It’s always extremely exciting and fulfilling to discover a new artist who is both talented and well versed (pun intended) and at the same time refreshing to listen to. Detroit hip hop exists as a veritable alchemical cauldron of lyricism, producing juggernauts like Elzhi and Eminem along with scores of other talented artists many of whose names you may never know. The city’s music scene is fiercely competitive and the miserable local economy shows little love to all but a few artists. But every once in a while someone comes along with a style so unique, so ear catching, with that balance of traditional skill and innovative approach, that you can’t help noticing. SelfSays is such an artist. His lyrical reach is stellar, laying claim to the terrestrial and the astral, leaving no sacred cow unturned. His mouthy wordplay often leaves you scratching your head and wondering how he got all those words into one sentence without sounding contrived or pretentious. Indeed it’s the natural swagger and casual delivery of all this wordiness that lends Self such a likeable and down to earth presence. You feel like he could be telling jokes in your living room or perhaps pontificating on the finer points of Detroit bath robe lounge culture with his sometimes collaborator Doc Waffles. Self is a man of the people and the people should stand up and take notice, for another diamond in the rough is brought to you courtesy of the fine city of Detroit and it’s beautiful music scene. – db
The newest video from MC SelfSays (Directed by Matt Barth) features famed New York producer Blockhead on the beat. The feisty Detroit rapper has a few new projects in the works at the moment — saying you can expect a new flexi-disc single out on Insect Records just in time for SXSW.
Charles Vann, an ordinary man, is poised to be one of the most refreshing new voices in hip-hop. As SelfSays he makes music that balances quirky, off-kilter rhyme styles with more serious, straight-aced lyricism. The soundscapes that he has chosen as vehicles for his voice are just as interesting and innovative as his own skills. He has been one of the earliest rapping proponents of the production of Samiyam and Devonwho and he has been dilligently at work with producers like House Shoes and Blockhead.
The Michigan-born MC grew up with a natural proclivity towards language arts. Talk Too Much by Run DMC is his first memory of hearing hip-hop as a child and as he grew his attachment towards the music grew with him. In particular he looked up to his older cousins and uncles who watched Yo! MTV Raps and had EPMD 12″ sleeves all over their walls. “I know my mom didn’t approve, but I couldn’t get enough,” SelfSays recalls. In middle school, on a whim, a young Charles tried his hand at rapping with some friends. Imitating Common and Big Pun at first, soon the young MC began the search to finding his own voice. Michigan State Radio helped introduce him to the thriving scene in neighboring Detroit, but he still stayed watching from afar. A self-proclaimed late bloomer, some idle time after high school led to SelfSays delving deeper and deeper into rap. He wet his feet with small battles locally and freestyling whenever and wherever he could. Soon he began cutting demos with friends. When he wasn’t crafting demo recordings, SelfSays was taking down his foes in battles and performing at open mics. Somewhere along the road those rough cuts found like-minded artists. One such artist was I Heart Lung from record label Asthmatic Kitty. That connection led to SelfSays remixing one of I Heart Lung’s tracks for a compilation. During that time, he also made his first recorded appearance on Lawless Element’s Soundvision: In Stereo album.
The Lansing native’s writing and recording came to a head in February 2009 with the release of his EP, Something Out Of Nothing. A free download, this project offered that aforementioned balance SelfSays so easily achieves. Something Out Of Nothing is a mixture of SelfSays’s quips and insights across futuristic, spacey boom-bap from, among others, Samiyam, Dakim and Bullion. Something Out Of Nothing was mentioned on sites like XLR8R, singled out in URB Magazine’s Next 1000 artists as well as highlighted on a weekly MySpace Music feature, the social networking giant’s weekly independent music showcase. In August 2009, SelfSays dropped the digital single “Contra/Another Ughh Letter” on Paramanu Recordings. Those tracks, which date back several years ago, chronicled some of the first collaborations between SelfSays and Samiyam.
SelfSays has performed at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. He has also shared the stage with local hip-hop luminaries One Be Lo, Finale, Phat Kat, Slum Village, Buff1, Shigeto and many others. He is currently immersing himself in creation like never before and has several interesting and creative projects dropping sometime in the near future.