Make “Bad Decisions” with Denver’s Top Flite Empire; Go “Crazy” for Sabryna
Is Taco Tuesday a thing? I guess it is and even if it isn’t, Tuesdays suck. Let’s face it next to Monday, it’s the second crappiest day of the week. Nothing really happens on this day – especially now that new music comes out Fridays instead. The reason I bring up this pre-Hump Day day is because I’ve taken it upon myself to make this way-too-early-in-the-week weekday cool again. Specifically, I’m showcasing two up-and-coming artists today who are poised for success. Read on, watch on, and truck on… the weekend will be here before you know it. Just, you know, not right now.
Denver’s Top Flite Empire really break away from the hip-hop pack with their original party-inspired rap skills and lyrical mastery. Case in point: take a listen to the duo’s anthem “Loop N Joop” and try not to like it. I dare you. Remember “truth or dare?” That game was stupid. Anyway, Top Flite Empire will drop their Bad Decisions EP later this year, and when you have a listen, it won’t shock you that it was produced by Dem Jointz (Dr. Dre and Rihanna).
Top Flite, which is comprised of King Tef (Sean Garris) and Hypnautic (Brian Godeaux), have been climbing the proverbial ladder since they debuted in 2011. Their mixtape OTFTM was a smash, and their new EP should make Denver as famous for its hip hop as it is for its legal weed. Speaking of which, the two have headlined the world’s largest 4/20 rally. I spoke to the pair earlier this month. Read on, and follow them as they grow faster than a Chia Pet.
Congrats on your new EP. What was the worst decision you guys ever made?
King Tef – My worst decision ever was also my best decision: deciding to become a rapper straight out of college! Instead of putting my Economics degree to use, I decided to join an industry where the chances of making it are less than winning the lotto. Needless to say, most people didn’t think this was my smartest decision, and to make matters worse, other “small” bad decisions like partying, women, and my ego on max probably did not make my choice any better! However, it has become what I love, not just my job but my life.
Hypnautic – I could write a whole book about my bad decisions, so it’s hard to pinpoint the worst. From being a college drop out to filling my body with tattoos, I have one story after another. But the absolute worst, got me kicked out of my parents’ house and even had the neighbors sign a petition to get us out of the neighborhood when I was younger. Every time my parents would go out or leave town for a night, I would throw a party. This particular party was similar to a Project X party except instead of just inviting kids from my school, I decided to make fliers and have a few other schools join. The party ended in lots of drunk girls, guns getting pulled and the whole police department coming – even a helicopter! My two life lessons learned: I can throw a crazy good party, but some crowds just shouldn’t be mixed together – or with alcohol!
Wow, thanks for making my life seem so lame! “Loop N Joop” could really catch on. Explain its meaning and why people should do shots to it.
Hypnautic – In a time when people are so moody and emotional, or just carbon-copies of everyone else, we wanted to bring something musically that was high energy and fun. It’s more of a mind escape from the reality of everything that’s holding you back. When we were in the studio with Dem Jointz, we were talking about our home town (Denver) and how at our shows our fans are in love with the crazy experience we give them and the high energy we bring to the stage.
The Denver scene has a heavy rock and rap influence, so we wanted to give everyone something they could mosh to or just get ‘Looped’. Life should be nothing short of a celebration every day. So whether you take shots, get high or you mostly live that sober life (like Tef), you should always get ‘Looped n Jooped and Loop out’!
What’s the Denver hip hop scene? Is there one?
King Tef – The Denver hip hop scene is very talented and alive, yet lacking in industry knowledge, resources and a culture of our own. Denver is a gold mine, we are one of the top consumers of hip hop show tickets. From major artists to small indie artists to old skool artists you haven’t heard mentioned in 10 years, every show is sold out. However, we haven’t been able to transfer that energy into local support sufficient enough to break a local artist out of Denver, and then there’s the whole issue of the lack of opportunity, know how, and industry connects that aren’t available to us.
Don’t misunderstand me on the local support – Top Flite will pack any venue we’re performing in, move a mass amount of product along, and we have a devoted fan base, but without the industry gate keepers and the knowledge of how to maneuver in the industry, all that support is only visible to us in Colorado. As of lately with the help of our amazing manager Michael Gomez at Fogo Management Group, not only Top Flite, but a lot of other talented Denver artists and people in the Denver music scene have been able to capitalize on opportunities, get on national radio, get big features and national publicity (such as this this interview), and just start to create a music culture that can compete with the other thriving cities in America.
King Tef – you have a very interesting background musically and personally. Can you share your story?
Well, growing up, my dad was a Vietnam sniper and my mom was a pianist and music teacher. So I grew up listening to everything my dad used to past the time when he was overseas, and with my mom being a top pianist and teacher, music was always on in my household. As a young kid, I was diagnosed with cancer and that’s when music really became a big part of my life. Music was the one thing that took my mind off of being sick and dealing with chemotherapy.
The motivation and escape music creates allows a young kid like myself to feel good about yourself, dream and not enter a depressive state. As I grew up, music became the soundtrack to my life as my brother took up rapping as a hobby. At that time I had never spit a rap a day in my life but I enjoyed hearing every bar my brother dropped on me. Then my brother passed away, and it seemed like basketball and college just wasn’t where my heart was. The only thing that could fill that void was following in my brother’s footsteps, so I started to rap. It became my love as if I was him. It’s the connection that exists between us from heaven to earth that makes me push so hard to take our music to the next level. To me, music is what I breathe. After all I’ve been through, music is my life.
Well said. Hypnautic, can you share the dynamic the two of you have working together?
The interesting thing is we are polar opposites, coming from two totally different backgrounds and experiences brought together by our love of music. Our team started as an experiment to see if we could take his 500 fans and my 500 fans and put them together to sell out 1,000 person venues. It worked and kept growing, and just last year we headlined at a show of 80,000. I think people would be surprised how far they could go if they just worked together. We’re like brothers now, and the same goes with our manager Mike. We’re one big family traveling the world with only one goal: make the best music possible and have crazy experiences and lots of fun on the way to success. Who wouldn’t work well together when your day job includes celebrating with Cuban cigars in castles or partying in the Hills will Hollywood’s A-list after the Grammy’s?
Like Top Flite Empire, LA-based recording artist Sabryna (Salmon) seems to be well on her way to stick out like a sore thumb. In this case, the “sore thumb” reference is a positive. The musician also worked with Dem Jointz. What a great day for me, by the way. I’ve gotten to type “Dem Jointz” three times. I wish I had a cool name like that. Dem Jon? Nah. I’ll keep working on it. Anyway, Sabryna just dropped “Young, Sexy, Crazy,” the second single off her debut EP of the same name, and it’s a lovely slice of dance pop.
Sabryna’s music is cool but her backstory may be even cooler. It’s debatable but how many people do you know traveled the world in their youth? She grew up between New Zealand and England, and hit every continent. Music was always in her bones, much like King Tef said in the answers above, and studied at Berklee College of Music. Anyway, I chatted with her recently and here’s what we spoke about:
“Young, Sexy, Crazy” just came out. How long have you lived with these songs on it? It’s new for us, but I’d imagine you’ve worked on them for quite a bit.
We originally recorded “Young Sexy Crazy” last summer in LA. We produced, wrote and recorded the song in just one session. I immediately fell in love with the concept and vibe of it. It’s no secret that us females can get a little crazy sometimes so why not celebrate that? This can be an anthem for us! The concept was also super fun to portray in the music video. I’m sure every girl can relate to it somehow.
I’m not going to respond to that “crazy” comment, because my wife reads my stuff. So moving on, Dem Jointz is a hitmaker. What was the experience like working with such a master?
Working with Jointz has been absolutely incredible. I’ve honestly learned so much just from observing him and watching the way he works. He’s like a mad scientist! He hears music differently than others, and experiments with sounds that other producers wouldn’t even go near. He has really helped me develop as an artist. He’s also just a dope person too and we always get into these fascinating discussions about music and life.
Your “Don’t Move” music video is pretty nutty – in a good way. How important are music videos to you?
Thank you! Music videos are super important. They are a chance to exercise some creativity visually and take music to another level. I really wanted to push the boundaries with “Don’t Move.” I’m a huge fan of the TV show Dexter and the video was definitely inspired by it. I liked the juxtaposition of a super poppy upbeat song with a dark video concept. At the beginning of filming I was really nervous and scared to touch the weapons….then the director suggested that I pretend it was for my ex and that seemed to do the trick! By the end of the day I was handling those weapons like a pro! Such a fun day filming.
I bet. You’ve been all around the world – tell me about your childhood experiences and how it shaped your music.
I was blessed to have a great childhood and get to experience and see different places. Traveling is an amazing form of education. And I think the greatest lesson I learned is that whilst we may come from different cultures and religions, we are all fundamentally the same. We all want to be loved and give love. And it’s this thought that is carried throughout all my music.
I also grew up listening to the greats like Etta James, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. I’m inspired by powerhouse women with strong voices who sing with passion! I was that kid that would never shut up. I was always singing and practicing – drove my parents crazy!
What’s your favorite breakfast cereal? Explain this in unnecessary long detail.
I’m all about Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut. No lie – I practically lived off of them in college, to my mother’s dismay. But honestly I’m a fan of all the original classic cereals like Frosted Flakes, Raisin Bran, etc. These days they’ve got cereals made out of cookie marshmallow cinnamon buns, and I ain’t about that life. It’s too much! You might as well dunk a candy bar in some milk. Same thing.
Truth. Can you impart some words of wisdom to my one-year-old son?>
I would say just go for it. This is a huge world full opportunity and honestly anything is possible. The only person stopping you is you. So believe in yourself wholeheartedly, be your own best friend and never give up! And remember to be kind to others along the way. We’re all going through this journey of life together!
A-Sides’ “Delve Into Twelve” Countdown
Each week A-Sides unleashes its top 12 tracks of the week AKA the “Delve Into Twelve” based on the following contributing factors: songs I’m playing out that particular week (no matter when they were released — think overlooked songs, unreleased tracks and old favorites), songs various publicists are trying to get me to listen to that I did and dug a bunch, song posts and trends I’ve noticed on my friends’ Facebook walls and, most importantly: what my toddler is currently enjoying thoroughly with an assist from my infant.
About A-Sides with Jon Chattman:
Jon Chattman’s music/entertainment series typically features celebrities and artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometime humorous) way. No bells, no whistles — just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, Jon strives for a refreshing change. Artists featured on the series include Imagine Dragons, Melissa Etheridge, Yoko Ono, Joe Perry, Alice Cooper, fun, Bleachers, Charli XCX, Marina and the Diamonds, and Bastille.