SmCity
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SmCity

Washington, Washington, D.C., United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Washington, Washington, D.C., United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
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""SmCity decided to develop a formula that would change the game for not only artists in the District, but himself as well.""

Simeon “Sm City” Booker is an artist, concert promoter, and video director, born and raised in the DMV, who saw a niche and sought to fill it. Realizing early on D.C.’s failure to effectively promote hip-hop music and musicians, Sm City decided to develop a formula that would change the game for not only artists in the District, but himself as well. Still promoting his January release, “The Indie Life: Hate, Love, & Money,” The Hilltop recently caught up with the savvy creative to discuss his bourgeoning Indie Life Concert Series and his Spring showcase at SXSW.HT: Where did the idea for the Indie Life stem?
SmCity: That all started with a song I did, called ‘The Indie Life.’ Hip Hop promotion here in the DMV pre-SmCity was like we’ll get like five artists to invite their moms, their cousins, their girlfriends, their friends, etc. and that’s going to be the crowd. So you’re performing for the next rapper, their cousin and mom. It was just so pointless. After a while, I’m just like I can’t do this anymore.

HT: Tell me about The Indie Life Concert Series and how it originated.
SmCity: There was a new venue called U Street Music Hall and nobody could really get into it. They were not messing with Hip Hop. So, I started throwing events there and I had the idea to bring down national acts and bring out all of the people of the city, not just the local rappers to open the show but real audiences to perform in front of.

It started with this guy from Detroit called Black Milk. Then we brought down Freeway. Then Big Krit—and this was the week of his Return of 4eva EP. The energy of that was crazy. Then Stalley. Then Cyhi the Prynce. Then Kendrick Lamar. It kept growing.

I looked up and I’m a concert promoter. Now it’s like, if a label is trying to break somebody into the D.C. market, they hit me up and I say yay or nay. It’s kind of surreal to be in that position now.

HT: How did you make SXSW happen?
SmCity: I went down there last year for a show I had that ended up getting canceled. It wasn’t all for nothing; I made a lot of connects. But very last minute I got the idea to put on a showcase and immediately started asking people what it would take to do a SXSW joint. They’re like ‘oh, it’s too late. It’s going to cost millions of dollars.’ Very dismissive. But, I believe that nothing is rocket science but rocket science. I found some places that were reasonable in price and we made it happen. From me getting that idea and hopping on the phone, we were a 75% go in 48 hours.

And the crazy thing is, I had been booking all these acts all year and collaborating with people on songs, so I looked in my phone and I’m like I have all of my headliners. And it was big. It wasn’t a huge crowd, the place fit about 150, but we were right on East 6th Street, which is like in the middle of the whole thing.

HT: Do you have any advice for college students seeking to work in the entertainment industry?
SmCity:The only school I applied to was HU. I didn’t get accepted, but I don’t blame Howard. I wasn’t serious about going to college because my thing was, how is that going to get me a record deal? I look at where I am now, and it took me a long time to get here, but with all of the skills I’ve acquired and the network I’ve built, I’m fully confident in my decision. If I had gone to college, however, knowing how I am, I would have been able to take advantage of the network and the campus itself. Whatever you’re trying to do, use your campus as like a mini industry and lock that down.

And then once you have that, it’s going to spread. We all grow into the game together. Make and keep connections. Y’all will be that new era of executives and artists really soon. Take advantage of that.

HT: How has being from the DMV influenced your grind?
SmCity: It’s like that. You have to create what’s not there. This area is not set up for hip-hop traditionally. We had a whole bunch of people trying to rap here but nobody wanted to h - The Hilltop


"SmCity rocked with the most polish of the openers and his tracks benefited from a stripped down approach."

SmCity rocked with the most polish of the openers and his tracks benefited from a stripped down approach. - The Washington Post


""...area hip-hop heads lined up and witnessed the igniting gesture of Booker's brainchild, The Indie Life Concert Series""

At the end of the night, Simeon Booker (SmCity) looked around the empty club space and said with a slow head nod, "This is only the beginning." A hour following The Beatdown: The Indie Life edition, the tiled floor of U St Music Hall held only the echo of his triumphant footsteps. Yet, before this moment where he was able to grace the span of the room alone, area hip-hop heads lined up and witnessed the igniting gesture of Booker's brainchild, The Indie Life Concert Series.
Around this time where New Year's resolutions have completely faltered or been forgotten altogether, enter Lent and the buds of spring and there is a rejuvenation of people's life amendments. For local music force SmCity, his commitment made at the close of 2010 has never been pushed to the side and it is coming to full fruition. Booker announced last November that in 2011 he would launch The Indie Life Concert Series where a different celebrity artist comes to the Nation's Capital for a collaboration show every month. Three months later (February 2011) at the initial concert of the series, he did just that.
SmCity along with local artists Gods'illa and X.O. shared the stage with special guest up and comer, rapper/producer, Detroit native, Black Milk, and packed U St Music Hall with 200 people on a Sunday night. Grammy night, in fact. There is a message here. The message did not remain uptown D.C. either; in fact, it traveled across the world via Twitter as timelines were randomly rushed with hashtags acknowledging the happenings of #theindielife. Wedged between red carpet dress dos & don'ts and performance hits or misses were enthralled tweets from the concert room. "My ultimate goal is always to get a whole bunch of people in one room and steal the show," says Booker. Message? Yes, indeed.
The kickoff to this series was The Beatdown, which had been held 20 times before reaching the palms of SmCity. It was a competition that featured local producers with an occasional appearance from someone with an industry resume. Booker's idea was to bring in an all-star line-up and turn the battle scene into a showcase, where the audience got to hear old, new, and unreleased tracks from the producers. "Some of the tracks heard that night may appear on the next Jay-Z album," comments Booker.
Booker the businessperson has just as much ingenuity as his music. "I do a lot that I don't want to. I wear hats I shouldn't...but I have to," Booker continues describing the necessity of handling the greatest percentage of his company's load, "I have to be the event promoter because people aren't booking me for shows. So I'll put on my own." In varied cases, that would translate to having a gig for yourself and a few other local artists. Varied is not inclusive of The Indie Life. "We're bringing the industry down here," and by industry he is referring to the likes of Black Milk, Freeway(who was featured in March's show), formerly of Roc-A-Fella Records along with Kingpen Slim and Black Cobain of Wale's The Board Administration. At the end of this month, the list will include Mississippi's highly-anticipated newbie, Big KRIT, whose latest mixtape Return of 4eva recently had the internet berserk.
April 24th is the next installment of The Indie Life Series. It looks to have a major impact on the District's hip-hop scene. The medley of industry notables and local heavyweights are promising and as SmCity pointed out, "It's only the beginning." - Examiner.com


""Six Recent DMV Hip-Hop Videos Ranked in Order of Sincerity""

Of all the rap videos that prominently feature Malcolm X imagery, at least 99 percent are sincere. - The Washington City Paper


""SmCity explains the balancing act that is 'The Indie Life'""

SmCity is a D.C.-based MC, but, as an independent artist, he is forced to do a lot more than just rhyme in order to fuel his career. He says that having to handle everything from beatmaking to engineering to business management, in addition to rapping, is just part of "the indie life," and that he has learned to love it. So much so that his 2009 mixtape, 2010 LP, and a new concert series he is organizing all carry the name "The Indie Life." The first Indie Life concert is Feb. 13 at U Street Music Hall, featuring Black Milk, X.O., Gods’Illa, and Sm himself.

“The whole indie life thing really stared with a song I did, two years ago," SmCity says. "That phrase really represented me, at the time, and having to do things out of necessity. But necessity is the mother of invention. So, when you can’t find a studio to record you properly, you learn how to be an engineer, and do it yourself. When you can’t find the right beats, you make your own. And if you can’t get booked on the right shows, you put on your own shows. “

"The indie life is about wearing 100 different hats," he continues. "We’re at a time in the music industry where people need to get back to doing for self."

The idea to create a concert series came when Sm got tired of the dynamic at some of the shows he was performing at.

“Doing the same shows—and I’m not knocking anyone’s shows—but sometimes it's just [rappers] performing for each other," he says. "The way promoters do it now, they book 10 artists, tell them to bring their friends, and then you’re just performing for your peers. In order to create a real opportunity, you have to perform your material for other people."

SmCity hopes that pairing respected, underground national artists (like Detroit's Black Milk) with respected, underground DMV artists will help to build buzz for some of the area's best hip-hop musicians.

"I saw a void in this area with shows," he says. "The people I think need to be [on stage] are never up there. It’s all hookups and paying for slots—I’m not doing that.

The Indie Life is on track to become a monthly event--SmCity says he's already planning a March show. But what if it becomes a huge success and leaves him with even less time to, you know, rap?

"If it was up to me, I would just be in the studio, working on music, focusing on that," SmCity says. "But I find myself teetering on the line of enjoying the business aspect as much as the music. It worries me on the creative side, I wanna make sure I can always flip that switch, and not short either side.

"It's a fight to make sure the music is pure, and isn't tainted by the business side," he continues. "I think Jay-Z said it best—when he goes into the studio, he records and then figures out how to sell is, rather than saying, 'This is what sells—let's create that." - TBD.com


""...his “Indie Life” movement has expanded and extended him closer to the mainstream than ever before. A great case study for the nature of success in independent hip hop..""

“You know, it’s like they say. Necessity is the mother of invention.” Thus and so begins the story of the rise to sustainability of Washington, DC rapper SmCity. Simeon Booker is a DC native, a long toiling member of the area’s densely populated underground hip hop scene. In the game for nearly a decade, his “Indie Life” movement has expanded and extended him closer to the mainstream than ever before. A great case study for the nature of success in independent hip hop, in speaking with him at legendary DC eatery Ben’s Chili Bowl, The Couch Sessions got more than a flavor of the food. The flavor of the man spoke volumes on hip hop in 2012.

“My Indie Life album is more than a typical project. I own 20/20 Productions as well, and I’ve rolled out five videos so far for tracks on the project.” One of the least anticipated to the most wanted projects in the Nation’s Capital, free album The Indie Life – Hate, Love and Money contains a plethora of collaborations with local artists and producers who have name brand indie impact. Names like Kokayi, Pro’verb, Phil Adé, Uptown XO, The Best Kept Secret and Ab the Pro may not be Billboard favorites, but in becoming a reputable and top indie artist, having these valuable cosigns on a project welcomes those unfamiliar with the veteran’s work to want to listen intently.

Does the emcee fear being overshadowed by those who many consider to be more notable sharing space with him on the project? Absolutely not. “I’ve been in the area for years, and these are all performers that I’ve wanted to work with for awhile. I feel comfortable next to them and feel I deserve to be there. The DMV is filled with talent. I definitely deserve to be on that list.” The album itself is a quality project. An easy listen that doesn’t feature indie tropes like, as the emcee jokes, “rappers rapping about how dope they are at rapping,” it’s a mainstream quality effort that has inherent coherence. “I tried to put together a project that had a unified theme,” Sm City says. ” The Indie Life is a movement that people can connect with, a movement towards success. That’s the theme.”

As with all currently relevant performers, the move towards being able to produce quality visuals is fresh on Booker’s mind. “I think it’s important. Access to technology has leveled the playing field in videos, so you really have to try hard to be unique. Video for Indie Life single “My Own Boss” was filmed at Occupy DC, Washington’s hub of the anti-corporate, 99% applauding movement. SmCity’s reasoning behind the move is clear. “Yeah, I can’t lie. I’m an opportunist. I saw Occupy, and realized that the aims blended perfectly with one of my own songs. I went down, really tried to gain an appreciation and understanding for the Occupy movement. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but we definitely shot there. It was different, and it made sense.”

Dissemination of his work has been the realm of his Indie Life concert series. Having brought talents like Skyzoo, Freddie Gibbs and Big KRIT to the city and blending their talents with local performers, it continues the rhymer’s initiative of expanding DC”s presence. “There used to be a time where a DC show was all about you, your aunt, your cousins and a bunch of other rappers at the show. DC’s great, but the area lacks guys who are consistent draws. I wanted to change that. I haven’t performed on every show. I want to make sure I open doors for all local rappers.”

Sustainability in independent hip hop is a difficult proposition at best. Sustainability in a region on the rise with minimal consistent mainstream success? Even harder. SmCity’s Indie Life? Undoubtedly successful and solid model to grow on. - The Couch Sessions


""He's poised to make some waves...""

The Washington, D.C. hip-hop scene has steadily been on the rise for what feels like at least five years. Flag-wavers Oddisee and Wale, among others, have tirelessly put on for their hometown while bubbling acts like Phil Ade, yU, and Uptown X.O. have done their part to spread awareness. And now, we can add 26-year-old spitter SmCity to that growing list. He's poised to make some waves next week with the release of The Indie Life: Hate, Love & Money, a free online-only release featuring one hell of a single in "Mr. IDGAF." You can stream that track, which features Oddisee and Phil Ade, below and download it here. Oddisee's on the beat, too, and he kills it, per usual. - Pre Fix Mag


""Last week we got the audio, now check the visuals for DMV emcee SmCity‘s “Mr. IDGAF” featuring fellow D.C. natives Oddisee & Phil Ade. Along with this video, SmCity also dropped his new project today""

Last week we got the audio, now check the visuals for DMV emcee SmCity‘s “Mr. IDGAF” featuring fellow D.C. natives Oddisee & Phil Ade. Along with this video, SmCity also dropped his new project today, The Indie Life: Hate, Love & Money, via DJ Booth. Watch the video above and download the album after the jump. - Okayplayer.com


""Fresh off not giving a fuck with Oddisee and Phil Ade, the DC rhymesayer is back with his debut album""

Fresh off not giving a fuck with Oddisee and Phil Ade, the DC rhymesayer is back with his debut album. Featuring the likes of Skyzoo, Kokayi, Pro’verb, Uptown XO and more. Tracklist/download link after the jump. - 2dopeboyz.com


""...the Indie Life is an honest reflection of where he is as an artist who is a part of the DMV scene – but it’s far from a backpack mentality""

With the moderate success of Wale and the more subterranean group Diamond District, the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area has had a resurgence of sorts on the national scale. Smcity, a D.C. emcee with journalism in his bloodline, looks to build on that momentum with a trio of projects, all called The Indie Life.

The first release, a free mixtape released several months ago with the lead single and video “Thin Air,” finds Smcity narrating the life of an independent artist. The tape includes production from D.C.-based production team and Wale collaborators Best Kept Secret and D.C. club DJ Marc Infinit, among others. The mixtape will be followed up with The Indie Life: Motion Picture Album, due April 30, and finally, the Indie Life LP, which will be released on May 18.

Smcity said the Indie Life is an honest reflection of where he is as an artist who is a part of the DMV scene – but it’s far from a backpack mentality. “The DMV hip-hop scene has really been cultivating and developing into something special,” he said. “So, it’s a whole plethora of emcees and producers down here. One of the tracks that will be on the album, ‘Watch Me,’ is produced by Best Kept Secret, the guys that did Wale’s “Pretty Girls” and a lot of his other songs. I hooked up with them a long time ago. On this joint, which is probably going to be one of the singles I push in the future, I say, “my response to this pop shit is to make some anthems.” I’m not of the rappers complaining … I’m not a backpack rapper at all. The Indie Life concept came about from [the idea that] I want to take it one step at a time, I want to conquer each level of the game. I want to have a natural progression as opposed to jumping out there with some mainstream shit. I want to make music at an indie level but I don’t want to be indie. I want you to hear it and say, this should be on the radio. The whole point is to put a platinum-sounding record in an indie package. I’m looking to push this independently, whether it’s a distribution deal regionally or nationally. And for my next project, I’m definitely looking to take it major. I don’t intend to spend my whole career on indie life, that’s just where I’m at right now. My music follows where I’m at, that’s the hustle that I’m on. By the time I get to the next life, it might be the major life.”

There’s another, more prurient, analogy to explain the projects. “The whole Indie Life thing really came about from when I realized that the industry is like a bad ass chick. You can’t just go too hard at her, you kind of have to do your own thing and they’ll eventually start paying attention to you for not paying attention to them. You kind of have to do it on your own and make everybody chase you.”

Whereas before he was chasing a record deal, he realized that he could only represent himself in his work and let is “prove that I can sell and I can make noise on my own [because] labels are just investors anyway,” Smcity said. “They want to make sure they invest in something ready to go that they can throw right on the shelves. I’m going to put my project on the shelves and do it for me first.”

The entrepreneurial streak is attributed to Smcity recognizing his family history and a desire to do it justice in the way that he feels most comfortable. “I come from a writing family,” he said. “My grandfather was the Washington bureau chief of Ebony and Jet [magazines]. He was the guy who broke the Emmitt Till case. He was on the Freedom Rides. At my grandmother’s house, I’m looking at pictures of him with [former president John F.] Kennedy. It’s just crazy history. My father wrote for newspapers. I’m a third, fourth generation writer. So when I was in high school, the journalism thing really was not too exciting and it kind of morphed into Hip Hop.

“Being where I was, in the inner city and everything, everybody was rapping. What made me a little different as an artist is that I was a classically trained writer. I actually - Hip Hop DX


""...the DMV rapper’s stellar, unaccountably slept-on new track..""

This video for the DMV rapper’s stellar, unaccountably slept-on new track references “The Deer Hunter” in ways we reallydon’t want to think about. - The Washington Post


""The Indie Life is a love letter to the indie grind""

2011 was a big year for Simeon “SmCity” Booker, as a rapper as much as a concert promoter. He didn’t release nearly as much music as some of his peers, but the University Heights native became one of the most visible figures in the DMV through his Indie Life concert series, which put local hip-hop faves on the same stage as national underground MCs like Freeway, Skyzoo, Black Milk, and others.

It felt like the ultimate kumbaya move for a scene that in the last year became a lot more competitive. It was also a shrewd move for the business-minded rapper: He became a regular at U Street Music Hall and got to rub elbows with well-established, out-of-town talent.

Not surprisingly, Sm’s new album, The Indie Life: Hate, Love & Money, is a bit of a playback. “And I done booked up all the shows/Put myself on, see I done booked up all the hoes,” he rhymes on the methodical “Twilight,” bringing New York’s Skyzoo along for the ride. Throughout the 48-minute project, Sm is ambitious and assured, acknowledging the strides he’s made while embracing the work left to do. Sm already promotes shows, shoots videos, and releases his music through his own Twenty20 company. But while The Indie Life is chiefly concerned with the game and its rules, SmCity has to square his striving with more anarchistic impulses. “The goal is not a record deal,” Sm says on “My Own Boss.” “The goal is not a check for a meal, I’m sayin’ fuck how the executives feel.”

That middle-finger mentality isn’t surprising coming from SmCity, whose WTF approach is evident in the visual complements to The Indie Life’s early singles. In the “Watch Me” video, Sm holds a record executive hostage, forcing him to read a list of demands into a camera. In the intro to “Twilight,” he and a mysterious woman are seen playing a game of Russian roulette. (He doesn’t lose, but she shoots him anyway.) And in the video for “My Own Boss,” Sm and Pro’Verb visit K Street NW to walk—and rap—among the Occupy D.C. protestors. Sm spits about the business of hip-hop, but he also spends a lot of time bemoaning the 1 percent.

Sonically, the album is as fidgety as its maker, moving from traditional boom-bap to glossier rhythms as he rebukes critics with X.O. (“About A Hater”) and taps Oddisee and Phil Adé to rebut D.C.’s longstanding crabs-in-a-barrel syndrome, wherein jealousy causes less-established rappers to hate on their more successful peers.

All told, The Indie Life is a love letter to the indie grind. It’s an album about struggle, the pursuit of fame, and frustration outweighing the achievements. Plenty of rappers can do braggadoccio, but it’s irritation that makes SmCity interesting. —Marcus J. Moore - The Washington City Paper


""SmCity is "feeling like a young Ali" in his new visual""

mCity is "feeling like a young Ali" in his new visual. The DMV lyricist speaks out against racist police officers, hypocritical crack dealing snitches, Army recruiters, xenophobic white people and wealthy jewelers on "Crack In The Pillars." Cookin' Soul engineered the banger.

SmCity's Empire Falls mixtape is available for free download on Audiomack. - HipHopDX.com


""The kid offers 12 tracks of brutally honest hip-hop from the perspective of a young man from America’s capital city""

hristmas has come early this year for SmCIty fans. VIBE.com is debuting the world premiere of the DMV rep’s new album, Empire Falls. Packed with production from Harry Fraud, Cookin’ Soul, Statik Selektah, !llmind and others, the project is also available on iTunes. The kid offers 12 tracks of brutally honest hip-hop from the perspective of a young man from America’s capital city. - Vibe Magazine


""Don't Sleep... SmCity's "Empire Falls" is one of the best LP's to drop in quite sometime""

Over the past few months, SmCity has been consistently letting loose singles and videos from his Empire Falls album.

From linking up with BJ the Chicago Kid on "New Spiritual," attacking !llmind production on "Cinematic Moment" and "Homeland," and most recently "Riding Off In The Sunset" with Emanny -- let's not forget his 187 on Statik Selekt's ShowOff Radio either.

Now, the DMV rapper continues to prove he's a force to be reckoned with with the official release of Empire Falls. A 12-track effort that finds him receiving contributions from the artists I mentioned above, as well as Harry Fraud, Cookin' Soul, and others. Stream/download (for free) below and if you like what you hear, support on iTunes. - 2dopeboyz.com


"Over dramatic production by !llMind, the D.C.-based MC fashions himself as a man with an agenda that includes infiltrating rap’s trends by pretending to blend in, only so he’s able to help switch the game’s focus once he gets in."

SmCity masquerades as a wolf in sheep’s clothing for “Homeland.” Over dramatic production by !llMind, the D.C.-based MC fashions himself as a man with an agenda that includes infiltrating rap’s trends by pretending to blend in, only so he’s able to help switch the game’s focus once he gets in. In order to do so, he understand he has to look and play the part in the way he styles and walks, in order to get the message across through his words and music.

“They got me behind enemy walls, they don’t know if my i-dentity’s false,” he rhymes in the song’s second verse. “See I pretend be Ross till they make the industry boss, make some Maybach black music, They finish me off, so please remember me y’all.”

“Homeland” is first track released from SmCity’s third album, Empire Falls, set to release on December 3rd. Along with the aforementioned !llMind, the LP features production from the likes of master craftsmen Harry Fraud, DJ Toomp, Statik Selektah and Cookin Soul. - The Smoking Section


Discography

The Indie Life: Hate, Love & Money | Free Download: http://t.co/Mf1Df0ny

Photos

Bio

BIOGRAPHY

DC recording artist and Twenty20 Music & Films head honcho SmCity released his latest project entitled "Empire Falls," with production from heavyweights Dj Toomp, Harry Fraud, Statik Selektah, !llmind, Cookin Soul, Numonics and more w/ guest appearances by BJ The Chicago Kid, Emanny & Maimouna Youssef. The third release from the MC following up 2013's "Dream Cemetery" and 2012's "The Indie Life: Hate Love & Money," it was premired w/ Vibe Magazine in Dec and singles/videos of the project premiered through various outlets such as Hip Hop DX, Nah Right, Okayplayer, The Smoking Section, etc.  

There have been few MC's with the skills to walk between both worlds, attaining success while simultaneously commanding the respect of the indie music aficionados. SmCity's mission is to market the message, package the struggle, and brand the revolution. The music mirrors his hometown of Washington DC, bringing the ghetto and politics face to face in a musical staring match for the ages. At age 29, Simeon "SmCity" Booker has lived an excitingly diverse life, from running a full service recording studio fresh out of high school to being one of the city's most respected entrepreneurs and concert promoters, in addition to performing in shows with the legendary Last Poets and sitting on panels with Dr. Benjamin Chavis.
SmCity is known for his "The Indie Life" campaign which has consisted of short films, events and of course the music. Since 2000, SmCity has been Featured in URB Magazine's Next 100, AllHipHop, HipHopDx, Okayplayer, The Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Prefix Mag, 2dopeboys, Okayplayer and has shared the stage with Drake & Young Jeezy. After realizing that there needed to be a platform to showcase the indie talent in the correct light, SmCity developed The Indie Life: Concert Series. His goal was to bring a nationally known indie artist to Washington, DC and pair some of the most decorated indie artist based in the DMV with that headliner as well as himself. As a part of the series, SmCity has performed with Big Krit, Cyhi The Prince, Freddie Gibbs, Freeway, Kendrick Lamar, Stalley, and a host of others. The series also made its SxSw debut in 2012 as SmCity performed alongside Beanie Sigel, Statik Selektah & Termanology, Emilio Rojas, Oddisee, Rapsody & More

Band Members