10 at 10 Spotlight: Verble I [Article]
Calgary, AB – On Sept. 25, 10 at 10 Hip Hop Showcase celebrated its two-year anniversary with some killer surprises. For starters, the showcase has moved from the more intimate downtown UBU Lounge to the much larger Commonwealth Bar & Stage.
The evening had a stellar line-up of performers, including Pleuto, J. Ricky, and more. But Verble I destroyed the stage with his ruthless stage presence and east coast underground verses. This week HipHopCanada sat down with Verble I to chat about Nas, old-school hip-hop supremacy, hustling albums on the streets, and then some.
Isaac “Verble I” Elliot was given the unfortunate honour of being one of the first to perform at the evening’s showcase. It’s extremely difficult to open up a hip-hop gig: attendees are waiting for a turn-up, the venue is far from being at 25 per cent capacity, and people are too busy catching up with one another to focus on the performance at-hand. But Verble I is an unapologetic performer. He doesn’t feed off of the crowd’s energy. He feeds the crowd their energy.
Watching Verble I command the stage is an experience in of itself. His performance style is comparable to the “chopper” style of rapping. Chopper rapping puts an emphasis on fast flow and tight rhymes. Verble I’s performance manoeuvres utilize fast movements and jerking arm movements. It’s what the Energizer Bunny would look like if it decided to dabble in hip-hop performance. “The first time I performed it was just like that,” said Elliot. “It’s just natural to me.”
Verble I has been around the scene for more than a decade now. Though he’s originally from Edmonton, Verble I moved to Calgary when he was nine years old. Despite his status as a diehard Edmonton Oilers fan, Verble I has nothing but love for Calgary’s hip-hop scene. “We have so much versatility in this city. So much different types of artists. So much good producers and promoters. We really need to get out there,” he said. Verble I is 27 years old, but he strongly identifies with the golden era of hip-hop. “The golden age of hip-hop just really inspired me: being able to express yourself [and] how you feel,” he said. His hip-hop love affair started with Nas. More specifically, the track “Memory Lane,” off Illmatic. And the first hip-hop show Verble I attended was —surprise— Nas.
Verble I began penning verses when he was 16 years old. He started performing and recording with a crew called Dangerous Method. The crew had a reputation for being Calgary’s own version of Wu-Tang. But as the Dangerous Method guys got older, the members moved on to do their own things and the group split up. Last year, Verble made the decision to launch his solo career with the drop of his first mixtape, Strapped For War. Verble admits that one of the biggest hurdles he encountered in Calgary was not having many studios to record in. So he pulled a MacGyver and created his own home-based studio. He records all of his music from this studio. And his buddy Prince V does all of the audio engineering. Prince V has also helped Verble I land guest MC spots on several high-profile mixtapes including Raekwon’s Listen Closely Vol. 1 and the HellaSmoke-hosted Streets Got Heat Vol. 1 tape. He’s also featured on a handful of Digital Dynasty tapes hosted by Sadat X, Capadonna, and more.
Verble I works a warehouse day job between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. The schedule allows him to perform evening shows and hone his craft in his downtime. And let’s be honest here: not having to wake up for a nine-to-five allows for some quality between-the-sheets sleep action. Verble I also uses his downtime to market his craft (i.e.: sell his records). He still hustles his tapes out on the streets, as well as at local shows. It’s an old-school method of building a fan base, and apparently it still works. In fact, the 15-track project isn’t even available for digital download. To listen to Strapped for War, you have to be one of the lucky cats with a hard copy (as of right now, there are only 1,000 albums in circulation). The cover of the tape runs deep. It features Verble I walking out of an apocalyptic exploding city. It’s raw. It’s Verble I. “Real hip-hop is underground. It’s always living,” said Elliott.
Verble I is currently working on his forthcoming Lifestyles of Inspired Artists mixtape, which has a tentative drop date for November 2013. “It’s basically about an up-and-coming artist — like myself — just inspired by real music,” said Elliot. The tape differentiates between “artists who do it for money, and artists who are actually inspired by the golden age of hip-hop.” It features a hodegepodge of original and borrowed material, including a beat from MF Doom, as well as a mix of Fabolous’ “We Get High” ode to Mary Jane. The tape also includes features from Ras Kass (formerly of HRSMN) and the Wu-Tang associated MC, Shyheim.
This month, catch Verble I at CJSW’s Live Jive 2013 rap show and silent auction on Oct. 10 at Dickens Pub (1000 – 9 Ave SW). Doors open at 9 p.m. and cover is $10. On Oct. 12, Verble I heads to Lord Nelson’s Bar & Grill (1020 – 8 Ave SW) to perform during Hip Hop Homicide. Doors open at 9 p.m. and cover is $10. And just so you know, Verble told us he’ll be performing new material off Lifestyles of Inspired Artists. Get ready for it.
Make sure you check out the 10 at 10 fam on Facebook, and keep it locked for details on this month’s upcoming showcase.
Photography and interview by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada