Posted by: Necci – Jul 26, 2012
So far, 2012 has been transformational for Tim Porter, Fair, and Octavion Xcellence, the trio better known as Suburban District. From releasing a slew of new tracks and stunning videos to absolutely killing live shows all over the DMV area, performing at the famous SXSW Music Festival in Austin, and releasing their latest studio album, Beer for Breakfast, you might think there is not much left for Suburban District to accomplish this year. But you’d be wrong--they’re just getting started with what they have planned for the RVA hip hop scene. Suburban District just wants to do more. More records, more videos, more shows--even more solo projects. And they want to do it with their hometown of RVA on their back. Always representing the two up, two down, The District is managing to do what most Richmond hip hop artists find the most difficult: breaking through that initial wall of doubt that keeps a lot of RVA artists strictly in the local category. They are moving into a new realm that has led national music blogs and outlets such as Vibe Magazine and The Source to write about their uptempo party sound and energetic live performances. They have opened for major label artists like Big Sean and Flo Rida, and now it’s their turn to be the main attraction. If early reaction to Beer for Breakfast is any indication, they are well on their way to their best year to date.
Since Suburban District are always busy making moves, the majority of this interview was done over email. Here’s a lesson to all hip hop artists serious about their business--get a good management team. Smooth Dirty Productions, run by my man Allen “BHOTT” Watts, was instrumental in making this interview happen. Smooth Dirty and Suburban District: Don’t mind them, they are just the future.
The new album, Beer for Breakfast, dropped in early June. What can listeners expect from the new project?
Octavion: June 12th! Available now. Listeners can expect that energy we've been bringing to the table since 2009. Our true fans that have been riding with us since then will definitely notice and appreciate the progress we've made as artists, and new fans should prepare themselves for something major.
The District is having an amazing 2012. Tell me about that experience of performing at SXSW in Austin. What did Suburban District gain from playing the festival this year?
Porter: Austin was an amazing experience for me. It was actually my first time visiting Texas so it's always great to go somewhere you've never been before. Dope music and musicians everywhere you turn, signed and unsigned, famous and unknown. The crowd was extremely receptive to our performance. I was very happy with that. I think we gained a win for the city and state, honestly. It's no secret that our area has been overlooked for quite some time, but Austin definitely knew VA was in the house that night, so that's a win. No matter how big or small the win was, it's still a win.
“Bleachers” is the first single released from Beer for Breakfast. How did the group decide on it as the first release?
Fair: To me, it just felt right. It's a great record--great beat, great vibe, great lyrics--so why not? We try not to overthink our decisions and just do what feels right. We have confidence in all of our records, so we think that whatever we put out is going to be received well, and we can make some noise with it.
What other artists and producers did you work with on the new album?
Fair: Conrizzle, Masta, Volume, Tazzy B, Patch Carr, Scolla, Nickelus F, D'Vine.
How did Suburban District meet and start rhyming together as a group?
Porter: I met Fair back in 2007 and he introduced me to Octavion. We were solo artists long before this, but it just made sense at the time to form a group because of our chemistry. Not only do we work well with each other in the studio, we are great friends outside of it.
There has been a lot of momentum surrounding your group--how do you explain the growth of Suburban District as artists?
Octavion: Well, just on a life tip in general, if you aren't getting wiser and growing annually, you're doing something wrong and your life is a stagnant mess. So our natural maturation as humans definitely translates into the music and how we conduct ourselves business-wise. I think we have quite the productive résumé when it comes to our accomplishments, and I think that we all just have the drive to become more. We try to keep moving because a lot of people have serious faith in us, and we owe it to them to continue to deliver.
How has forming in Richmond influenced your group? What are your thoughts on the current state of Richmond Hip Hop?
Porter: I think it taught us that you really have to take your craft seriously, or they won't take you seriously. Richmond is a tough city to make a name for yourself, especially if you're not conforming to what's popular and what's loved here. If you're void of a strong work ethic, then quit. You have no chance here. As far as Richmond hip-hop - it's great. There is a lot of unique talent here in RVA. Everyone's working. We as a city just need to get our foot in the door and then it's over.
What can RVA expect from Suburban District for the rest of 2012?
Octavion: More songs, more videos, more projects (group and solo), more shows...the usual.
You guys seem to do a lot of work with North Carolina Artist/Producer Conrizzle. What role does he play in the sound of Suburban District?
Fair: I view Conrizzle as the honorary fourth member [laughs]. He produced [our] original hit, "When Girls Kiss Girls." If the average person only knows one thing about Suburban District, then 9 times out of 10 it's that we did that song. “When Girls Kiss Girls” is still a fan favorite after all this time; that's why we finally gave the people what they wanted and shot a video for it.
Octavion, people that know you know that you are a strong personality, but the energy in the District has always seemed positive and focused. How do you explain the chemistry of the group?
Octavion: I Just feel like we have been at it with this music stuff for so long we just know what’s proper. We know what decisions to make that will benefit us all the most. We have learned to think as a unit and not as solo acts. The chemistry was bound to happen because we are 3 motivated individuals with success on our brains. We trust each other when it comes to decisions for the group; I actually think that’s where most of the chemistry comes from. You must be able to trust the people you do business with as well as those people you share your passion with.
Octavion, you spend a lot of time outside of VA, mostly for your education in California. While you’re away at school are you still working on music for the District?
Octavion: Yeah. I actually am glad you mentioned that. I go to medical school out here in California. It’s super hard and time-consuming. For some reason I am able to gather the strength and continue to be so involved in my RVA activities. So the answer is yes sir. I continue to record for District records, Smooth Dirty records, solo records, feature records, Yellow Cake records [laughs]. I just never have time to rest anyway, so I make most of those daily hours very productive.
Fair, a lot of Suburban District songs are about parties and having a good time, but you released a very serious single called “Troy Davis” earlier this year. Tell me about that single and why you felt the need to release such a serious song?
Fair: Mainly, I wanted to educate the uninformed and shed some light on the situation. When I first got word of this case, I was shocked that I hadn't heard about it sooner. I also wondered how many others knew nothing about it. [Troy Davis was a possibly innocent man convicted of murdering a police officer. He was executed by the state of Georgia in September 2011-ed.] So that's how the song came about. I doubt that record will go on a project; I just felt like it needed to be released.
Fair, your solo effort is also in the works. What experiences came into play while working on this new album of yours? What sound would you say (if any) is similar to the sound of the project?
Fair: Considering that this is my debut project, I spent a lot of time perfecting it. I've actually had the records finished for a while now. I've just been holding onto them until I felt that the time was right. As of now, the album is in Conrizzle's hands. After he makes some final touches, it's go time. As far as the sound, that's for the people to decide. All I can say is that it's not like the usual bullshit you hear on the radio. Lost Angel, coming sooner than later!
Porter, I have often seen you out supporting the RVA hip hop scene. Is it important to you that hip-hop artists from Richmond work together?
Porter: It's not just important, it's necessary. You hear a lot of artists complaining about the lack of support from the public here, but sometimes those particular artists are the most selfish, egotistical people you'll ever meet. That's why I make sure I show my face at every show I can, and I'm open to work with anyone from the city. Because if we don't support each other, then how the hell can we expect the general population to support us?
Porter, we hear that you have a new solo effort you have put together with Northern Virginia producer Fastaro. How did that come into play, and when can we expect that to be released?
Porter: I met Fastaro a year or so ago through one of our video directors. He's a great guy, a great producer, and most importantly he's hungry. He sends us beats faster than we can write to them [laughs]. His production really suits me as a solo artist, and you'll hear that, so it just made sense to me to do a project produced by him. I was inspired by Octavion's No Cool Points for Dying. As you all know, that was a collaboration with Just Plain Sounds. The Porter x Fastaro project is called Least Heralded, and you can expect it sometime this summer. [We] already have a video shot for a song titled "7-Eleven,” featuring Octavion, so look out for that.
Porter, what are your personal plans after you release Least Heralded?
Porter: I've already started working on my next effort, titled Pain and Patron, which will be my fourth project. It's going to be my deepest project to date, and I'm hoping to get that out by the end of this year. I would also love to do a collaboration EP with another artist in this area. Who really knows what's in store though? I just want all of us to keep working and putting out material and staying relevant, whether group or solo. You can never work hard enough, and to me there's no such thing as oversaturation unless everybody, and I literally mean everybody, in the world knows who you are.
Octavion, you’ve released a lot of solo material since you became active in 2007. Most recently in 2012 you have released The Creation of Yellow Cake 2 with Ryan Flow & DJ Rhetorik, as well as No Cool Points For Dying with Just Plain Ant & DJ Shermski. What other solo projects do you have slated for this year?
Octavion: I’m working on an EP right now called Panties & Xannies, but I can’t actually tell you if it will be released this year. Honestly I want it to [be], but I just don’t know if I like what I’m hearing 100% yet. I have been away from my RVA roots for a while now due to the whole school thing, so the most important thing for me is to get my formula back. I need to get back in the studio with 8th Cranial and BHOTT, get back to getting the proper guidance for my records. Once I do that I think I will be able to put a date on it. I also have plans on getting to work with The Heavy Hitter DJ Lonnie B on some new material soon, so you never know what may happen the rest of this year.
Octavion, you are also known in the city for booking shows with Cain McCoy under the name Slapdash LLC. Do you think your role in Slapdash has a positive or negative affect on how the city receives your music as a solo artist, as well as a member of Suburban District?
Octavion: I think that my role in Slapdash makes people understand my business mind. Cain McCoy, Holly, Sneed, Bella and I have worked very consistently over the last couple of years. We have been booking shows every single month since 2009 and have not missed a month. That at least shows people the drive behind the things I want to achieve. I hope that the things I accomplish with Slapdash inspire people to want to do more than what they think they can. Of course with everything nowadays in life, it is rather hard to not to acquire negativity. It comes with the territory, with wanting to be more.
Correction: The print version of this article included a picture of Conrizzle instead of a picture of Tim Porter. We regret the error.
Words by Marc Cheatham
Photos by Chris Sempek and Marc Cheatham