Gift Gets Innovative on the Austin Rap Scene

by Jake Navarro

When you think about the Austin music scene, you typically think of indie-rock, folk or bluegrass, not necessarily hip-hop or rap. Gift is starting to change that. The rapper has taken the 512 rap-scene by storm by collaborating with jazz students and rock groups like Canvas Theory and Austin's own Fouled Out. 

After informing me I can just call him “Gift” and helping him unload some equipment into Downtown's Red 7, we were able to sit back in the green room to talk a bit more freely about how he's making a name for himself on the Austin scene. 

Combining Rap with other genres isn't anything new by any means, but what Gift is doing here on the Austin scene is nothing short of unique. By partnering with local bands and musiciansGift creates these innovative tactics in the form of using the band's instrumentals for his own lyrics. 

"I showed [my music] to [Fouled Out], who I've been friends with for a long time, even before they were a band. They took it, converted it to their own style and reimagined it. I play my [music] with them, but theres this rock twist to it," Gift informs me. 

Gift praises the talented jazz students of Canvas Theory and his friends of Fouled Out. He is able to send over his music to these guys with 100% confidence knowing that they're able to "make it tight because they are better musicians than [he] is." 

While the first effort of a two-part EP entitled The Trip is produced with some sick tracks and beats that are something you would expect on a talented rapper's repertoire of music, the live shows are what Gift is focusing on.  

"Learning the live sound has been an experience in-and-of-itself. Learning how to perform, catch the keys, pitches and things a lot of things that rappers don't think about when they're learning the craft. You just think about those bars, you know? Hard bars." 

A huge motivating factor for Gift to put on a stellar live show is the fear that the audience won't like it. 

"Have you ever heard of when someone talks about how they went to go see a live performance and they say it wasn't very good? That was terrifying to have someone say that about me." 

The self-proclaimed "hired-gun" rapper notes that you can appreciate a rapper taking the stage and doing his thing, but when they are able to get up there and deliver a good show, it's a whole different feeling. 

"When you listen to a good rapper on a cd or some audio file, you identify them as good. You can vibe to it and listen to it. It's cool, but then when you go see a live show, there's this thing that happens where the rapper comes out on stage. They pace back and forth, rapping their music and yelling a lot of the time, because they're not used to live sound. They're yelling their bars out and lyrics to people, and it's interesting."

Gift goes on to explain that fans that are at the show for those artists are already, in fact, just that: fans. The dilemma he feels he has struggled with was the issue of making new fans out of show-goers that weren't necessarily fond of rap to begin with. 

One can analyze this from the EP's titled track when Gift voices that "these days [he] can't tell if [he's getting] dissed or just misunderstood." 

"I don't want people to look at me and think, "Oh, this guy is just a rapper" and walk away.  I want them to say, "Wow. Look at this guy performing!" That's why it's important for me to have a band. I want people to like not only what they hear, but what they see."

The reason why Gift loves collaborating with others becomes clear. 

"The sound is going to be different," the "3Live" rapper explains, "Even with the jazz students--after playing with multiple guys--it was always something unique and new." 

Gift urges he is always game to partner with new artists and bands that would be up for the live-show collaboration. The process of working with a band rather than a "beat-maker", he claims, helps him become a better songwriter. 

"I hope it doesn't come off as a "whorish" thing," Gift starts, "I really enjoy collaborating with people because it makes everything so interesting." 

Knowing that he had to explain how collaborating with rock bands began, Gift left nothing unsaid. As the hip-hop scene in Austin was just expanding, Gift realized it was hard to find places to perform. With strong motivation to succeed, he decided to sneak into venues playing rock shows around the city. 

"When I realized I could just sneak on a rock stage and put some rap in there, I kept doing it, because everyone liked it," he confesses. 

Creating as much music and art as possible and even heading a production team are a few goals the Austin-native has set for himself. As for others? Gift wants to help everyone view their passion as a career and strive to keep going, even when it gets monotonous. 

"Right now I'm getting in the habit of constantly creating. I like meeting and connecting as many people as possible. I try to talk people into collaborating. A net is a lot stronger than a string." 

Gift is definitely in-tune with what he does. He is a passionate artist that thrives on creation and positivity. At the end of the EP's title track, Gift gives some helpful insight that lets you know what he's all about. 

"If people only think about the appetizer and dessert, what's the point of the main course?" 

You're able to keep up with Gift on Soundcloud, Facebook and Twitter: @thenameisgift!