When you think of local rappers (eyeroll) you probably think of the dude chasing you down the street trying to sell you the mixtape he made in the closet of his mama’s basement. Not to knock anyone’s hustle, but these two brothas ain’t chasing you anywhere. That’s because they gave away the download for free on-line. And it’s DOPE.
Talent Among Us is carving out their own lane in an industry saturated with drug, sex and money rhetoric. Their content speaks to you on a more mature level; a level of respect and hustle. Don’t get it twisted, these two dudes are about their money. They just happen to be upstanding dudes who make a normal living like the rest of us, but have something more to say and much more to contribute to the hip hop community. Christopher (Champ) Smith and Kenneth (Hammer) Henderson are a refreshing addition to Denver’s hip hop community. Their style is uniquely uplifting while never sacrificing that hard undertone. Their debut album is called ‘By Any Means’ and it’s just the beginning. I had a chance to sit down with these two to chat about music, life and opening for Curren$y on Saturday April 16th in Denver at Cervantes.
EF: So I want to know how you two met…
Champ: We met in middle school. I think it was an English class.
Hammer: Yeah and that’s how we first connected.Our english class teacher was so dope, he would let us do rap in class. And that’s how we first started messing around with music. We did talent shows and everything.
Champ: Yeah in 8th grade, Kenny came over to my house and we recorded with my microphone over tape . haha.
EF: I remember those days. So you basically family, then?
Champ: Yeah his mom calls me son and vice versa. So Yeah.
EF:That’s funny cause ya’ll kind of look related.
Hammer: That’s what everybody says. Haha.
EF: So who were ya’ll listening to growing up. Who really had an impact on you?
Champ/Hammer: Pac. Outkast. Outkast is our favorite group. I was a huge Lil Wayne fan. Like, he may not be the best role model, but for us growing up, that’s who we was on. Wayne been killing it for over a decade. But I think he trying too hard to fit into the new age…he should just do Wayne. Everybody always ask for the old Wayne, so stick with that. But another favorite is also Lauryn Hill. Yeah, she’s amazing.
EF: I’m so glad to hear a brother put a female mc in his list. I really appreciate ya’ll putting out something that my 11 year old son can listen to without having to edit out all the drug talk and curse words and niggas. That was very refreshing. Were you purposely thinking of that when you put this project together?
Champ: That’s love, thank you. I never thought about that. I guess it’s just not us to be super hood. It’s grind music. But thank you, that made me feel all good inside. We super appreciate hearing that, and we will continue to keep that in mind.
EF: Yes, please do, it’s important that our young ones have more to listen than just trap music, you know?
Hammer: Real talk. They gravitate toward the bullshit. The lifestyles and all that. We not trying to be known for anything like that.
EF: So ya’ll grew up in Park Hill, how did you avoid gangs?
Hammer/Champ: We was just cool. Haha. We functioned on the east side and the west side. That music shit kinda kept us straight. The bangers knew we was on that music shit. Whenever they would ask us about our music, it would just keep us focused. Now we can say, yeah we got some shit for you right here. Its dope.
EF: That’s amazing. So who’s producing for ya’ll?
Hammer: Well as far as engineering, this is the first time we recorded everything at one space called at a studio called Hahn Audio. He mixed and mastered it all for us. He’s in Aurora, CO. We used Soundclick or Soundcloud for beats. We bought all the rights to the beats we used. Al Kelly did the beat for ‘Second Coming’. We would love to work with him again. He messes with hip hop but he be on the EDM stuff too, so it doesn’t sound like a straight hip hop beat which is good. It’s unique.
Champ: The “Ride” beat was done by a dude in Denmark, we found it on Soundcloud. At first when we found it, it had his tag in it…so we hit him up about buying it, but he his computer had crashed, so he had to use the sample we had to remake it. And it turned out even better than the original.
EF: Well I’m glad he did that for you, that beat is mad smooth and Hahn did an amazing job mastering this record.
Champ/Hammer: Yeah, thank you.
EF: What do you guys think about hip hop in Denver? What do you think it might be lacking and what is it doing well?
Champ: I don’t know if it’s lacking too much of anything really. To me there’s a nice collective group of artist in the city getting better and better. But, I think as TAU we are a fresh breath of air, we provide a different sound. From the beat selection, to our delivery. I really like the scene that’s been growing and we’ve been around in the mix for a while so we’ve seen a lot of people coming up from Trev Rich, AP, A Meazy and Ray Reed.
EF: So what’s the goal? What do you hope to contribute to the hip-hop legacy? You know real hip hop is making a comeback, thank goodness, and you guys have something real here, What do you hope to contribute to the hip-hop legacy?
Hammer: Well first off, thank you for that compliment.
EF: Word, you’re welcome.
Hammer: We really want to continue to keep it real. We don’t wanna talk about shit that we ain’t about . We want to add our uniqueness to the industry. This is grind music. It’s about going out and creating something for yourself. The hustle. We want to contribute true hip hop with meaning and purpose…a message, but with that rap feel. Gotta have the swag, too. It’s all about how you stylize it. I want somebody to feel like, well I’m broke as hell just like him, and i want them to say i’m gonna get up and go get it. This is our grind music, from our life, you know. So grind with us.
EF: I can appreciate and respect that. I forgot you sing, too Champ! You sang the hook on Ride, right? I love your voice. Do you plan on continuing to sing?
Champ: Yeah mos def. I’m always singing; i’ve done a few shows in other cities. I’m definitely going to continue that on the next projects.
EF: Dope, and I told Kenny that a female on some of your hooks would be dope, too.
Hammer/Champ: Yeah we been talking about that too and we have a few females in mind so we gonna make that happen as well.
EF: So how do ya’ll feel about opening up for Curren$y next week? That’s huge for you guys, right?
Champ/Hammer: Huge! He’s my current favorite rapper. I like his style and his progress. He came from nothing. I like his movement; he underground, but the way he moves, he doesn’t change nothing about himself. We went to one of his concerts and they came down and was mad cool with us. This is the best moment so far in our career. Last year we saw him and said that next time he come, we gotta get on with him. We spoke it into existence .
EF: That’s dope and really impressive being that you so new in the game; you gotta stay with that positivity cause it’s obviously working for ya’ll. I really appreciate you guys letting me interview you , and I only see big things in your future.
Champ: Yeah most definitely. This is so cool and we really appreciate you interviewing us. It’s also cool cause you and Kenny got that history; we really appreciate your support
EF:It’s all love I am so happy for you guys. I knew Kenny was going places when I heard “Rope A Dope”.
Hammer: Ahhhh yes, that was just the beginning. Dang, thank you!
Denver may be under the radar when it comes to raw and real talent, but sleep on them you should not. Gives me the warm and fuzzies to see two young brothers following their dreams and asking for not a one handout.The talent they possess is just a bonus. They will mos def be a group to watch, so don’t sleep, By Any Means, because there is Talent Among Us.
They’re opening for Curren$y on Saturday April 16th in Denver at Cervantes.
Tickets on sale now!
Check out their video for their first single “Ride” below. and download their free album.