Afterlife Family
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Afterlife Family

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The logo of Equainess Price's new business, Afterlife Studio, is an arresting image: Satan's face glaring straight at the viewer.

That's not exactly what people might have expected from a young man who, at age 16, was named Most Positive Youth in Wisconsin by the Alliance for a Drug-Free Wisconsin.

The satanic symbol, Price said, is a reference to having been "through hell and back." The former anti-drug rapper has been shot over a girl, has seen his best friend killed because he was dealing drugs, has been accused of abusing his own daughter and, last year, attempted suicide.

His colleague and vice president of Afterlife Records, Jacob "Cain" Thigpen, has met demons of his own, including having his throat slashed at age 14.

Price, 28, is hoping his new home-based company, which opened Monday, brings financial rebirth.

Afterlife is not a studio to be rented out by the hour by outsiders, but a recording company with two labels, Afterlife Records and Platinum Plus Records.

Afterlife Records includes: Price, who writes and records rap tunes as Ryme C; Thigpen; and another local man, Chris "Renaissance" Killips.

Four other local men record for Platinum Plus, which Price's brother, Al Jarvis Price,

oversees.

Equainess, as the studio's chief executive officer, is articulate, thoughtful and mightily busy. He's a full-time student pursuing two Gateway Technical College computer degrees. He works two part-time jobs there.

And he's had his own disc jockey company, which he will close now.

"I get about four hours of sleep a night," Price said.

Afterlife includes computer, recording, mixing and CD duplicating equipment. There's a second studio in Milwaukee, a partnership which Price said he'll later consolidate into his Racine operation.

Price said he's been recording rap music for more than half of his life, since he was 13. In 1996 a single-song cassette sold about 40,000 copies, he said.

Along the way, Price read up on and taught himself the recording business - labels, copyrights and such.

He will be the first rapper released by Afterlife, with the album "Last Man Standing," due out Feb. 10.

All of the rappers on both labels write their own material. The backing music is made completely with virtual instruments on computer.

As for subject matter, the days of Price putting out only positive-message rap are history.

"I used to do all positive music 'til '99," he said. "I still have a lot of positive lyrics; however, I, too, have seen lots of bad things … so now I'll speak whatever's on my mind."

His forthcoming song, "Suicide," comes directly from Price's lowest moment. In it, he raps that "Suicide is not the way out."

Thigpen, 29, an employee of Jensen Metal Products in Franksville, said he explores "the darker side of rap. If I'm talking about love, it's corrupted love.

"If you love Stephen King or Wes Craven, then you'll love what I do."

Thigpen credits his "rough" childhood as his inspiration but said, "I'm not a pimp or a player," and said that he's getting married this year.

"People don't realize how easy it is to be affected by your environment," he said. "I can teach you how to keep someone else from being like this."

The Afterlife rappers said they have no Racine-area places to do their shows.

"It's the bad element that sometimes follows the shows" that's to blame, Thigpen said.

But they plan to take as many Midwest gigs as possible and hand out their CDs as

promotions.

"That's our temporary marketing scheme," Price said.

Later, Afterlife will open beyond just rap and look for all kinds of musicians, Price and Thigpen said.

Price said his goal with the business is "To get Racine, Wis., noticed. I don't care if I never get famous or rich - although that would be nice."

"People will start looking to the Midwest for music," he said, and Price wants to be a catalyst for that. - Racine Journal Times


A two-story frame house with white-vinyl siding and frost-green window awnings on a quiet Racine street is home to Equainess Price's Afterlife Records. Inside, the dark basement recording studio shakes to a pounding hip-hop beat.

Price, a 28-year-old rapper known as Ryme C, is hoping to translate that thumping into a successful record label. After opening for business in January, Price plans to release his own album, "The Last Man Standing," as his label's first CD this month."I realized I didn't want to just be an artist anymore, I wanted to run my own label," said Price, who is pursuing two computer degrees at Gateway Technical College in Racine and works two part-time jobs.

In basements, garages and bedrooms, do-it-yourself record companies are being born. With home computers and shoestring budgets, the labels are being started by high school students, department store managers and just about anyone with a love of music.

"We had been rapping for a while, but we just started our label last year," said Rudy Strong, who started The Empire Entertainment with his cousin, Mark Strong.

The 17-year-old Brown Deer High School students are using the Internet and local barbershops to spread the word about their music. They say they have made about $500 off the sale of short-mix CDs and hope to release their first full album this summer.

"We charge $5 and do all the stuff ourselves. We have the skills to print CD covers, burn CDs and make a Web site. We want to take (the business) as far as we can," Rudy Strong said.

Patience is key, says another rapper from Racine. Mark Edwards, 38, started Stresz Out Records seven years ago in his Racine basement.

"We're just now starting to see a profit on it," said the classically trained violinist turned rapper. "It takes a while for people to take you seriously."

Sony and Virgin Records have expressed interest in partnering with Stresz Out and its feature rapper and co-owner, James Stills, said Edwards. The label is expected to release its sixth CD in May.

"You need the financial backing of the majors to do videos and commercials. They are like a bank," said Edwards, who holds a full-time job as a JC Penney department store manager. He advises those wanting to start a label to "stay persistent. If you think it is going to happen overnight, it's not going to happen."

Edwards' label may one day become his full-time career as it did for Wesley Van Linda, founder of Milwaukee's Narada Productions.

In 1983, Van Linda released his first two albums under the Narada label. The company tapped into adult alternative and New Age music niches. Today, the company of 70 employees is owned by EMI, the parent of Virgin Records, and has a global distribution of instrumental and world music.

"It's like every other business, you have to have a good product," Van Linda said. "Distribution is critical. Without distribution, you can't do anything."

About 60,000 independent labels have popped up in the past few years, said Daryll Deanna Schwartz, a New York writer who has written several books on how to run an independent record company. A former teacher, Schwartz ran her own label for five years.

Independent labels are proliferating because of affordable technology, the Web and supportive fan bases, Schwartz said.

Some entrepreneurs find doing it yourself can actually eliminate some of the headaches of running a business.

After delays with the first shipment of his CDs, Price has decided to produce everything entirely in-house.

"It's a lot easier than I thought to produce your own CDs. All it requires is (a computer), a high-quality laser printer, some blank CDs and some time," Price said.

Gateway students are helping Price cut production costs of Afterlife's first CD. Marketing students at the college will receive extra credit for producing his promotional posters. Gateway's graphic-design students will compose Afterlife's Web site.

Afterlife CDs will be sold through Itunes, Emusic, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble under an agreement with New York distributor The Orchard, Price said.

The rapper said he started his business with about $5,000 of start-up capital from his personal savings and selling mix tapes from his DJ business, which he began when he was 14.

That business started with two broken turntables and a standless microphone. Quarters weighed down the record needle and duct tape held the double D batteries in place. From his retrofitted cardboard box podium, he was the grand MC of house and block parties in his Racine neighborhood.

This year, Afterlife will focus on producing three more CDs. Price also plans to open up his recording studio to outside projects and start recruiting new artists in a variety of genres from rap to country.

"Independents now have been in a really great position because they are taking over that function of developing artists and seeing them through," said MultiMusica owner Gary Tanin, who has p - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Discography

Afterlife Family Releases:

Afterlife Family Reunion 08- Afterlife Family

Ryme C' Presents: The Trials and Tribulations of Equainess Price- Ryme C'

History in The Making- Ice-Berg

Last Man Standing- Ryme C'

Reggaeton Midwest Finest- Los Kallejeros

MC AK Presents... Masters of the Universe-Ryme C'

Photos

Bio

Afterlife Family is a hip-hop group that is different from most. Never before has so many talented solo artist worked together collectively to bring hip-hop to the forefront. Ryme C' produces tracks for artist from all over the USA. He believes that music is what keeps us sane and it's the key to communicating with one another. "Music is a universal language, and I want to share it with as many people as possible while sharing my connections. Music saved my life!"- Ryme C'.