A local San Diego rapper and friend of mine, Clister Smith (who raps under his first name), invited me to spend a few hours with him and his friends at Sound Collage Musik on Monday, November 22nd, to get a glimpse into the making of his forthcoming sophomore album. The new album, which is yet to be titled, is slated to be released on January 29th, 2011. I was excited to be invited into someone else’s creative process, but a part of me was definitely intimidated by rolling up into Sound Collage’s studio not knowing them.
As I get older, I realize most of our reservations are in vain; I was warmly received into the Sound Collage Musik family, literally, the whole family; by the end of the day I had baby drool on the knee of my jeans and had talked math homework, hip hop, parenting and so on. More about those discussions later. Clister met me in the driveway of a modest, nice one-story home in a cute older neighborhood off of the 94 freeway in San Diego, CA. We ducked under a half-raised garage door, hurdled a child safety gate, high stepped over two toddlers and finally sat down against the back wall of the garage studio, where my view was of the control room and the door to the recording booth. Now mind you, all of this was built by SCM inside of the garage of one of the members’ homes. Throughout the 3 hours I was there, numerous artists passed through, including the entire cast of SCM (there are 3 members: one who specializes in keys, one who is a phenomenal drummer and one who is more adept technically in mixing and mastering, though all 3 are capable of all aspects of music production). It was an inspirational environment, to see these young men being excellent fathers (2 of the 3 have wives and kids) and successful in making their passions, their careers; it would later be explained to me that it was more than a passion or a career; it was a “calling”. Not only are these men good fathers to their own children, but they are helping to raise up the youth in their community; two points throughout the day really drove this home: first, in discussion with SCM I found out that they work with local high school students; when the students bring them good grades they earn free studio time. A student gets 30 minutes of studio time for an “A”, 20 for a “B” and 10 for a “C’. This system encourages and strengthens academics and gives the young men (and women) a creative outlet; they can positively channel energy which otherwise often leads to mischief and crime as music programs, after school programs and other forms of self expression take a far back seat to performance on standardized testing in our current educational paradigm. Second, a young up-n-comer, Austruck, came over for some real life advice and was mentored by SCM, which seemed to be a very natural and routine process for both parties involved.
At this point, you are probably wondering, “why the anonymity when addressing the members of SCM?” Enter Jesus. Since SCM is able to do what I hope to do (music/art /writing) and be financially sustained in doing so, I asked, “what would be your advice to someone looking to move in this direction?”
“Taking the mental step of saying, ‘I am going to do this’ is what you have to do, which it sounds like you have already done. After that I don’t think that there is a formula; the Lord has brought us here and he keeps us here and we are doing this for Him. That’s why we don’t want our names on anything. We just want the ministry name out there (SCM), and if it ever becomes about us, that’s when it is all over.” -SCM
That helped me understand some of the previous conversations we had had and really cut through some of the other questions that were brewing in my mind as I watched them record a couple of songs with/for Clister. Whether one agrees with the lenses through which these young artists view the world or not, it was enjoyable and comfortable to see them in their element. It was also refreshing to know that music, and art in general, can be fueled by a purpose other than wealth or fame, which seems to have infected most of pop art/music currently.
Whether you are Christian, agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, etc., in a time of artistic nonsense displayed on national radio airwaves, you have to admire SCM’s sense of purpose in what they are doing within the parameters of hip hop culture. SCM has an impressive resume, which is on display, fittingly, by way of signatures, statements and thanks written in sharpie on the outer wall of the recording booth. Much love to the fellas at SCM and thanks for the warm reception of an outsider turned supporter. Peace and Love
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