Published in Blog, Nashville Fringe Festival. Tags: Interviews, Music, Nashville.
“I don’t strive to be a famous rapper,” says E.T., the MC drawing out his mission statement via email. “I strive to bring good hip hop music, a positive vibe, a positive atmosphere, [and work with] positive people with positive messages who just want to be themselves and join in the celebration of hip hop music and all that it has to offer.” Rising up in the Louisville scene, the Kentucky-born rapper has done it all from break-dancing to producing, but what he strives for at this stage in his life is to promote positivity over persona. “‘Rap’ music,” he continues, “is sometimes given a very negative stereotype so I want people to see the difference between rap ‘music’ and the hip hop ‘culture.’”
E.T.’s introduction to hip hop came at an early age where he and his cousin, Manifesto, grew into the scene as young b-boys. “We both had a strong passion for music and dance most of our lives, so when we were about 10 years old we started a dance group called Inter-Fusion, and we would put together full dance routines with a combination of break dancing and acrobatics.” Two years later the duo began making their own music, building that new outlet into their performances. “It started out with two boom-boxes right next to each other, one playing music while we rap and the other boom-box recording it all. From there we graduated to a karaoke machine and thought we were really doing something.”
This passion for making music escalated for E.T. and, still in his teens, he became invested in the production side of recording. “At this time computer software hadn’t yet reached the level it is at now,” he continues, “so if you wanted to record and make music you had to actually go to a professional music studio. This was not cheap, but we made that next step and saved our money to do it. This drove me to want to do more. Not only did I want to make my own dances, write my own songs, I now wanted to learn how to record and produce these songs myself so that I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to get things done.”
By the turn of the millennium, E.T. began to further develop his voice as an MC, later becoming involved with the Soul Factory Productions crew (“a collective of artists, dancers, DJs, rappers, producers”) and the rap group NDPNDNT. By 2004 NDPNDNT had taken off in Louisville, with their debut album The Next Testamentreceiving the “Best Local Album” award from Velocity Magazine. That year the group also found an unlikely role, writing music for a professional arena football team. “We had a song on our album called ‘Fire’ so we did a remix version of it that was for the Louisville Fire, and they loved it and bought the rights to it. It became the official theme song and was featuring at all of their events, on their television and radio commercials, and we also would perform the song at some halftimes in the arena.”
The momentum was short-lived however, and by 2006 NDPNDNT had broken up, with the group’s members going their own directions. E.T., himself, decided a change of scenery was needed, and the following year he landed in Nashville. “My first year here was spent working, and meeting other people in the music community and started to expand my network. Within a year I was putting on two weekly hip hop events in the city and helping bring awareness to other good artists in Nashville. It was during this time that I met Knuckles McGee, Albert J, and Big Cho, the other founding members of Underground Senate.” While they only recorded five songs together, Underground Senate found a solid audience and were nominated for Best New Group at the Nashville Independent Music Awards. Again, it wasn’t meant to be and the group ultimately disbanded, with E.T. returning to Louisville for the birth of his daughter.
Ever since he was young, an emphasis on collaboration has been at the heart of E.T.’s music. From growing up and working with Manifesto and B.Stille (of Nappy Roots), to Soul Factory and NDPNDNT, to Underground Senate, the promotion of community within the context of hip hop has been a hallmark of his work. After the birth of his daughter, it wasn’t long before E.T. returned to Nashville, where he has since re-emerged within the scene, building another chapter to his story with community still in mind. “Al-D and I have been working together a long time,” he says. “[W]e are friends, business partners, writing and producing partners and are always collaborating together.” Al-D and E.T. are now in the process of writing and recording their first album as a duo.
Looking ahead, no matter what comes of his music, the message is what E.T. hopes communicates most through his work. “I want to promote positivity, love, and togetherness and music has always been the best way for me to do that.” He continues, “I always say ‘Be yourself and nobody else’ and I truly mean it. I want people, especially people in rap, to realize it’s OK to smile every once in a while, everything doesn’t always have to be so hard core and negative. Enjoy life, enjoy people, and I promise you will be a much happier person.”
[This article was first published by the Nashville Fringe Festival.]