Local emcee gets steady rotation in Europe
Scott Walsh has called many cities home. Born in Atlanta and raised in Houston, Walsh made stops in Florida, Colorado, Austin, and Corpus Christi before finally settling in San Antonio. The 30-year-old father of two, currently generating international buzz as the emcee Notes, ultimately chose the Alamo City over Austin due to its low cost of living and burgeoning, artsy hip-hop community.
Walsh’s love affair with hip-hop’s four elements — rapping, breakdancing, graffiti art, and turntablism — began on the playground of a Houston elementary school. “It started in second or third grade with hip-hop,” he recalls. “I heard it on the radio and fell in love with it instantly. The first songs I heard were Whodini, ‘Freaks Come Out at Night,’ and Nucleus with ‘Jam On It.’ I remember to this day they stood out in my mind so much because when it first came on the radio it was like a cartoon. I never heard anything like it.”
|The man called Notes has gone by a series of aliases over the years. (Photos by Mark Greenberg)|
It wasn’t long before Walsh and two friends formed a b-boy crew called the Hip-hop Breakers and danced on sidewalks and at school. By 1993, he was writing and performing his own rhymes and using a boom-box “studio” to rap over instrumentals. He became renowned among his high-school classmates for the quality of his mix tapes, and in his senior year the aspiring producer and emcee released his debut EP to 10 of his closest friends. Before Notes, Walsh went by a series of aliases including Grapefruit, Scott Free, and the Soul Cracker, the last of which spoke to his thorny position as a Caucasian in an art form created and developed by African Americans.
“It was wild because when I first started going to open mics in Houston, that was in a time where if you were a rapper that was white you really stood out,” he says. “I performed a lot of places where I was the only white guy there. But there were a lot of people that were real supportive and cool with me. That was wild because nowadays there’s lot of white rappers. It’s all mixed.”
Walsh acknowledges, however, that he still contends with a particular set of expectations based on his race. “I think sometimes audiences, maybe just because I’m white, they’re not trying to hear it from the get go,” he explains. “I feel sometimes like I’m a paradox on stage, like they can’t see how this stuff is coming out of this guy. What I’ve always thought for the longest time is that color is not a sound. The sound can’t be black and can’t be white. Sound can’t be any color.”
Over the years Walsh has released a string of EPs, including a project for Austin’s Circular Records and the self-produced Second Wind, both under the nom-de-rap Grapefruit. Two years ago, as Notes, he dropped Warm Speakers, which was accompanied by a video for the track “Cool Out.” One of his most recent projects, the Undescribable EP, has received glowing critical acclaim and captured attention from European record labels Melody and Mana. Undescribable also netted Walsh a new business manager in New York-based music industry veteran Robb Williams, and a contract with MTV to use his music, including the recent Big Sound EP, for various on-air productions.
Earlier this month, MTV Europe debuted the video for “I Hate T-Shirts That Say 1977,” a disco funk track by UK artist Lucky Pierre featuring Notes, which has been on steady rotation ever since. It’s slightly ironic that a Brit like Lucky Pierre, aka Aiden Moffat of Arab Strap fame, best known for his efforts to make “music to fall asleep to,” is waking up the world to this much slept-on South Texas emcee.
Williams, who also manages hip-hop pioneer Grand Wizard Theodore (the inventor of the turntable scratch), calls Walsh the next big thing to come out of Texas and credits his distinctive artistic vision and grounded discipline with opening new doors.
Williams says Walsh’s humility is key to his success. “A lot of artists in this industry right now aren’t so humble. They get a break or they meet someone like me or some other high-stature management company and they automatically assume that they’ve made it already,” he says. “But this guy, from the onset, he sounded real humble and real determined to do what he wanted to do and I found that kind of refreshing.”
Next up for Notes is a 32-track instrumental disc called Not A Word, a full-length effort titled Vagabond Rummage, and a collaboration with celebrated local DJ Donnie D, called Two Nice Mofos. Ongoing projects and European publicity aside, Walsh remains focused on higher goals.
“I have a lot of drive within me, but I also get inspired randomly by people pretty much everyday,” he says, in his patent laid-back drawl. “Cool things people say, a pep talk from my grandma, other emcees I hear, producers, movies, just getting inspiration from wherever I can. A lot of motivation is to make my family proud.” •
By M. Solis