- Sm City's Indie Life showcase comes to U Street Music Hall on Feb. 13. (Photo courtesy of the artist)
SmCity is a D.C.-based MC, but, as an independent artist, he is forced to do a lot more than just rhyme in order to fuel his career. He says that having to handle everything from beatmaking to engineering to business management, in addition to rapping, is just part of "the indie life," and that he has learned to love it. So much so that his 2009 mixtape, 2010 LP, and a new concert series he is organizing all carry the name "The Indie Life." The first Indie Life concert is Feb. 13 at U Street Music Hall, featuring Black Milk, X.O., Gods’Illa, and Sm himself.
“The whole indie life thing really stared with a song I did, two years ago," SmCity says. "That phrase really represented me, at the time, and having to do things out of necessity. But necessity is the mother of invention. So, when you can’t find a studio to record you properly, you learn how to be an engineer, and do it yourself. When you can’t find the right beats, you make your own. And if you can’t get booked on the right shows, you put on your own shows. “
"The indie life is about wearing 100 different hats," he continues. "We’re at a time in the music industry where people need to get back to doing for self."
The idea to create a concert series came when Sm got tired of the dynamic at some of the shows he was performing at.
“Doing the same shows—and I’m not knocking anyone’s shows—but sometimes it's just [rappers] performing for each other," he says. "The way promoters do it now, they book 10 artists, tell them to bring their friends, and then you’re just performing for your peers. In order to create a real opportunity, you have to perform your material for other people."
SmCity hopes that pairing respected, underground national artists (like Detroit's Black Milk) with respected, underground DMV artists will help to build buzz for some of the area's best hip-hop musicians.
"I saw a void in this area with shows," he says. "The people I think need to be [on stage] are never up there. It’s all hookups and paying for slots—I’m not doing that.
The Indie Life is on track to become a monthly event--SmCity says he's already planning a March show. But what if it becomes a huge success and leaves him with even less time to, you know, rap?
"If it was up to me, I would just be in the studio, working on music, focusing on that," SmCity says. "But I find myself teetering on the line of enjoying the business aspect as much as the music. It worries me on the creative side, I wanna make sure I can always flip that switch, and not short either side.
"It's a fight to make sure the music is pure, and isn't tainted by the business side," he continues. "I think Jay-Z said it best—when he goes into the studio, he records and then figures out how to sell is, rather than saying, 'This is what sells—let's create that."