Sometimes I find myself wondering what genetic mutation some people possess that allows them to listen to country music. It’s beyond me. I know I’m from the south, but the majority of the genre makes me want to pull my hair out and create a scene that some country singers would probably love to write about in their next twangy atrocity. My parents love the stuff, which is probably why I despise it so much. I spent countless days in my childhood helping my dad around the house on one project or another remodelling the house, always with our portable radio blaring Tim McGraw or Garth Brooks on US101 nearby. Maybe it’s just the association between country music and working in the crawlspace under our house, but now I can’t stand listening to it.
I still have nightmarish flashbacks to redoing the plumbing whenever I hear “Live Like You Were Dying.”
But everyone is entitled to like their own favorite genre of music, even if it is terrible. Fortunately, here at the Harrison Center, we have two interns pumping out quality music that is actually fun to listen to, and informational as well. So today’s spotlight is on the KP Mixtape—a hip-hop project written and produced by Jason Moore and Michael Williams.
Jason, a junior in college who is pursuing his undergrad in business, and Michael Williams, a sophomore at Herron High School, spent this summer collaborating on an album that celebrates King Park. And they did it through rap.
Every week, Jason and “Big Mike” identified a location, theme, or something else in King Park that they felt told a story and deserved to have an audience. They did their research, wrote the lyrics, created a beat, recorded it, and finally produced a professional piece of music based on that subject. Their collection of songs include hip-hop pieces about the history of Herron High School, the story of the Harrison Center, and even the experience of porch partying in Indianapolis.
It’s a wide range of subjects they’ve tackled this summer. When I interviewed them about their project, they had just gotten back from having lunch at the Propylaeum in the Old Northside historic district. Big Mike was even wearing a suit.
Jason, who grew up listening to rap and hip-hop, was introduced to the opportunity to produce music by Indianapolis locals, and signed on for a summer internship this past year. Similarly, Michael has grown up listening to rap, and is now actively applying his knowledge of the area as a local to the East Side, as well as his vocals and writing skills in his first ever internship.
In certain ways, the duo is following in the footsteps of interns from previous years who also celebrated the neighborhood through music—Paul Smallman wrote and recorded his own album, King Park, last summer. However the KP Mixtape is the first Harrison Center music project to utilize hip-hop, and that genre comes with its very own set of difficulties.
For instance, while 16 lines of written lyrics in one of the more guitar-driven ballads of King Park may take up the entire song, the same amount of written content only makes up around 20 seconds of a rap. That means Jason and Michael write an enormous amount about each subject, and still go through the full production process of creating and recording music to accompany them.
A lot of the time that involves both Jason and Michael taking several hours to dig through song after song to find the perfect snippet of a melody or sound to sample and reinvent for their own music. It’s a common practice in hip-hop, and a useful tool in song production. But even with sampling, every song is built from the ground up every week, so each one is a labor of love. It can be difficult at times, but as Jason points out, it’s a genre that can communicate effectively. There’s the added benefit of being able to play it loudly, too.
All of Jason and Michael’s KPMixtape work can be found online. Give it a listen to hear the area showcased in a new way—with bass. Not only is it informational, you might just find this the perfect introduction to a genre you haven’t heard in this context. And yes—I promise we’re not doing a country music album any time soon.