Todd Yarberry
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Todd Yarberry

Toledo, Ohio, United States | INDIE

Toledo, Ohio, United States | INDIE
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Sep
17
Todd Yarberry @ The Omni

Toledo, Ohio, USA

Toledo, Ohio, USA

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On his latest release, "The Drug Years," Toledo emcee Toddx skillfully intertwines samples reminiscent of 1970s rock and R&B with modern beats and socially relevant subject matter to create a unique sound.

From slow, menacing beats to lighter, up-tempo tracks, the music is a well-orchestrated symphony of bass, unpredictable melodies and clever, introspective (and sometimes amusing) lyrics.

The trend toward sampling beats and melodies from earlier works is common in today’s music, but Toddx, along with co-producer and band mate Elliot Simon, took a slightly different approach.

"We didn’t take samples from other people’s stuff. We played all that, we wrote it all," Toddx said. "It’s all real instruments. There is some synthesizer stuff in there, but all of the guitars, all of the bass, it’s live. Elliot plays the guitar and the bass on everything."

The 26-year-old artist began life in Little Rock, Ark., moving to Toledo in grade school. He began writing lyrics during his early years of high school.

"But I never thought I could emcee," Toddx said. "And I knew I couldn’t sing, so I said ’I’m just gonna write some songs.’"

After high school, Toddx went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, "and that’s where I flunked out of because I was up too late making beats."

But eventually his dream became a reality.

"I was just listening to Eminem in my truck one day, sitting in front of my house with my cousin’s husband, and he had seen me write … and he was like, ’Why don’t you do this?’ and I was like, ’Yeah.’"

The next day, Toddx went to the store and bought a microphone, and he went home and hooked it into his computer.

"And from that day on, it was like an everyday thing," Toddx said.

In August, Toddx began working on his second CD, "The Drug Years."

"I wanted to make a modern album and bring flow back. I also wanted to lace it with some ’70s rock music", Toddx said. "Every song on the album is inspired by some other song from the ’70s.

"In Fairy God Mother,’ the distortion is from ’I am the Walrus’ from the Beatles," Toddx said. "I’m a big Beatles fan — they’re the greatest."

In addition to creating the samples, Toddx and Simon handle the majority of the vocal harmonies with two exceptions. Chavar Dontae contributes vocals on the song "Down to Earth" and Toddx’s mother lends her voice for the song "Fairy God Mother."

"I wanted to do that song [Fairy God Mother], but I knew the only way it would work is if I have the right voice," Toddx said. "I was just talking with her one night, and I was like, ’You wanna go to the studio with me tomorrow night?’ And she said ’What do you want me to do?’ I told her, ’I want you to sound like a Disney character.’"

Simon’s roots are mostly in punk rock.

"I’m not really a hip-hop minded guy, but it just ended up being a really fun time when we’d work together, Simon said. "It’s real efficient—we were always kind of covering each others spaces all the time."

When discussing his long-term aspirations, Toddx has a clear vision for his future.

"I would like to use music as a stepping stone because realistically, I’m not going to be around forever," Toddx said. "I’m 26. Who wants to see a 35-year-old rapper? Especially when I’m white, gray-haired and balding.

"I started this label [Eighteen Hundred Productions] and I want to build that up and help other people after me," Toddx said.

"The guy has such a work effort. If he wants to do it, it’ll happen. He’s an emcee, and he takes lots of pride in that. I think he’s one of the best I’ve ever heard," Simon said.

"I do this because I love to do it, and I think ’The Drug Years’ reflects how much I love to do this," Toddx said. It wasn’t easy." - Toledo Free Press


Ten years worth of painful perfectionism booms out of the speakers when Toddx's "The Drug Years" plays.

A decade of breaking down beats to their most elemental form, finding the math of hip-hop where the syllables land just right within the musical form, and then putting it all back together as something fresh and unique - that's "The Drug Years."

A decade. Not that long, unless you're 26, and then it qualifies as almost a lifetime.

And consider this: he's a white guy from Toledo by way of Little Rock who doesn't exactly fit the hip-hop stereotypes. Todd Yarberry understands what's at stake on his first CD: not only does he have to impress himself, but he also has to make sure he doesn't come across as phony.

"Being me and trying to do hip-hop is a tricky task," he said from his West Toledo home. "I can't come across as something I'm not because people will smell that out. I've got to be real, but it's got to be done in a cool way."

And he knows the temptation will be to label him in a way that isn't accurate based on his appearance and the fact he uses live instruments for many of the songs rather than samples.

"I know people are going to mix up this record and think I'm a rock rapper or stuff like that, which is not the case. It's hip-hop."

Yarberry, a graduate of Penta Career Center and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, spent 40 hours a week for about six months honing "The Drug Years" into an impressively diverse and organic sounding hip-hop/rap disc. Yarberry and his creative partner, Elliot Simon, didn't just find beats on a computer, they made their own by recording live drummers in the studio and then sampling them. They played bass, keyboards, and some guitar, and worked the synths to give the CD more of band sound than the sterile laboratory vibe of so much hip-hop.

"You can feel it a lot better when it's live and it was actually played and you can feel the room that it was in," he said.

The disc was made at the Strawberry Fields Recording Studio in Swanton, where Yarberry worked as an engineer. It's a follow-up to a CD that Yarberry made, but never officially released, called "The Toddx Files."

He said his perfectionism got in the way of putting out the "Files" disc because he recorded some of the songs at the Hit Factory studio in New York and was unhappy with the result. "I was self-conscious about it and I was like, I can do better than this," he said.

So Yarberry went to work on "The Drug Years," the title of which is more conceptual than literal, he said, and is a reflection of the release's old-school vibe.

"I wanted a modern day hip-hop album, but I wanted it kind of vintage, and 'the drug years' is the nickname for the '70s, you know what I mean?" he said. "I wanted it to be like a '70s rock flavor with a modern day hip-hop feel."

The disc reflects a strong pop sensibility as well, with tracks like "Role Play" and "Down to Earth" featuring muscular hooks and plenty of catchy melodies. Those qualities are reflected in Yarberry's musical tastes, which are diverse and include such artists as The Beatles and Steely Dan.

Hip-hop isn't high on his personal playlist.

"It's the same old stuff; I'm not hearing anything new. There are people doing new stuff and keeping it fresh, but the majority of the stuff just sounds manufactured to me and I'm not buying it."

The owner of a graphic design company who released "The Drug Years" on a label he and Simon created called Eighteen Hundred, Yarberry said he plans to start playing shows and touring to support the CD. He's scheduled to perform March 28 at Frankie's Inner City in East Toledo, with a band backing him.

Expect a set that will be uniquely Toddx.

"It's my theory on the way that you've got to come across. You can't come across as something you're not. I don't want to hear some dude rapping like he's black. I don't want to hear that, I want to hear you."

"The Drug Years" is available at Ramalama Records and Culture Clash Records in Toledo and at numerous Web sites that sell CDs and MP3s.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com

or 419-724-6159. - Toledo Blade


Todd Yarberry is a man with a passion for all genres of music and is on a mission to fulfill his endorsement with North Star Media. With the stage name “Toddx,” Yarberry has been cutting tracks and making a name for himself in the hip-hop industry for approximately five years. With previous records and mixtapes under his belt such as “The Todd-X Files” and his most recent release “The Drug Years,” he is ready to release his hybrid opus “The Big Picture” in late February.
Yarberry invited me to Strawberry Fields, the studio where he records in Swanton, Ohio, to demo the tracks he recorded for “The Big Picture.” While sitting in front of a high-tech Pro Tools set-up equipped with mixers, microphones and a Mac recording system, he cranked the volume and let the monitors blare to give me a true feeling for the sound he had been working on since July 2009.
Yarberry and Chavar Dontae are the masterminds behind “The Big Picture” with the help from friend and local musician Elliot Simon. Dontae lended vocals on one track, “Don’t Even Know,” but he and Simon both helped craft the unique instrumentation and crossbreed of hip-hop, rock n’ roll and electronica that welds Yarberry’s album into one solid piece of music. Dontae also acted as producer for the album.
“Todd and I were both there from start to finish,” Dontae said.
“The majority of the past 11 years has been spent on trying to figure out who I wanted to be as an artist,” Yarberry said.
In reference to “The Big Picture,” he said, “I knew I wanted to keep it fresh and sounding like nothing else but I couldn’t execute the way I wanted to. I was patient and relied on the phrase, ‘practice makes perfect.’”
“The Big Picture” features 14 tracks and two skits, and it lyrically dabbles into the philosophy of human nature, the music industry, relationships and trying to cope with life’s lessons.
One positive thing about Yarberry’s music is that the underlying message is not negative or degrading like most contemporary hip-hop tends to be. Unlike most rock based music, the lyrics are far from overly emotional and rely more on relativity through subjective and passive experience.
The track with the most heart is “Coming Home,” a song that relies heavily on Auto-Tune and a Vocoder similar to something from Kanye West’s album “808s and Heartbreak” and sung similar to Kid Rock’s “Only God Knows Why.” The Auto-Tune effect kicks in during the pre-chorus, followed by a drum build up. In the chorus, with Auto-Tune still in effect he sings, “I’m coming home to you; I’m coming back; I’m leaving town tonight, tonight, tonight.”
“’Coming Home’ is one of my favorites,” Yarberry said. “It’s real intimate and honest and has an awesome build up. Simon sent Chavar and me a skeleton for a beat and we went with it. It is the first time I actually sang on a song.”
On “Back Side of the Moon,” Yarberry reveals a lonely, vulnerable side of himself. “This is me, this is me uncut and raw. Misery loves company, I sacrifice it all,” he says at the peak of the second verse. “Under a rock, I stay hidden from plain view unless the beat is hittin’,” he goes on to proclaim in the chorus. With a demonstrative bass line, “Back Side of the Moon” works not only as a confessional but as a relatable set of lyrics subjective to the human heart.
At the beginning of the song “I Surrender” before his lyrics begin, he mutters the question, “Am I breaking hip-hop laws?” followed by a chuckle. This is basically Yarberry’s attitude on the record. Yes, the influence and aspiration toward hip-hop is obvious in his rhyming and lyrical delivery but he is almost making fun of the genre in the lyrical content.
“It’s real hard to listen to,” Yarberry said about “I Surrender.” “It’s just me talking about me and my demons. I didn’t really like it at first but it grew on me.”
“The Big Picture” is certainly a step up from “The Drug Years,” which was strong for a hip-hop based album but not quite as voiced or sturdy as Yarberry’s new product. Although “The Drug Years” was a step in the right direction for Yarberry, it did not put him in the position, as a musician, that he truly aspired for.
“’The Big Picture’ stands for the future,” Yarberry said. “All the sacrifices I make now may not make a lot of sense, but looking at the big picture, they’re all necessary for my plan.”
With “The Big Picture,” he plans to succeed with his resent endorsement as well as putting to good use his publishing deal with North Star Media in movies and commercials. He also plans to put on more live shows with “The Big Picture” than he did with “The Drug Years.” However, he only intends to play minimally around the Toledo area.
“A local music scene is crucial,” Yarberry said. “It’s a starting point for musicians. Toledo needs to start building one so artists can break out.”
Yarberry is not, and does not claim to be, the next phenomenon in the music industry. However, having seen him work in the studio and on the stage it is true to say that he has a sense of heart that most musicians lack. He stays true to himself, his story and his roots.
“Ohio hip-hop is on the verge of something special,” he said. “A number of artists from here are doing really well. If it trickles down and people start looking here for talent, I think they might find some refreshing music.”
Select tracks from “The Big Picture” as well as separate songs from a mixtape will be made available streaming on Yarberry’s site, www.Facebook.com/ToddxMusic - Independent Collegian


Discography

The Drug Years Released Independently in February 2008
Cut Me Open Released July 2011 on Submerge Records
Biggest Mistake Ever Released September 2011 on Submerge Records

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Bio

Todd Yarberry brings something new to Hip Hop. A much needed breath of
fresh air straying from the common themes of poppin' bottles, whips and rims.
Yarberry's brand of Hip Hop focuses on real life issues and everyday struggles.
The Artist/ Producer released his first official album in 2008. “The Drug Years”
received stellar reviews in Toledo’s most recognized publications and Yarberry’s live
performances received reviews of the same stature. The Toledo Blade described it
as “Ten years worth of painful perfectionism booms out of the speakers” about his
album when it was featured as an “Editor’s Pick.” The Toledo Free Press wrote that
Yarberry “skillfully intertwines samples reminiscent of 1970s rock and R&B with
modern beats and socially relevant subject matter to create a unique sound.”
After the local success of “The Drug Years” Yarberry signed a publishing deal
with NorthStar Media in Burbank, California. In 2010, Todd prematurely released his
3rd album “Biggest Mistake Ever” as “The Big Picture.” It was reviewed in the Independent
Collegian, The University of Toledo’s official newspaper. It was said that
the unfinished album “is certainly a step up from “The Drug Years,” which was
strong for a hip-hop based album but not quite as voiced or sturdy as Yarberry’s
new product.”
Yarberry signed a recording contract with Submerge Records March 5, 2011.
E.F. is currently planning the the release of Yarberry’s “Biggest Mistake Ever” September 19, 2011 and “Biggest Mistake Ever LP” later this year.