When local entrepreneur Jason Jameson was preparing to expand his presence with his clothing line, Tre Pop Tees, and launch a website for the company, he knew he had to do something special to get peopleís attention. Being active within the local hip-hop community, he had already been working hard to establish his brand within music and club circles, so the solution seemed obvious: marry the two in order to promote his clothing line.
Although a simple idea initially, it grew into another beast altogether, creating a mixtape project that not only celebrates Tre Pop Tees, but also the local hip-hop scene in general while spotlighting a handful of the best local rappers that most Urban Tulsa readers have never heard of.
When searching for a theme for the mixtape, Jameson didn't have to look very far, simply turning to the club scene that the music inhabits. Jameson recently explained that after moving back from Atlanta he found the Tulsa's club scene to be fairly restricting, with many dance clubs imposing a dress code for entry. In and of itself, that didn't seem too bad, but after hassling with bouncers and door men over collared shirts and proper attire, Jameson all too often entered to find others at the bar in relaxed attire -- sometimes even shorts, flip flops and tank tops.
Jameson was quick to point out and stress it wasn't a racial issue, but merely an issue of double standards that grated him the wrong way and he set out to take a stand against it. After launching Tre Pop Tee's (titled as such for clothes so cool you have to pop your collar three times), he made a point to only wear his own shirts when going out to the clubs. When he was denied entry for wearing a t-shirt, he was quick to point out other patrons entering or exiting with similar dress and eventually worked his way in the door by buddying up with the DJ's or bar owners to win favor and get waved into the clubs.
When it came time to make the mixtape to promote his shirts, the title and concept became clear: eliminating the dress code barrier, thus the title No Dress Codez. Once Jameson got started on the project, however, the focus quickly started to expand.
"When I first started, it was a promotional tool for Tre Pop Tees and a way to get some kind of light on the clothing, but it doubled as a way to put a flashlight on some of the best artists in town," he said.
Quickly, the focus shifted from the clothes to getting the best hip-hop artists in town involved in the project. In doing so, Jameson expanded his search from his own circle of influence and searched out the opinion of others. As a producer and beat creator in Tulsa, Jameson already knew a number of artists, but he wanted to make the project about more than just including his own friends and associates.
"I wrote down who I thought the best artists in town were, but then I wanted to know who other people thought the best were, so I started asking 'Who's in your top five?'," he said.
Jameson, who is known locally under the moniker Jayzo as a producer, also incorporated other producers and beat makers for the mixtape, truly making it a showcase for the local hip-hop scene. The final product is a sprawling, 58 minute exercise in dance beats, mixing, bravado, promotion and spreading the love around with a wealth of hip-hop talent that Tulsa's urban scene already knows as the best in town, but stands separate from the vast majority of suburban rapping that promotes itself so well and most often get the spotlight in UTW.
That scenario is about to change as Tulsa's real hip-hop is finally stepping up -- beginning with Meech's surprise win at this year's ABoT awards and now a compilation that thrusts artists like CO2, Young Prez, Cazualty, Yung Villin, MZ Unique and The Novelists into the spotlight.
No Dress Codez plays out as 20 tracks, hosted and emceed by DJ Bigg Rich, one of Tulsa's hottest DJ's and the man who has become the main attraction at Red on Friday nights. While his voice guides the playlist like a night in the clubs, you also find a diversity of styles and personalities in the local talent with artists like CO2, The Novelists, M.I.S.T., Owens and Boss P stepping up as the standouts.
When talking to Jameson, his biggest issue became actually working in everyone and all of the tracks he had prepared. Ultimately, he had to split the set as he had 42 tracks complete, so once this disc comes out and starts to die down, he's ready to launch the second and shed light on even more performers.
As cool as a mixtape is, however, it doesn't do much good if there's not a way to get it into people's hands, so Jameson is throwing a huge dance party this Friday night at The Marquee that double as a release party for No Dress Codez and the launch party for TrePopTees.com, the new online presence for his shirt company.
If you want to find out what's really happening in our hip-hop scene, you won't want to miss this show. Hosted by Jayzo, DJ Bigg Rich will be spinning throughout the night with guest appearances by DJ Darku J and DJ Oreo. More importantly, Tulsa Rappers Yung Villin, Philippian, Young Prez, Kamino, M.I.S.T. and CO2 will all be performing as the evening progresses, making it a true showcase for Tulsa hip-hop.
Doors open at 9pm and the music starts at 9:30pm, with a $10 cover at the door. Cover is discounted to $5 if you wear your Tre Pop Tee. If you don't have one already, you can get them at the show and a purchase includes a free No Dress Codez CD. CDs alone will be available for $5 as well, so you can get caught up on what the next wave of Tulsa hip-hop has to offer. You can be sure this is just a glimpse of what is ready to pop within Tulsa's urban music circles and merely a glimpse of the talent that we've got lurking behind the scenes.
Red River Rock
Also on Friday night, one of the hottest new rock bands coming out of Texas makes a stop at Mercury Lounge to introduce itself to Tulsa. If you haven't heard of Thieving Birds yet, that's probably because the band has only been together for a little over a year. The band has quickly found its chemistry, though, and begun to make waves in Texas with the ripples already crossing up into Oklahoma.
When speaking with singer Ace Crayton last week, he said the band's music is best described as roots rock as all of the members grew up listening to classic rock artists like The Band, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. Of course, coming from Texas, they were all exposed to country music as well, but that's not the backbone of the band.
A cursory listen to the band's self titled debut disc might make you think this is a country band, but those surface overtones are quickly overtaken by a bluesy rock that recalls bands like Black Crowes, Wallflowers, Big Head Todd and Ian Moore. In other words, this stuff is bluesy and groove heavy with big enough hooks to keep it from being cliché.
According to Crayton, "The album is kind of deceptive. A lot of the songs were written five or six years ago. Me and a couple of the other guys started writing together, but we were all in different bands at the time. When they lost their singer last year, they asked me to join and I said sure, since we've all been friends for so long."
"That kind of made the record a retrospective of what we've done in the past -- without actually doing anything in the past," he said with a laugh.
The band actually formed in September of 2010 and played its first show after three weeks of rehearsals. Within two months, the band was in pre-production mode to record its debut disc. Since then, the band has been hitting the road and quickly building a reputation for its live show along with a rabid following.
"We lack patience, so [we] really pursued things in the beginning. We figured if we could get step one, two and three done really quickly, then we could get on with being a band," Crayton said.
Thieving Birds' first show was on Oct. 7, so Crayton admitted this is still a band in its infancy. Nevertheless, the group has quickly built a solid reputation and Reggie Dobson at Mercury Lounge admitted that he booked the band strictly on the recommendation of a number of bands that have come through and told him he had to get the band to play at Mercury.
That said, this Friday night is their Tulsa debut and a show that roots/blues rock fans won't want to miss. Cover is only $5 and Mike Williams opens the show, so you'll want to arrive early. His Landlocked and Living a Lie EPs are both available for free download on bandcamp and are some of the most immediate and engaging tunes coming out of Tulsa right now.
One Hot Ticket
Before we get to this week's highlights, we've got a heads up for one of the hottest shows to open the concert season in 2012. The Civil Wars will be playing Cain's Ballroom on Jan. 18 and tickets go on sale this Friday morning, Oct. 21. Tickets should be roughly $20 each and will go quickly as the band has requested an intimate setting with reserve seating, so Ballroom capacity will be limited to 800 for the night. Get your tickets early, because this one will definitely sell out.
After a relatively quiet weekend last week, the calendar is packed this weekend, so we've got your highlights to help you pick wisely.
Thursday, Oct. 20 -- Two generations of blues heroes come to town as Buddy Guy and Jimmie Vaughan play Osage Events Center for a co-headliner and a ticket that's only $35. Meanwhile, Grazzhopper keeps the bluegrass/pop/jam vibe alive at The Colony for a good show to relax to.
• Friday, Oct. 21 -- I've already mentioned the No Dress Codez mixtape release party at The Marquee and Thieving Birds with Mike Williams at Mercury Lounge, but that's not all. Punk-jazz all-stars Dead Kenny G's play The Colony on Friday and Cain's Ballroom hosts the weekend's biggest dance party with Chromeo and Mayer Hawthorne. Also in town, songwriter David Wilcox plays the All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse series and Travis Tritt and Charlie Daniels Band co-headline at The Joint.
• Saturday, Oct. 22 -- The 10th Annual Divas concert to benefit the H.O.P.E. foundation is at The Cain's with Olivia Duhon, Cindy Cain, Rebecca Ungerman, Annie Ellicott, Eric Himan and more. Elsewhere Paul Benjaman Band plays Fassler Hall and The Shame makes another appearance, this time at Crystal Pistol with Spank.
• Sunday, Oct. 23 -- Ryan Cabrera headlines a night of pop at The Marquee with Jared Finck, Chase Stites and Jason Ferguson and punk rockers The Wanda's play Soundpony to cap a busy weekend.
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