Other articles by the same author
Other articles by this author
I like to consider myself an astute listener to the local trends, and, in particular, the local music scene, especially as it relates to hip hop. So, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that I had never attended a show by the SEVENth (7th), or Brandon, as his friends know him. Then again, he is a youngster on the scene, not even twenty-one years old yet, and with a following that typically matches his age, so the local bar and club circuit is not somewhere you typically would find him. He is a former student at Grand Rapids Christian High School, a graduate of East Kentwood, and a current student at Grand Rapids Community College, he nonethless seems at home anywhere, and where I met him was a mere hours before one of his biggest shows to date at the Intersection, opening for East-side Michigan hiphop star, Mike Posner. We talked outside the backstage entrance on the ramp of the parking lot at the Intersection on a variety of topics, and I got the sense that he is going to fulfill his pledge to me (and himself, for sure) to be "signed by a label within two years."
The 7th comes from a musical family, as all long-time residents of Grand Rapids will most likely recognize his family heritage, coming from the De Barges, a one-time pop sensation that originated in the hallways of Ottawa Hills High School. He had the good fortune of growing up with influential older brothers and sisters who gave him his first taste of musical diversity, through Donnie Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, A Tribe Called Quest, and countless others. He distinctly remembers the first-time he thought he would make a go with music, in eighth grade, when he first started listening to Jay-Z. At the time, he had his sights set on being a successful producer, bought his first rudimentary program and started mixing beats. The 7th went on to high school and played percussion in the marching band, where he met one of the only other minorities at the school, Anthony, his long-time collaborator. The original impetus was to form a band with Anthony on the vocals and Brandon on the beats and production; they called themselves 'The Sevens'.
This was all happening before his 18th birthday, so when Brandon went solo it took a little bit of time to get re-established. Even though under-age, the Sevens were getting invited to play some shows at Billy's, in Eastown, and were also part of the summertime extravaganza downtown put on by Boxing Middleweight Champion, and local Grand Rapids native, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
It wasn't until the Fall of 2008, that the 7th got his first break, at a talent competition at Grand Rapids Community College sponsored by 104.5 WSNX, GRCC and Celebration Cinema. The top prize was $500 and competition was stiff for the college-aged participants. Although the Sevens won the crowd over, they were not selected by the judges as the winner. Something better for the 7th's long-term plans happened though; one of the station managers at 104.5 contacted him shortly after the competition to get a sample of his music that he could play on the radio station. The 7th has been in semi-regular rotation since then. After making a name for themselves, The Sevens called it quits. Brandon said he felt that he could pick-up the slack on the mic and went solo, calling himself The SEVENth, as he is known today.
He has played with La Famiglia, AB & Coconut Brown, and performed at the 4/20 hiphop show on the bill with several other local hiphop artists, as well as in Detroit and in Chicago. Throughout the course of the conversation I had with the SEVENth, one artist kept popping up in his references to influences--Jamiroquai. This helps explain the type of energy the SEVENth brings to his hip hop shows. Dancing around stage, running into walls and hyping the crowd are mainstays of the SEVENth's style. Judging from the audience in the Intersection the night the SEVENth performed, the crowd feeds off his approach and it really sets him apart from just rapping. A lot of the production he handles himself in his home studio translates to the stage, and he prides himself on having an "electro-music" touch, he said. Local DJ, Super Dre, herself a combo of hiphop and electronic music, has worked with the SEVENth, and has recognized his talents.
We talked for a little over 40 minutes before the SEVENth had to get backstage to prepare for the show. In the meantime, friends meandered over to talk shop with him and get him some chocolate (peanut M&Ms). He kept the same cool demeanor throughout, all while answering questions with enthusiasm. The SEVENth is a showman and someone you would have a good time listening to, either live, or through one of his mix-tapes, which you can download from his website (http://goseventhgo.com/).
The SEVENth is well versed in the Internet. I first got to know him on Twitter as @iamseventh, and his own website. He said his main form of promotion is constantly staying engaged online. Like most young people, he said he understands the power of viral marketing. "Its another job in itself," he said.
In the first four days of releasing mixtape vol 1.5, he had nearly 800 downloads, and carries around about 50 CDs with him at all times, while also keeping a retail relationship with renowned downtown shoe and clothing spot, All City Kicks. He claims to have at least 100 attendees wherever he goes, and I got the feeling that most of the college-aged kids at the Mike Posner show were there for the SEVENth as much as anyone else.
"Music is another type of popularity contest," the SEVENth said, and its easy to see why he thinks he may win that contest.
winner of the 2010 Source Award from the Rapidian staff.
Reports on: hiphop