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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Artists to watch: Pittsburgh Edition

Thanks to the constant inspiration of greats like Andy Warhol and August Wilson, new generations of visionaries emerge in the city of Champions. Using Hip Hop as a vehicle, they promote messages of empowerment through entrepreneurialism. Transplants from cities like New York and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh natives alike all find this much less saturated market a gold-mine for independent and creative invention.

Your browser may not support display of this image.Though small, this city is filled with DJs playing everything from bhangra to samba. DJ Vex spins every Friday at the Ava Lounge in East Liberty. Creating his own following, Vex mixes Hip-Hop, House and Reggae. Originally from Virginia Beach, DJ Vex also produces eclectic instrumentals that blend R&B and Alternative music with the smoothness of a southern gentleman. Visit to hear The Launch promo mix.Your browser may not support display of this image.

Veteran vocalist Gene Stovall has been characterized by his peers as our generation’s George Benson. Co-Founder of Seriendipitty Ent., he has performed with countless acts like the Pittsburgh Trip-Hop Band Glory Box, Hip Hop/Rock group Eviction Notice, and is currently hosting an Open Mic Series in Erie, Pennsylvania while traveling and performing his signature vocal style with The Audible.

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Your browser may not support display of this image. Pittsburgh is not short of talented female artists either. Groups like the duo SolSis made of poet and dancer YahLioness and activist and comedian Ma’Ve, mix the soul of Hip Hop with R&B and a rebel yell. As headliners for the August Wilson First Voice Festival, SolSis has collaborated and inspired other artists. They are currently focused on their debut record.

Your browser may not support display of this image. Other women like Kellee Maize are embracing their femininity and voicing strength through Rap. Seeing Hip Hop as an outlet for activism, Kellee began an all female operated marketing and event coordination company, Nakturnal, which specializes in providing a platform for Pittsburgh women to promote their craft. Following her first release “Age of Feminine”, Kellee plans to release new work highlighting her mystical side. She believes “music and art will usher in the peaceful revolution we need,” and continues to promote this message through everything she touches.

While Top 40 is lots of fun, seeking out independent artists is vital to truly seeing the evolution of Hip Hop over the last decade. Take a chance to find out what local artists are creating near you by visiting an open-mic or music festival. Support the arts in your community and keep an eye for these artists; I’d love the opportunity to say “I told you so!” – Written by Kristin Renee

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