Originally formed in a Detroit basement in 2007 as a solo project, Will Sessions has quickly evolved into a solid core of musicians adept at shifting effortlessly between rare funk, hip hop, jazz-fusion and soul music. On a typical night you can catch the band on their principal instruments delivering funk as fiery as any rare 45 and in the next set see them manning an array of synthesizers and samplers, playing note for note versions of hip hop bangers, but totally live. The ensemble is led by it’s founder, trumpeter Sam Beaubien, who not only also handles keyboard duties, but is the principal writer, producer and arranger. The sound is driven by the propulsive rhythmic core of energetic drummer Bryan Arnold, the dymanic bass playing of Tim Shellabarger and the toneful approach of guitarist Ryan Gimpert. The lineup is rounded out by Eric Kacir (percussion), Justin Jozwiak (sax/flute), Matt Martinez (trombone), and Tom Parks (trumpet). Not long after coming together, the band settled in as house band at Detroit’s now-legendary Motor City Funk Night (voted the country’s best party by Paper magazine) where they regularly kept the wildly expanding crowd dancing into the morning. Soon came a series of stunning live collaborations with heavy hitting performers such as Guilty Simpson, Black Milk, Mayer Hawthorne, Slum Village Monica Blaire, Phat Kat, Rickey Calloway, and Billy Love. The band credits it’s solid schooling (nearly 2/3rds of the band hail from Wayne State University’s jazz program), a strong work ethic, and a diverse array of well-absorbed influences as the the key to their rapid growth. Because of their musical flexibility, stellar musicianship, exciting live shows, and knack at making collaborating artists sound their best, Will Sessions has established a reputation as one of the hottest bands in Detroit, effectively bringing musical styles and people together, but compromising little. The band intends to stay busy on stage and in the studio throughout the year - stay tuned for more exciting collaborations and a series of releases showcasing their depth.
Large Professor is so involved with the history of hip-hop, it's almost impossible to separate the two. His first beat-work was for Eric B. and Rakim. As a founder of the golden age crew Main Source, he gave Nasty Nas his debut. He rapped and produced on Tribe's Midnight Marauders, and co-crafted the sound of Illmatic. The list goes on: Kool G, Kane, Slick, Busta, Common. Whatever L.P. touches seems destined to become classic and through it all, like rap itself, this Queens auteur continues to push the movement forward whether lacing others or blazing his own path. His third solo album Professor @ Large takes the Prof's beloved boom-bap and reinvents it for a new school of students and practitioners alike. "The tree's still growing, still branching out," says L.P. "But it's been so long since we've heard these sounds. This is what we love and there's a lack of it right now." There's no better introduction to this LP than opening track, "Key to the City." A salvo of horns announces the uptempo banger, a mix of cutup keys and psychedelic vinyl chops that kicks off with the words:"Hey yo DJ, can you pick the pace up a little / I'm getting kind of tired of the slow jam rhythm." The track feels like a bridge connecting rap's roots (peep the scratch solo from Rob Swift) to the high-energy swagger of New York's young guns. Lyrically speaking, L.P. is timeless. "When I started out, it was just about talking slick on the mic in the vein of the old DJs," he reminisces. "Now when I write, it's in defense of real hip-hop. Of the street and the slang. Once I get busy, it all comes pouring out." True to form, even when he's going out on a limb to flip a bagpipe sample into an unexpected head-knocker on "UNOWHTMSAYN," the Pro rhymes with a clarity and cadence that never goes out of style. The Busta Rhymes-featuring "Straight From the Golden" is a perfect example: two giants doing a doubletime strut over decades of rap experience. At the other end of Professor @ Large, a dream team of New York emcees come together on "M.A.R.S.", with Cormega, Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, and Saigon not only repping four different flavors of mic-domination, but further melding styles and eras into something both familiar and fresh. Elsewhere, Fame of M.O.P. slays the tersely gritty "Happy Days," Queensbridge-raised Tragedy Khadafi (with Cormega) raps over the vintage boom-bap of "Focused Up," and Mic Geronimo and Grand Daddy IU contribute to the D.A.I.S.Y. age vibes of "Mack Don Illz." L.P. moves through them all with confidence and ease. Because at the end of the day, a song like "Kick Da Habit" gets to the heart of what Large Pro is all about. That track pays tribute to our author's addiction—making beats—while contrasting the coulda-been life of a kid who struggles with a different kind of dependence. That's rap at its essence right there. You might hear a subtle warmth to these songs inspired by a recent trip to Los Angeles. You might notice the cameo from his daughter Jillian, or get lost chasing a far-out instrumental, or geek over the opening line of "LP Surprise," but Professor @ Large is hip-hop as the big picture. For Large Professor, it's a way of life.
From a young age, Frank Nitt was quick to absorb the rich musical history of his native Detroit. During the early 90's Nitt honed his craft in Hip Hop, meeting and collaborating with a host of like-minded Detroit creatives including a young Jay Dee (aka J Dilla). Nitt drifted between hip-hop groups & projects before meeting his musical match in Derrick “Dank” Harvey, forming the rap duo “Frank Nʼ Dank.” The group eventually landed worldwide attention & acclaim for their contributions to Dillaʼs debut album Welcome 2 Detroit (BBE) in 2001 and soon after signed to MCA Records. Poised to release their debut full length 48 Hours (entirely produced by Dilla) the album ended up shelved, seemingly indefinitely, due to label politics. It wasn't until 2013 that the album finally saw a proper official release, garnering critical praise for its irreverent, light-hearted rhymes and unconventional production. After years as a group, Nitt parted ways with Dank to pursue a career as a solo emcee, eventually connecting with prolific LA beatsmith Madlib to release Nittyville, an installment of Madlib's acclaimed Medicine Show series. Most recently Nitt released Sunset Blvd., a collaborative full-length with Illa J (younger brother to the late J Dilla) over unreleased Dilla productions and featuring hip hop heavyweights Common, Talib Kweli and members of De La Soul and the Pharcyde. For 2015, The Los Angeles based, Detroit bred Nitt is preparing a new solo project Frankie Rothstein, for release on Fat Beats Records. With production from the likes of DJ Rhettmatic, J Rocc, and J Dilla, Nitt presents himself with a new level maturity and growth, tackling the realities of modern music business through the lens of an emcee with 20 years in the game.
From the land of Hip Hop Giants, Clear Soul Forces is next to carry the burning flame for the city of Detroit and bring the soul back to Motown. Comprised of four members; E-Fav, L.A.Z., Noveliss, and producer/emcee Ilajide; these cats rap like genetically enhanced, socially conscious street poets from the 70ʼs creating a combination of golden era, 21st century, backpack and sub-woofer rap hip hop music all while paying boisterous attention to their beat selection.
Clear Soul Forces the group emerged from the aftermath of a 2009 all-nighter at a studio, where the four emcees scraped up some lose change to get in the studio and record some individual music. Detroit emcee Royce Da 5ʼ9, who was finishing recording his album “Street Hop” was coincidentally working in the studio room next door. The four soon-to-be group members jumped at the chance to be able to kick some rhymes for Royce as they engaged in a 9 hour rhyme fest where Royce just listened, made a few faces, and knotted his head while the four emcees traded bars with one another. Royce was impressed, then he kicked out a suggestion; considering each emceeʼs different personality and style he posed that the four men become a group, and that was the day Clear Soul Forces (who didnʼt have a name at the time) was born.
Born and raised in Detroit on the sounds of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, Curtis Cross found out at an early age that he had a talent for hip-hop, especially for beats. He spent hours in his basement -- at first with just a cheap drum machine and a home karaoke system, eventually moving up to more sophisticated MPCs and samplers -- making tapes. One of these tapes got into the hands of fellow Detroiters Slum, who were impressed by what they heard and invited Cross to produce a track on their 2002 mixtape Dirty District, as well as on their official full-length Trinity (Past, Present and Future). After that, Cross, who was going as Black, teamed up with producer RJ Rice, Jr. (or Young RJ) as the group B.R. Gunna, rhyming and making beats on the duo's 2004 release Dirty District, Vol. 2. That same year, Slum Village, who were looking for production work because usual beatmakers Waajeed and Kareem Riggins were busy with other projects, hired B.R. Gunna for 11 of the 13 tracks on their Detroit Deli LP. In 2005, without a label and with his group on hiatus, Black Milk went on to release Sound of the City, which was more of a mixtape than a typical album, on his own Music House Records, and shortly thereafter worked on SV's self-titled record. By this time, indie rap label Fat Beats had heard Black's work, which many compared to that of the late J Dilla and producer/MC Madlib; impressed, the label signed him in 2006 and issued his official solo debut, Popular Demand, in March of 2007. Late that same year, a joint Bishop/Black Milk tape, mixed by DJ Warrior, hit the streets, a slightly modified version of which was mastered and released commercially by Music House early in 2008, and just a few months later his collaboration with fellow Detroiter Fat Ray, The Set Up, came out. In October, he capped off the productive year with the release of his second official solo album, Tronic. He worked with a four-piece live band for 2010'sAlbum of the Year, a heavily rock-influenced effort that featured guest artists Royce da 5'9" and eLZhi. His 2013 effort, No Poison No Paradise, returned to electronic and hip-hop sounds and featured the single "Sunday's Best." If There's a Hell Below followed in 2014, with Bun B and Pete Rock among its guests.