyone has their own identity and is working to find their own niche, and every once in a while another artist pops their head up with a new release that makes people take notice.
The latest local Hip Hop artist to make such a move is Rodney "RSun" Cox. No, he's not new to the local scene: He's actually logged 11 years as a rapper, starting when he was 15, but as his writing and production have grown, he's started to turn heads and make people take notice. Now, with his latest disc, Emotion Sickness, ready for release, he's got something in hand that should make a larger group of people sit up and take notice.
RSun's story is not that far removed from many others. Toiling away working on his art and playing as many shows as he could, he eventually moved to Tulsa from the Tahlequah/Muskogee area roughly five years ago, as his music career started to take off. At that point, he was one of the first hip-hop artists to score a weekly gig, playing at Sax, which was then located at 18th and Boston.
With repeated performances and a developing songwriting style, more bookings started to come as he played shows throughout Oklahoma, from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to any small town that was ready for a show.
In a move that showed his drive and desire to succeed, he even toured up and down California and the west coast, living homeless for two months to do so and growing a small but loyal fan base there and landing on a couple of mix tapes.
Since returning to Tulsa, RSun has continued his work ethic, playing around town in gigs at Monolith (which has since closed), Eclipse, Crystal Pistol and the Marquee. He even landed a coveted local opener spot for mash-up artist Girl Talk at Cain's Ballroom last year and completed a successful mini-tour of the south, working his way through Texas and Louisiana.
After beginning his career in Tulsa playing venues that hosted more hip-hop shows, such as The Hive (which has since closed as well), RSun has found himself sharing the bill with more bands and expanding his audience.
Now, with his latest release, he's hoping to combine audiences and reconnect with the hip-hop crowd that he hasn't been able to spend as much time in front of recently.
Although RSun's music has been described by others as alternative hip-hop, blending his rap roots with an alt-rock sensibility, a preview of his new tracks and a review of similar tracks on his last disc, Manic/Depressive, actually reveal an artist who has stayed true to his original influences. Yes, there's a modern twist to the music, but old school beats and the narrative flow recall rap heavyweights Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. and Dr. Dre.
"This CD is a little rougher around the edges and a little rawer than my last couple," RSun said. "It's more like what hip hop was to me when I got into it. It wasn't pop, it was about telling it like it is and saying how you feel whether people liked it or not.
"That's what got me into rap to begin with 11 years ago. That's what I want to do now. I don't care what's on radio, I want to tell stories that make me feel better, and if people identify with them, then they'll know they aren't alone," he said.
When discussing the concept behind Emotion Sickness, RSun revealed that throughout the past year, stress and circumstances pushed him to the point where he felt ill. Whether driven by girl problems, issues arising from mixing friends and business, or simply audiences not understanding what he's trying to accomplish, anxiety set in to the point that he felt like he was having a heart attack, and he finally sought counseling.
"It was a combination of all those things and more," he said, "and not dealing with grief in the best possible way."
On Manic/Depressive, he addressed similar issues, but in a different manner, by using satire to approach his topics with humor and a more pop edge.
This time around, RSun has stripped away the satire and attack issues such as depression and isolation head on. It's a bold move and gives his songs a dark edge, but the results are incredibly engaging and draw you in.
"The more I talk about it, the more people tell me that there are others out there who feel the same way," he said. "I think if they can hear it (Emotion Sickness), it will be able to deal with those things a little easier."
RSun releases his new disc Friday night, June 4, with a release party at the Marquee. Although in the past he has performed with a full band or DJs from the Bassmeant crew, this show will be his first for his current live set-up, performing with live drummer Kevin Wiegmant and DJ Revival.
The night's performance features a cross-section of Rsun's five-disc catalogue, for which he writes all of the beats and lyrics and collaborates only with Justin "Caprice" Workman.
The evening's lineup will be completed with opening acts Jabee, The Ne'er Do Well (featuring X-Cal), indie-rapper Algebra and a set by DJ Revival.
Doors open at 6pm, and the show starts at 7pm for the all-ages show. Tickets are only $10 but purchasing in advance via ticketstorm.com will include a free copy of the disc at the show.
If you've been wondering what's bubbling under the surface of Tulsa's hip-hop scene or looking for someone who channels a more old-school, strict rap vibe, RSun's CD release for Emotion Sickness is a good place to start.
After a flurry of activity following the announcement of Dfest's 2010 cancellation (and hopes that it can return in 2011), which included the announcement of not one, but two smaller festivals attempting to fill the gap plus Memorial Day weekend, Tulsa almost seems sleepy this week.
Perhaps it's because we're trying to recover from the holiday, or it's just because of the sonic overload that occurred in May. Either way, there remains plenty of live music to check out in town if you're willing to look.
Thursday always proves to be a good night to kick off your weekend early, and this week is no exception.
The best party in town has got to be mash-up artist Girl Talk, who continues to gain popularity and pack the house as he returns to Cain's Ballroom on June 3. Kawnar and Montu open the show, which will be a guaranteed good time if you're looking for arguably the biggest dance party of the month.
Friday evening, June 4, is a big night for rap in Tulsa. Not only is the aforementioned RSun CD release show at Marquee going on, but Flytrap hosts Bubba Sparxxx with DJ Moody Navigator.
If you're looking for something completely different and more gritty, you can either renew your acquaintance with Matt Cline (who returns from a stay in Los Angeles) at Dirty's Tavern or get down to the heart of Oklahoma music with Turnpike Troubadours at Mercury Lounge. Also, if you're looking for a way to enjoy music and the weather, Travis and the Post Okies play a free show at the Riverwalk Crossing amphitheater.
Saturday night, June 5, is a big night for blues as Flytrap Event Center hosts the Tulsa Blues Expo with Dustin Pittsley, Steve Pryor, Calvin Youngblood, Danny J Buck, Terry Quiett Band, Dick Sims and The Bluehemians.
Elsewhere around town, Obituary plays The Marquee, Rodney Parker is at Dirty's, Mercury Lounge hosts Red Eyed Gravy and Dante and the Hawks settle in on the patio at Hunt Club.
Looking into next week, your best bets are Dave and the Haters at Hunt Club on Sunday night, Shaun Groves at Riverwalk Crossing (hosted by KXOJ) on Monday and the inescapable Tech N9ne, returning to Cain's yet again on Wednesday, June 9.
Share this article: