Local artist and musician C Merlyn (real name: Kit Evans) has a few choice words about rap and hip-hop in Santa Fe.
“The rap scene—if you can even call it that—is plain pitiful,” Merlyn says. “We have a couple talented artists here and there, but there’s something about the Southwest that doesn’t provide the proper environment, so for the most part, it just does not happen.”
Seriously, think about this for a moment. Despite a promising handful of locally bred emcees and producers (Cas Uno, Line of Sight, The Mingo), rap fans are generally left waiting for the few and fleeting touring acts.
This frustrated Merlyn.
“I grew up on Bay Area rap and came to love it even more when I moved out there some years back,” he says. “I eventually came back to Santa Fe and realized the scene was terrible, so I just knew I had to introduce this town to some decent stuff.”
He partnered with fellow musician Dobcee (real name: Dobh Grayson), and they began putting together a series of instrumental tracks. Through a friend, the pair was eventually able to get its beats to a producer, and then to legendary Bay Area rapper Rappin’ 4-Tay. Within a few days, 4-Tay himself had phoned to let them know he loved their work and was willing to write a few verses to accompany them.
“This made me realize how easy it was to get in touch with lyricists, so we started reaching out to other artists we respect,” Merlyn says. “It was just a matter of time before we hooked up with Vallejo [Calif.] rapper Jay Tee. This guy took us under his wing, and since he knows basically everybody, he helped us get in touch with all the right people.”
Subsequently, Merlyn & Dobcee made a journey to the Bay Area, and after enlisting such rappers as Celly Cel, Mugzi, B-Legit and Mac Mall, Jay Tee decided to release a record on his own imprint, 40 Ounce Records.
“[C Merlyn and Dobcee] were making a style of music that people from my area weren’t making,” Jay Tee says, “and it was great to hear something that didn’t sound like everything else coming out in the Bay.”
As a result, Dobcee & C Merlyn’s Bay to Santa Fe was born. Subscribing to the mixtape template, the album is a compilation of celebrated Bay Area emcees providing lyrics over the pair’s beats. Familiar rap topics such as gangsta life, self-love, hustlin’ and even lady troubles abound. Big-name talent aside, the album’s true draw is the backing tracks. Musically speaking, Bay is a triumph. Each beat and song is a complex work full of actual instrumentation.
As both Merlyn and Dobcee are classically trained, their tracks are intelligent, hard-hitting beats recalling the sinister, piano-heavy backing tracks of the Wu-Tang Clan, while maintaining a modern-day hip-hop bent. The production is deliberately a little rough around the edges, adding a gritty flavor that works. Even more impressive is the complete absence of samples anywhere on the album—a sad rarity in the genre today.
In celebration of all their hard work, Merlyn and Dobcee are bringing Jay Tee and fellow emcee Mugzi out to Santa Fe to debut Bay. In addition to this CD release performance, the rappers will be shooting a video in and around Santa Fe during their stay.
“There are so many themes and elements at work with Bay Area rap,” Merlyn says. “I like to think we’re bridging the gap.”
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