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Yo! RFT Raps 

Week of February 8, 2007

To those who regularly seek out Yo! RFT Raps, cheers! (Perhaps you're only here because you got sidetracked searching for Savage Love, but no matter.) Sadly, this will be my last column, as I'm moving to New York next week.

I'll miss a lot about St. Louis: the low cost of living, the Cardinals, the red bricks, my friends and my colleagues at the RFT. It will be especially hard to say goodbye to all the local rappers and producers I've met. Hip-hop is far and away the most vibrant component of the local music scene, in my opinion. For example: When local bands get ready to blow up, they move. With some exceptions, rap acts signed to major-label deals stay here.

I've got a special place in my heart (the pulmonary semilunar valve, to be precise) for the developing artists who stick with their craft despite long odds against ever signing a deal. Who needs a deal, anyway? Real musicians know that if they say something new (or say it in a new way), attention will follow.

My appreciation for these "on-the-grind" rappers increased in the past year, as I recorded an EP of my own. Working with producers John Maxfield and Jonathan Toth from Hoth, I've also learned a few things:

1) It's a buyer's market out there. St. Louis has a wealth of top-quality producers and recording studios. A small investment can buy you access to world-class sounds and equipment.

2) Rapping is effing difficult. Wonder why nobody raps in the shower? If you copy someone else's style, you sound foolish, but rapping in your own style makes you feel foolish.

3) Despite what you've heard, local rappers actually do support each other. The preponderance of cliques and crews ensures that everyone in town is tied together by just a degree or two of separation. And unlike many artistic disciplines, rappers form a real community — attending each others' shows, linking to each others' Web pages and mentioning "St. Louis" in every other stanza.

Finally, for those I've criticized, now's your chance for revenge. Check out my MySpace page,, and listen to my songs. Feel free to leave a comment (disparaging or otherwise), and I promise to post it. Or my name's not MC 401(k). — Ben Westhoff

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