by Jeff Milo
Vann, who raps as SelfSays, first cut his teeth doing open mics and rap battles more than ten years ago. Driving, then, from his initial home in Lansing, out to perform at joints as far up as Pontiac, to Flint, down to Detroit and even over in Ann Arbor (where he hit the same club nights as DJ Haircut, a.k.a. the soon-to-be Mayer Hawthorne).
The affable, shy-ish Vann, now, seems truly at home on the stage; engaging, always aiming to interact with a crowd to reach both a looseness and an intimacy.
Over the last year, his schedule has been gobbled up by local rap allies eager to enlist his collaborative services on various digi-singles.
It's tough trying to balance being "the rapper, the student...and the gainfully employed person who pays his bills on time," Vann said, "but I gotta do it."
Take a listen: SelfSays - "Parting Gifts"
As Autumn sets on and he looks back at his year, Vann says "I've been very blessed, doing shows with people that I'm really big fans of. Passalacqua, they encourage me and motivate me; everybody's doing their own thing and doing it well, but Passalacqua is crazy, they're the type of cats I watch and say, man, I wish I'd thought of that..."
Vann says, "I'm all for anybody trying to do some different stuff with the medium," and that shows in his own work. He's blended his beguiling rap recitations, (guttural, geeky, poignant and articulately-wound), to left-field electro-tinged ambient pieces, jangled-up minimalist beats and straight, simple r&b rhythms that get washed-around with spacey synths, (a credit to the range of producers with whom he's dabbled).
An "ordinary man" turning "little things" lingering in his mind into rhymes.
"The new stuff is just brighter, more colorful," Vann said, tempering his excitement with his characteristic modesty. "Something's subject matter is so heavy; this is more celebratory. Something was more just making sense of everything when everything's chaotic." Any darker vibes churned on this EP (particularly the slouched, sneering synth drones and hammering beats on a track produced by Prussia's Adam Pressley, wind up being brightened by the man's earnest words, and even just by his soft-spoken voice.)
The initial demos are sounding quite dazzling so far, dressed with ambient electro-atmospherics and sturdy beats, a credit to Vann's roomate, Eddie Logix, who, already a locally established producer/remixer, has been helping him lay down tracks in their in-home studio, upstairs in their "rapper-lab."
Vann says he's singing more, on these tracks. "...Not, like, falsetto-trying-to-sound-like-Luther-Vandross or anything, I'm just harmonizing more. It's more fleshed out, the vibe and the choruses are just fun, it feels good. I feel more like a songwriter."
But, don't rush the man, he's still got chemistry homework to finish for the morning. Look for the EP around New Year's...
Vann said his close friends, collaborators, and roomates, Midcoast Most (who released their Coast is Clear LP last June, if you'd like a listen...) will perform as part of the bill that night. (But you can also see the trio -J Walker, Nonesense and Eddie Logix, Oct 7 at the Old Miami, part of a Midwest Hip/Hop Function: Blue Collar Gentleman).
So, after all the work put in, and now, bolstered by the support of his friends, fellow MCs, DJs and songwriters, Vann says "I've come too close, it's been a long road--this school journey--but in the last couple years I've started to take it somewhere, somewhere serious, and now I wanna try to do something, something positive; I'm really trying to have a go at it."
"I'm keeping it up."
SelfSays - Oct 9 - at the Crofoot in Pontiac (upstairs in the Pike Room)