The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
CD Reviews  |  Classical  |  Live Reviews  |  Music Features

virtuoso main
SHANK-HOP With E-Flash and V-Knuckles (kneeling) and Neo and Virtuoso (standing) “street” meets the “underground.” 

Let's be honest. For the past decade or so, there have essentially been two Greater Boston hip-hop scenes — one for which the audience is black, and one for which the audience is not-so-black. As in many cities, the black scene is typically called "street," while whiteboys use the term "underground" to describe their tastes. This reality has historically been too taboo to touch out loud, yet the silent schism was not lost on first cousins E-Flash and V-Knuckles, whose legendary Cambridge duo, Natural Born Spitters, have enjoyed just a fraction of the worldwide audience that some of their so-called "underground" neighbors have attained.

It's not like Flash and Knuckles didn't know Virtuoso before they were labelmates with him on Big Bang Records. Despite their variant approaches to the genre, NBS first crossed paths with the famously heady motormouth more than a decade ago in high school, and in the years since they wound up sharing several studios and stages. But the relationship ended there. While NBS was establishing its brand around housing-project hallways, Virt was collaborating with cats from Montreal to Munich, and landing flattering write-ups in publications all across the world. NBS established firm footing as the premier hardcore rap act in the region, but that was essentially it. They'd hit a brick ceiling.

"On the street level, we're legends," says Flash. "If you could buy records in jail, we'd be platinum. But while we were in the 'hood being legends or whatever you want to call it, guys like Virt were touring Europe and making money off of CDs. One day a couple of years ago, me and Virt just got to smoking and talking about all this, and that's how we ended up working together. Before now, we weren't really business-minded at all."

Virt was no music-business wiz himself. By his own admission, he's succeeded and failed in the industry in most ways possible. Three years ago, while living in Puerto Rico, he even made a run at a reggaetón career. Needless to say, Virt's club vibes didn't sit well with fans of his complex socio-political wordplay. Two years ago, back in Cambridge with his beach-bum days behind him for good, he decided to get his rhyme career back on its original track, which, years earlier, he'd ridden to a rank among hip-hop's top lyricists. This was no simple task. He'd need some co-defendants.

For everything from street promo to Web marketing, Virt tapped Neo, a Cambridge local whom he'd peripherally known for years. Neo had been helping NBS pro bono ever since they discovered him, an unlikely white kid, rapping along to every word at a Western Front show 10 years ago. With Neo now managing the business side of Big Bang — securing distribution, booking shows — Virt and NBS got to writing and recording. "I'm in the studio and writing rhymes more now than I have in years," says Virt. "And these two haven't stopped in months."

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Zion I & the Grouch | Heroes In the Healing of the Nation, Beastie Boys | Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, Pantha du Prince | XI Versions of Black Noise, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Music, hip-hop, New Music,  More more >
| More
Add Comment
HTML Prohibited

 Friends' Activity   Popular   Most Viewed 
[ 06/04 ]   China Blue: "Firefly Projects"  @ Newport Art Museum
[ 06/04 ]   Coolidge Corner Art Festival  @ Edward Devotion School
[ 06/04 ]   "Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey"  @ Boston Athenæum
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   DIGITAL DEATH  |  June 01, 2011
    I don't plan to live past 50. If I keep this pedal pinned to the floor, even that might be pushing it. Death is something that I ponder daily, usually between my morning blunt and Burger King breakfast run.
  •   QUIET D SILENCED?  |  June 01, 2011
    Boston bohemians and other fans of quirky television have new reason to hate conservatives.
    For the past decade or so, there have essentially been two Greater Boston hip-hop scenes — one for which the audience is black, and one for which the audience is not-so-black.  
  •   OPEN FOR CHANGE  |  May 26, 2011
    Last Saturday's first flash of dry weather in a week didn't stop dozens of Boston activists from holing up in a Chinatown loft, and plotting to protect citizens from Clear Channel, FCC oppressors, and other threats to an open, fair, and honest media.
    I'm riding shotgun through Times Square in a flatbed truck draped with placards, advertising the impending End of Days: HAVE YOU HEARD THE AWESOME NEWS?

 See all articles by: CHRIS FARAONE

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2011 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group