February 1, 2010

Extra Kool: Chronicles of a Rap Poet

(Reprinted from www.ColoradoMusicBuzz.com)

Extra Kool is not like any rapper you will ever meet. To start, he’s the kind of guy you would be ecstatic if your daughter dated. He’s polite, down-to-earth, funny, and sensitive. His raps are poetry, his delivery is emotional and affecting. Yet don’t be fooled into thinking he is destined to be a speed-bump in the rap world. He has worked hard for many years, has aligned himself with some of Denver’s top rappers, and is ready for the success that his many fans see coming his way.

What do you think of the Denver music scene?
Extra Kool: I think Denver is starting to come along, not just in rap, but in all types of music. We're no L.A. or Seattle—or Tennessee for that matter—but I think the bands out here are making noise. Along with…the professional sports being really good here, people tend to look at us more now than a few years back. (Go Nuggets!)

A transport from New Orleans, Danny Vincennie has lived in Colorado for most of his life. He has been rapping since he was young, drawing inspiration from his everyday life and the life of those around him to create genuine stories. He has routinely turned his many heartaches into savage, biting songs. On the flip side, though, he also finds influence in more light-hearted subjects like horror movies (such as “Monster Squad,” after the ‘80s cult-classic).

Who are your influences—both locally and nationally?
EK: I would be nothing without the Dirty Laboratory, People Like You, and Tom Murphy. But [what inspires] me to do what I do is not only other artists, but everyday things such as work, love, hate, sex, fear, and strangers. Musically, I'm a big Tom Waits fan. But overall, the people on the Lab keep me writing.

In 1998, Vincennie took on the alias Extra Kool, and a year later, began performing local shows. “Most of my early shows were really hard to watch. Most of the time, I kind of stood in one spot and just rapped as fast as I could…the reaction wasn't always good.” Around 2003, with his stage show improving, he met some rappers who would later become his label-mates. “I was putting together a show with Ancient Mith and I asked him if he knew any rappers that wanted to play. He brought me an under-aged Time, with a fake ass work-order to play 21+ clubs.” About a year later, Time (along with AwareNess) formed the label, Dirty Laboratory, a label that would support a creative collaboration between fellow rappers.

Which local rappers do you like?
EK: I feel Time is the best rapper in the world. I'm not just saying that because he’s my best friend or because we're label-mates, but because…the way he says things is truly original. He has made me grow so much from the early days of rapping as fast as I could, to today where…I'm much more organized and confident with my words.

Under the label of Dirty Laboratory, Vincennie has released four albums, including the brand-new release, “Even’s Dead: The Chronicles of an American Waster” in January. Following closely on the success of last year’s “The Creature from the Whack Lagoon,” his newest album is more like a compilation of misfit songs. “On Creature, [Doctype and I] really let loose and had fun with a theme about monsters and major labels shooting us down, and a couple of tracks about family. But this new CD is…full of my favorite songs I never released before.”

What has been your biggest challenge as a rapper?
EK: Being taken seriously, and finding a reason to keep dropping thousands of dollars into CDs that everyone wants for free.

Vincennie has received his fair share of recognition in Denver. Two years in a row, he has been selected as a runner-up as Westword’s Best Hip-Hop MC (leading him to jokingly refer to himself as Denver’s second best rapper). He has been reviewed and lauded by critics and fans in many states. He has even received radio airplay. Yet, the industry is difficult to break into, and even more difficult to remain in.

What would a dream-come-true for you, regarding your career?
EK: Getting my song played on the radio at least ten times a day, instead of maybe once or twice a month (thank you to Alf at 93.3 for playing my song with Kool Keith!). Being able to pay my bills off of CD and download sales.

One little-known fact that sets Vincennie apart from many musicians is his decision to abstain from drugs and alcohol. When asked about his choice, he says, “Some of the best music, movies, and books were [created] by strung-out people who have hit rock-bottom and have taken the pain of whatever addiction they have and poured their heart onto their work. [But] I just choose not to indulge, because it's never interested me in any way. I see people falling apart every day. I'm already a very emotional person, so why would I want to magnify depression with addiction? My addiction is wanting to be wanted…[and] needed. I always say bad times make for good music, but overall I just want to be happy. And if happiness means I never write another song in my life, I would take it in a heartbeat. I am very happy these days. I have a beautiful woman in my life and I'm alive.”

What advice would you get to someone wanting to break into the rap industry?
EK: “If you make it big, will you please take me with you?” Honestly, keep it up and do it ‘til you’re done, even if it never blows up.

Extra Kool will be touring this year with California-based The Wreckin Kru, as well as hosting a CD-release party on February 20th at Leela's European Cafe. Also, watch out for the Cool-Ade mix tape, which will be released as a free download from DirtyLaboratory.com/promo in March.

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