“Between sampling local funk monsters DeRobert and the Half-Truths, conscripting The Boom Bap’s DJ Rate for cuts and scratches and dropping dope rhymes over dope beats, AL-D delivers the tru-school goods with this one,” noted the Nashville Scene of Al-D’s Free Delivery in honoring it as the “Best Hip-Hop Mixtape” of 2013. “[It’s] a must-listen for local hip-hop fans.”
“I spent about 18 months writing, producing and recording it,” Al explains, “and about six months working with DJ Rate on the cuts and turntablism.” “It was a huge relief to have it done,” he adds, looking back on the massive 25-track release that has helped guide what’s become a marquee year for the Nashville-born MC and producer. And in reflecting on his decade-long commitment to the scene that has helped guide him to this point, his sense of place is clear, “I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing.”
A founding member of the NIMA-award winning New Block Order crew, Al’s approach to Free Delivery was a largely communal one, collaborating with a slew of fellow MCs and producers for the release. “Music is absolutely a social endeavor to me,” he says.
While unveiling numerous projects throughout the 2000s (including an album produced for fellow N.B.O.-head 187 Blitz, and 2004’s Open the Mic – a collaboration with Knoxville-MC S.M.O.), it wasn’t until 2008 when Al’s place in the local hip-hop scene began to solidify. Performing regularly at Sound Therapy events around town, Al-D continued to find his voice by releasing more new material, including Charcoal Filtered with TN Jim, before breaking out with his Vitamin D tape, mixed by DJ Rate, in 2011.
“DJ Rate is one of my best friends and has been since high school. I have recordings on cassette tape of him deejaying and our friends freestyling in his bedroom at his dad’s house. He has recorded scratches on every single album I’ve ever put out.” The release show for the mixtape started a series of events for what would become The Milkshake, an annual DJ-focused showcase which has been previously housed at The 5 Spot, Mad Donna’s and most recently the Bohéme Collectif’, which has also served as venue Al’s “Meant for the Milk Crate” events. “Basically,” he adds, “the Milkshake is for the DJs and MFTMC is for the MCs.”
Following the release of Free Delivery, Al has returned his focus to a project that had taken a back seat to the mixtape – his band, Swap Meet Symphony. Free Delivery‘s opening track is a scratch-heavy blend of vocals and bass provided by Swap Meet Symphony, and despite clocking in under two minutes it’s still enough to give an indication of what’s to come when the group assembles in January, where they will debut their new material live on stage over a night that will also feature the Grips (of G.E.D. Soul), DJ Rate, and a few special guests including Al’s “Meant for the Milk Crate” co-host and MC, E.T.
Even while dedicating time to shaping what is to become of this new band, Al has remained consistent with his aim of maintaining music as a means of connection, recently assuming the position as host of the Nashville Fringe Festival’s Radio Free Nashville show. Naturally, Al’s focus is on hip-hop (“we have settled on having one show per month [the third Monday] dedicated to reviewing upcoming hip-hop events and featuring music of people in the hip-hop community who have events or album releases coming up) though he’s still going to keep the rest of the scene in his sights (“the other three or four Mondays are dedicated to checking out music and interviewing guests from bands of various genres who have been involved with Nashville Fringe Festival events in the past”). Upcoming guests include *repeat repeat (December 2), Oscar Utterstrom and Michael Whittaker (December 9) and DJ Rate (December 16).
[This article was first published by the Nashville Fringe Festival.]