Mario Dones
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Mario Dones

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
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The Sole of Hip-Hop

If you're like me and you have friends that just so happen to have an enigmatic presence about them that exudes best when art is being created, then when you get the chance to see them in their purest element you tend
to get a bit excited. Such was my excitement when I got the opportunity to see perform a group that I hadn't seen in nearly five years. A friend of mine was performing at the Shadow Lounge this Friday night (9 April) for the first time in a long while and I had the distinct honour of being made privy to such happenings. Now, as it was the Shadow Lounge, I wasn't inclined to miss the opportunity to be wrapped in velvet and hip-hop no matter who was performing. So, when I sat down, rum and Coke in hand, I could feel the flutters of anticipation begin to well up inside me.

Curtain up...

Welcome to the stage Nick Pratt. As an opening act, I couldn't have been more satisfied. This man never fails to impress and always leaves me spellbound. Fearless and ferocious, he eats the stage alive without pretence and with all the bravado in the world. But don't mistake him for a high school poser --a toy with missing parts. He loves to sport this lifestyle! Every performance --whether opening act or main event-- is a love note to hip-hop.

What came next actually surprised me to giggling. Sometimes I find myself in the midst of greatness and tend to get a bit overwhelmed. In the case of Franchise, I was surprised by his greatness --for as it was a shocking revelation, I was somehow ready for it. The ability to caress the audience and still keep your integrity as an artist is no easy feat. I raise my glass to Franchise and hope that he maintains his connection to the audience without sacrificing what it truly means to be an artist. There's absolutely nothing wrong with giving the crowd some music to bounce to. What Franchise accomplishes is keeping the beat fresh and keeping the lyrics as true to the craft as possible.

What came next actually surprised me to giggling. Sometimes I find myself in the midst of greatness and tend to get a bit overwhelmed. In the case of Franchise, I was surprised by his greatness --for as it was a shocking revelation, I was somehow ready for it. The ability to caress the audience and still keep your integrity as an artist is no easy feat. I raise my glass to Franchise and hope that he maintains his connection to the audience without sacrificing what it truly means to be an artist. There's absolutely nothing wrong with giving the crowd some music to bounce to. What Franchise accomplishes is keeping the beat fresh and keeping the lyrics as true to the craft as possible.

The next breed of rapper to come to the stage actually had me a bit nervous, so much so I almost rolled my eyes in exasperation --another high schooler with something to prove. But, I couldn't have been more (pleasantly) wrong. A shy guy with very little to say, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. This young blood from North Carolina --with the ballsy moniker King Miz-- wanted to grab my attention, but it took some time for me to warm up to him. His candour was refreshing, to be sure --the type of quiet confidence that only appears in small bursts, thus giving him the veneer of a gentleman. But his skill was premature. Up and coming and showing all the green of his years, I still couldn't help but feel as though his presence was going to be something to reckon with in the near future. As his set continued I was impressed (and relieved) as he adapted to the stage and his audience like a veteran --confident and green enough to just let loose. He had the crowd, had them in the palm of his hand, and all I could do was applaud his sheer enjoyment of hip-hop.

The next man to the stage first caught me off guard in February when he mounted the stage at the Shadow Lounge. I said of Mac Miller "Eminem would be proud." Forget Eminem! This man had the very mark of MC Serch --the lyrical lothario who penned and performed the infamous "Pop Goes the Weasel" with his unwaveringly puritan hip-hop trio 3rd Base. That he had the balls to flow over the legendary "Check the Rhime" (one of my favourite all time songs) made me officially become his biggest fan. This young man needs to hit the scene in a way that will put a block on the radio for his sheer guts.

And then, the main event.

With a vibe and flow as relaxing as a day on a Caribbean beach, the Solve Vibe does something to a crowd that's the equivalent of being rocked to sleep only to dream about waking up in Technicolor. Sole Vibe is such an integral part of the way I remember hip-hop growing up --Shell Toe Adidas, candy bracelets, and lemonade on a hot day. Their vibe (no pun intended) harkens to a time when I would smile when my favourite song would come on. If I had to describe it as anything: it's the sound of the wind in my kinky hair, the feel of warm water between my fingers. The Sole Vibe is why hip-hop makes my heart brea - Camiele White


Faded Industry Entertainment & Human Hustle ENT Present: Fresh Out The Booth Vol. 2

On Saturday, July 9th Faded INDUSTRY Entertainment and Human Hustle Ent presented Pittsburgh with
their 2nd installment of Fresh out the Booth. To say that I had fun would be an understatement, I had a
ball. Nothing like being in a room full of people who want to do nothing but drink, have fun and listen to
good local music. This was my first Faded Industry Entertainment/Human Hustle ENT event and I was
very impressed. The crowd was great and the atmosphere was even better.

Each and every act did their thing. The head liners were Human Hustle, The Sole Vibe, which I was very
excited to see for the first time live and Varsity Squad, but before I can even talk about how amazing the
head lining acts were I have to give props to the open acts as well.

To open the show was a rapper by the name of Breze who opened up saying that this was his first time
by himself, and I think he did a great job. He performed a few good songs but the song that stood out
the most for me was called “How Would I Know” which he dedicated to us ladies. Next was Q Money of
Moola Gang who’s performance was filled the lyrical content we love and expect from the Moola Gang
members, slick talk and full of confidence just how we like them. Following Q Money was K-DASH-B who
preformed his song called TGIG(Thank Go I’m Fresh), as well as a few other tracks of his.

One of the highlights of the night was Dynamik eLement and A.Lee, who hit us with a mixture of hip-hop
and soul. When A.Lee started singing the whole room took notice, but it was when she started spitting
out rap lyrics that made the crowd go nuts. I’m pretty sure A.Lee made a lot of new fans that night.
Next up was Anywhere Mafia who brought the fun and high energy to the show. They were jumping
on tables, head bopping and had the ladies booty popping throughout their whole set, and if for some
reason you were tired or groggy at the show Anywhere Mafias music definitely woke you up and had
you wanting to throw bows and flip over tables.

One of my favorite parts of the show was meeting and getting to see APEX perform live for the second
time. They performed their newest single and one of my favorites “All of Me” which ft. Roscoe Wiki.
They also preformed “Move Back” that ft. one of the night’s headliners Varsity Squad and it should go
without saying that they had everyone in the crowd bouncing. APEX did their thing for sure.

After a brief intermission and some encouraging/ funny words from Isaac to get the crowd hype, who
also presented APEX and Dynamik eLement/A.Lee with a studio package from their sponsor Middle
Class Millionaires Studio. After the giveaways it was time for the headlining acts and for the fun to really
begin. First to perform was Human Hustle. Ivory, a member of Human Hustle also hosted and ran the
show…but still had enough energy to get on stage(with his own Clique Vodka bottle in hand) and still
perform and give us a good show. Next up was The Sole Vibe, and like I mentioned earlier this was
my first time seeing the group perform. I’ve seen Mario Dones perform a few times but that was it,
but I never seen him and AV so I had no idea what to expect. I was blown away by their performance.
The whole time all I could think is how good they were…and why I never seen them live before. I don’t
want to keep going on and on about how dope their performance was, but I will say this…THEY SHUT IT
DOWN! After hearing Dones and AV perform together there is no reason for anyone to say that real hip-
hop no longer exists. I did not leave the floor the whole time they were preforming…and my head did not stop rocking not one time. I couldn’t even hold a straight face during their whole performance, the beats, their lyrics…everything was just straight nasty and that’s nasty in a good way. If you haven’t seen The Sole Vibe perform live I highly suggest you do, I’m a definitely try to make it to another one of their shows. Once I got home after the show I went and downloaded their “One to Grow On” LP that came out last year and gave it a listen.

The final performance of the night was Varsity Squad. It was obvious that a lot of their fans had come
out to show support. Everywhere I turned there was someone rapping word for word one of their lyrics.
Varsity Squad who is another group who spits dope lyrics that is reminiscent of early hip hop kept the
crowd on their feet during their whole performance. A few songs that stuck out the most to me were
Beedie’s “Dolo” from his latest LP “The Beat Bully” and Jon Quest who performed a snippet of a song
that he that has yet to be release called “P.S.A. for Parents” set over a Dilla beat that really stuck with
me. He also preformed a few songs from his mixtape “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest” like “Hip-
Hop”. They closed out by performing their “93 Till Infinity” freestyle who’s video was released bac - www.brianofbmw.com


The Sole Vibe released “One To Grow On” in September as emcees, Mario Dones and AV are both working on their upcoming solo projects. “One To Grow On” showcases Dones and AV over production from every Sole Vibe producer and newcomers, Lazy J, P. Fish and Nice Rec. While The Sole Vibe sound continually evolves, AV and Mario look now to share their distinct voices with the world. I got a chance to interview them for S.O.U.L. Magazine and pick the brains of these two, being part of the collective.

Can you tell me in short what The Sole Vibe stands for?

MD: The Sole Vibe is all about supporting the concept of family and creating quality music. Keelay and The Whooligan started the movement in the Bay Area, promoting their production and rocking parties the way they wanted to. We’re progressive and comprehensive [laughs]. That’s our Vibe.

How would you describe the music that The Sole Vibe makes?

AV: Music for thugs and pretty ladies. Really the music covers such a wide spectrum, but it all comes from a place that’s very personal—for all of us. Plus I think we all really care about putting out quality material. It can be a burden sometimes, as this new project has been a long time coming. But we made it sound right. Quality is most important.

The past few years The Sole Vibe has been putting out projects, also featuring a few established names. With a collective of an amount of talents, how is the working process towards a project?

AV: Interesting…it’s been kind of a different experience each time. With The Appetizer we put out in ’07, I was a fresh inductee in the Sole Vibe, everything was kind of new still. But it was very collaborative between us all. Then Keelay and Zaire put out Ridin’ High and that was basically their project. They had a whole concept and direction for each track. The new project is probably the most personal for me just because I worked closely with Mario to make everything happen. I was involved in the whole process this time.

MD: Right, each project really calls on different people. With Ridin High, Kee and Zee reached out heavily to me, Fish, Slo – we all had a lot of input on that project. It was theirs, but it was something we could all be proud of. The same can be said for all of the individual projects. It really just depends on the direction and timing, then we can assemble the cast of characters.

You two have just released “One to Grow On”. How did that come about?

MD: It came out of urgency. I’m really big on presentation, so I don’t really want to align myself with a lot of the new age ways of promoting yourself as a rapper. I didn’t want to put out a bunch of mixtapes and loose songs and have an album waiting in the wings. But, I’m not dumb either. An artist has to promote and perform and you have to have material out to do either effectively. I’m working on my album, but I had a lot of songs that I knew weren’t going to make it and I was trying to figure out how to package them. Ace was in a somewhat similar situation and as a crew all of the producers and everybody involved really wanted to get the material out there. So it all just kind of came together as it needed to. The title can be taken literally.

AV: Exactly. I also just want to mention that the first two tracks on the project, Self Centered and Ring To It, came together so perfectly and from that point on we knew our idea had really grown into something. We wanted these songs to feel like one song together. Kee and Zee took the same sample and flipped it their own way and just killed it. They’re credited together in production for both tracks but I’ll let you guess who made which beat.

What do you expect the feedback will be? Or has the response already been what you’ve expected from it, after the release?

AV: I consider myself realistically optimistic so, to me the feedback has been very positive so far. It’s nice when someone I don’t personally know reaches out to say they’re feeling the music. It’s all about reaching back though, reaching as many people as possible to create that response.

MD: The response has been great…I hoped after people heard it they would want to hear more, and I think we hit that goal.

What do you feel separates The Sole Vibe from other music groups?

MD: Well, we’re definitely more of a crew or collective than a group, but I think what separates us is that we weren’t really brought together like most people who do music together, were. We didn’t all grow up together. It’s no neighborhood shit. It’s more like quality controlled umbrella. We’re a network of artists working together and helping each other be heard.

AV: And we make that slap.

Consisting of all individual artists, how do you decide to put a project out under the group name or as a solo project under your own name?

MD: All of the projects under The Sole Vibe name were Sole Vibe decisions. Like, The Appetizer was just something we decided that we needed to do at the time, so we - SOUL Magazine


The "barely known but almost famous" bridge-spotter Mario Dones puts together a splendid package with The Accidents Happen mixtape. A Pitt student and part of the well-traveled Sole Vibes unit, Dones joins the 'Burgh courtesy of Cleveland, Charlotte, N.C. and Memphis and you can hear how each locale influences his flow.



But his approach to songs transcends regional styles, almost reminiscent of Masta Ace back in the day or Little Brother today. The beats have the right blend of samples, percussion and instrumentation, while the lyrics are savvy without being overaggressive (as many rookie MCs trying to make a name for themselves can be). In his own words: "Y'all are dealing with a true songwriter / vocally inclined deal lyricist for hire / ... preach to the congregation, turn around and thank the choir." - Pittsburgh City Paper


Mario Dones "Easy Street" (prod. by Lazy J): Damn, any friend of Kee & Zee's is a friend of mine, and this Lazy J- produced shit... wow. That beat? Too intense - right up my alley. I'll be rockin' to this one all Spring. Dones reps Pittsburgh, and is trying to get his shit heard outside of that city. Making excellent Hip-Hop like this is pretty much a given. Really visual with his words, flows really nice over this one, as well. I could listen to him going in like this all day. Enjoy. - rock the dub


Discography

Accidents Happen Mixtape (2005)
The Sole Vibe Presents - The Appetizer (2007)
Keelay & Zaire - Ridin High (2009)
- "Take A Ride" & "We Made It"
Easy Street [Single] (2010)
One to Grow On (2010)

Photos

Bio

Armed with energetic live performances and in your face lyricism, Mario Dones has been making waves in the Pittsburgh hip-hop scene since 2005. Fresh off the release of One to Grow On, a collaborative project with AV of their massive Sole Vibe crew, Mario’s recent time has been split between performing to promote OTGO and crafting his debut album.

The Cleveland born, southern bred, Pittsburgh based MC launched himself on the scene in 2005 with the release of his Accidents Happen Mixtape. The attention generated by the mixtape put Dones in front of new audiences across the region, allowing him to build a brand on the road, rather than online. This is where he honed his instincts and began to grow into something more than just a rapper. The stage is where he thrives. Over the years Dones has performed alongside Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, Pac Div, Black Milk, Masta Ace, Blu & Exile, Aloe Blacc, Emilio Rojas, King Mez, Boaz, Tanya Morgan, Buff1, Mayer Hawthorne, Formula 412, Ed OG, and many more. Mario Dones and The Sole Vibe have grown to now have one of the largest draws for hip-hop in the area.

In between solo projects, Dones has worked closely with his crew on several releases over the past few years, including The Appetizer (2007), Keelay & Zaire’s Ridin High (2009) and One to Grow On (2010). While working on his own projects, the MC is also an educator, teaching hip-hop history and culture to youth across the city. Dones’ debut album, California Dreaming, will be available this fall.

Contact: thefearlessfactory@gmail.com