Billy Dean and The Honor Roll
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Billy Dean and The Honor Roll

New York City, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2016

New York City, NY
Established on Jan, 2016
Band Hip Hop Spoken Word

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"Exclusive:Billy Dean & The Honor Roll (Live Music Daily)"

Billy Dean & the Honor Roll have been making waves for the past few months with their mind-blowing live performances. After seeing them at Club Metronome in Burlington (for what was technically their first show ever), I knew I had stumbled upon something special.

Billy Dean & The Honor Roll is the brainchild of 24-year-old Olivia McClendon a.k.a Billy Dean Thomas, a Smith College grad with a dynamic stage presence, a poetic mind and impeccable style. After being featured on NPR’s Transom, Teambackpack and ABC’s The View, Billy was desperately seeking a community of musicians to create and transform digitally produced ideas into live instrumentation. It all started when The Honor Roll Collective’s bass player, introduced Billy to her current business partner, drummer and Honor Roll Co-founder, Jake Mayers.

Jake has been playing music in the Burlington area for several years now, most notably as the drummer for Smooth Antics (see our review of a recent Smooth Antics show here). After linking up with Billy Dean, he began to focus a lot of his time on getting this project off the ground. He knew that there was something special here. So Jake and Billy strung together a Northeast tour, quickly rehearsed and hit the road.

When Jake told me about the Club Metronome show, the first stop on their tour, I figured I might as well check out this new project. I didn’t have any expectations– just wanted to support local talent. Well, I wasn’t ready for what I saw. The performance blew me away. The band was super tight. The sounds were raw, yet focused and precise. And there was Billy. She is an absolute animal on the mic. Her fiery, truthful rhymes have a way of taking over. She owns the crowd. She is the Dean and you are the pupal.

That performance impressed me so much that I had to return to see them in early February at Radio Bean in Burlington. Obviously, I brought a friend, who was a bit skeptical after I told him that we were going to see “the next big thing in hip-hop.” I know, bold claim. But when we arrived to a slam-packed radio bean and an explosively energetic Billy Dean began to tear up the stage, I felt immediate vindication. This band was the real deal.

Or, rather, this band is the real deal.

After completing their debut tour, the collective released a Live in the Studio session that merges Hip Hop, jazz and little bit of rock and roll for the ragers. They are currently embarking on their first Spring Tour where they will begin featuring new members of the collective. Next week on April 8th, the band will perform with Vermont phenoms Madaila at the Fairgrounds in Essex, VT, just outside of Burlington. - Mitchell Parish


"[Exclusive] The Lumberyard Cypher feat. Paco the G Train Bandit, Billy Dean, Crimdella, Dizzy SenZe"

Fresh off the release of his debut album, Headlights, Paco the G Train Bandit opens up The Lumberyard Cypher with straight bars. Paco gives you a taste of what Headlights sounds like by showing different flows and passionate lyrics throughout his verse. Not only did the Queens-based emcee help set up the cypher, Paco edited the video and mixed the audio. So make sure to give credit where credit is due and check out his debut album at www.pacdiggity.com. Billy Dean comes next in the cypher and she doesn’t hesitate to start quickly. Simile after simile and metaphor after metaphor, Billy Dean has the bars to be respected as an emcee. There is just something about her sound that I really like. Crimdella follows her and he makes rapping seem effortless. His wordplay and rhyming is top-notch and deserves to be recognized. Crimdella also looks the most comfortable in the cypher in terms of presence and delivery. Last but not least Dizzy SenZe steps in with a crazy flow and continues to switch it up through her verse. Dizzy and Paco definitely have the most animated performances which brings their verses to life. All in all, every emcee killed this cypher and it’s hard to pick a favorite and before you leave make sure to check out all of the emcees music. - Matt O


"Colliding Stories: Musical Bridges by Ben & Billy"

Ben Verdery: My daughter Mitsuko asked me during the holidays if I’d heard her friend Billy Dean’s new music. I hadn’t, but immediately started listening and was captivated by the tone of Billy’s voice and the varied textures she was using in her music. I loved it!

I’ve known Billy since she was eight. I remember her improvising on our little upright piano; I remember eavesdropping, thinking: This girl is a musician. Like me, she has to create music. It is not an option.

Billy Dean: Since I was eight years old I have been living by the quote “There are no mistakes in art.” I began playing piano at Ben’s house. I was constantly exploring beyond my artistic boundaries. He would yell, “Keep practicing girlfriend! It’s sounding good in there!” encouraging my passion and creative exploration. Ben’s house became my creative safe haven. He’d never heard any of my songs until, behind my back, Mitsuko played one for him.

Immediately after, I received an email from Ben stating that he appreciated the musicianship of my cadences, content and instrumentation. He said, “I am attaching ‘Allegro’ by Bach and I was thinking it might be perfect for you to rap to.”


Ben: Why did I think Billy and I should rap over this Bach work? Because musicians from all cultures can relate in some manner to Bach’s music; it is truly music without borders. Given the rhythmic nature of the Allegro as well as the harmonic and melodic structure it seemed a natural for Billy.

Billy: I was super excited to mesh hip-hop with classical, two genres I love. I was also thrilled that Ben, a professional musician, thought that I was worthy of an innovative partnership. I must have listened to the song ten times on my own and thought it wasn’t possible. However, I remember thinking: If I can write verses for a Bach arrangement with no drums or bass I can write to absolutely anything. I had to structure my brain around what I needed. A pulse. A beat. I decided to beatbox over the tune to give myself guidelines for arranging the lyrics to work with the movements. I began to memorize the melodic ups and downs, the retards, the refrains, everything. All I needed was some great content.

Ben: When she asked me what she should rap about, I suggested her love of music. She did this and more. Her lyrics are moving and honest. - Jay Allison


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

Billy Dean & The Honor Roll have been described as blend between The Roots, Rage Against The Machine and “blue note samples”. The group is comprised of Billy Dean Thomas, AKA “The Queer B.I.G”, a Hip­ Hop lyricist and musician from Harlem, who travels between Massachusetts, Atlanta and Burlington, Vermont. Billy challenges the Hip­ Hop game with polyrhythmic flows that comment on #blacklivesmatter, difficulties of growing up in NYC and intersectional feminism.

After being featured on NPR’s Transom, Teambackpack and ABC’s The View, Billy was desperately seeking a community of musicians to create and transform digitally produced ideas into live instrumentation. It all started when The Honor Roll Collective’s bass player introduced Billy to two amazing musicians from New England named Derek Rice (Keys) and Jake Mayers (Drums). Within the first 5 hours of meeting each other in person the musical vibes were so in sync that the honor roll came up with a live set of Billy’s tunes and performed a show that night!

Three months later they have already completed their Debut Tour throughout New England and released a Live in Studio Recording session that merges Hip Hop, jazz and a little bit of rock and roll for the ragers. They are currently embarking on their first Spring Tour where they will begin featuring new members of the collective. They have come out of the gate firing, are (h)on a roll and hope you’ll join the movement!

Band Members