10 at 10 Spotlight: S.X. [Article]
Calgary, AB – We were kicking around at 10 at 10 Hip-Hop Showcase at UBU Lounge on Aug. 8 when we came across one of our favourite new producers: Telly “S.X.” Bamba.
The 10 at 10 Hip-Hop Showcase goes down on the first (or second) Thursday of every month with hosts Beni J and RS Poe. The showcase’s format is simple: it starts at 10 p.m. and 10 artists each get 10 minutes to perform on the stage. The lineup changes monthly, giving performers and hip-hop aficionados a chance to expand their networks and immerse themselves in the scene.
The Aug. 8 showcase was blessed with a stellar lineup of folks. But when S.X. stepped up to the stage, he had the audience completely wilding out. MCs were hopping on to the microphone to verse over his joints, and attendees were grinding, popping, and dropping. So this month, we’re putting the spotlight on S.X. We went all the way up to Calgary’s far north to visit his home-based studio, chop it up, and listen to his beats. See how it all went down after the jump.
While others are jumping on the trap rap bandwagon, S.X. is cranking out his own brand of Bamba beats. “In the past I was trying to find an identity, [but] your identity is you,” said Bamba. “When I started to embrace it, the beats started getting nicer.” S.X. messes around with off-key bass hooks, and occasionally builds a beat around a freestyled beatbox. But most of his tracks conglomerate spacey instrumentals and old-school beats. It’s music that people smoke-out to. “When people hear the beat of a track that I worked on, for the three minutes that they hear it, there’s nothing else,” said Bamba. “I want [my] beats to talk to people.”
The basement studio that S.X. works out of is pretty bare-to-the-bones. He just moved in this summer (his roommate is fellow hip-hop head, Damiano Olivieri of 3 Entertainment Inc). But S.X. hopes to inject some style into the studio. “My brother told me green was creativity so everything is black and green,” he said. Right now, the only visible black-and-green is S.X.’s new computer drive: The Green Monster. It looks like it’s straight out of the Green Hornet. So although the “black and green” colour scheme hasn’t come to fruition, yet, S.X. decorates where he can. That is, he writes on the room’s foam-panelled walls. “Create Your Universe” is written on one of these panels. S.X. inked the calligraphy prior to his performance at 10 at 10. He was baked at the time.
S.X. was born in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire (we checked Google Maps — it’s sandwiched between Liberia and Ghana). War devastation brought S.X.’s family to Calgary, but S.X. left to study marketing at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. He intially pursued hip-hop as an MC (in his native French), but relocating to North America caused some language barriers. “I went to the U.S. and I had a complex about my English,” said Bamba. Speaking English as a second language put Bamba at a literary-disadvantage. So he turned to music production.
S.X. started producing under “Sir Xtazy,” but it’s since been abbreviated to remove any street-drug associations. Bamba formed the Black Notes crew with his Black Hills classmate, Shandon “Keyz” Jones. The crew name had nothing to do with the popular indie-rocking Black Keys group, by the way. “Black Keys got popular and we were like, ‘Fuck’,” said Bamba. “We had that name before [them].” Black Notes cranked out a three-volume mixtape series. The first tape was based on experimentation. The second tape was completed in one day. And the third tape used a “tell a friend to tell a friend” marketing ploy.
The Black Notes project was temporarily put on hiatus in 2012 when S.X. finished school and moved back to Calgary. Not having the Black Notes project was difficult for him. “I wanted to get out of that cycle of staying in my room, because I didn’t socialize,” he said. So S.X. did what any anti-social music producer would do — he took up a retail job at American Eagle Outfitters. “I was like, Amercian Eagle? I can learn about swag,” said Bamba. “How wrong I was.” The unpredictable work hours and monotonous routine stifled S.X.’s craft. So he has settled for a more predictable nine-to-five job that allows him to produce in the evenings.
S.X. currently produces for Tha70s with his brother Aziz Bamba. He’s also putting together his fourth mixtape. Two weeks ago, S.X. tried to reinvent Black Notes’ second tape. That is, he tried to nail out 11 tracks over the course of three days. It didn’t work out. And the pressure-induced anxiety caused him to pick up cigarette-smoking, again. So instead of putting unnecessary stress on himself, S.X. is giving the mixtape an indefinite timeline. He’s putting more focus on linking up with local artists, and has been working quite closely with one particular local MC: Avious.
He’s still getting a feel for the scene, but S.X. sets the bar high for himself. He has a thing for Grammys. He really wants to win a Grammy Award. Actually, that’s a lie. He wants to win eight Grammys. His computer and phone both have Grammy backgrounds. And he names his best beats after Grammy awards (in sequential order, too). So if you’re linking up with S.X., you probably want to get your paws on “Grammy 1” or “Grammy 2.”
“You get [a Grammy], you get respect,” said Bamba. “Then you can help your family —that’s the motivation.”
So make sure you check out S.X. on Twitter and get in touch if you want to listen to his beats (his recent tracks haven’t made their way on to the world wide web, yet). And make sure you hit up 10 at 10 on Twitter and Facebook, too. Next month marks the showcase’s big two-year anniversary. More details will be available soon.
Photography by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada