What happens when everyone wants to be an artist and no one wants to be the audience? Detroit natives Alfred “Griot” Austin and Kavari “Magnif” Tatsico, the duo of Lawless Element, know first hand that people who want to be artists themselves seldom listen to other underground musicians; everyone is trying to figure out how they can get on stage themselves. Griot, an LSA senior, noted that jealousy in combination with a small fan base that’s hesitant to listen to new and local artists creates a competitive atmosphere where some people are reluctant to support each other.
“The local scene is not based on people liking hip hop in general. The fans tend to follow a particular musician instead of listening to all types of music. We have some of best artists here in Detroit and Michigan, however the fan base isn’t that great. The same people that you’re competing with is your audience … which can breed jealousy,” Griot said.
Thankfully, Lawless Element has persevered. These two men have been able to start their climb to success despite the haters and fickle fans. A full length album, entitled Sound Vision: In Stereo, is set to hit stores soon, and their music was featured in the Bronze Elegance fashion show on March 12th.
Lawless Element has been able succeed because they’re not afraid to show some love to other artists and shout out the underground producers and artists who have helped them along the way.
“We’ve worked with Madlib and he’s one of the hottest producers on the underground right now,” Magnif said. “We’ve also worked with Diverse from Chi, and he’s hot too.”
Lawless Element also works hard to get their name out there; they know the benefits of connecting their brand to those who are more recognizable. They often venture outside Ann Arbor to do shows where they are much more well received.
“We travel out of town and get a lot of love. We get spins on mainstream radio in California and a little here in Detroit. But everywhere else we take it, we’re doing it a lot bigger than we’re doing it here,” Magnif lamented.
No matter where they are, fans are drawn to Lawless Element’s talent. They have been making music together since they were children. “We’re cousins, and we’ve been doing it together since we were like nine. We used to use regular tape recorders to record out voices,” Griot explained.
Their years of working together have created a chemistry that can’t be duplicated and won’t be found on “Making the Band” anytime soon. By studying a range of artists, they have been able to come up with a style all their own.
“I’m influenced by De La Soul and a lot of stuff Jay Dee was doing. And Pete Rock and DJ Premier influenced me on the production tip,” Magnif said.
Griot said he listens to Nas, Slick Rick and Rakim, and names them as his main influences.
Recently receiving coverage in the Metro Times, on the Okayplayer website and in this month’s issue of Elemental Magazine, these cousins are definitely moving on to bigger things. Their newest self-titled 12-inch vinyl was released earlier this month and it has received a lot of underground praise. The single “High,” arranged by critically acclaimed underground producer Madlib, is a burning, taut three minutes of captivating, high-energy rap. Each element of their songs compliment each other; neither the beat nor the vocals becomes overwhelming. Both spit provocative lyrics and Magnif already shows talent behind the boards. His beats are a mix of classic break beats and contemporary electric loops.
“Everyone should listen to us because our beats are hot, and we’re different from the rest. We have a wide range of music — there is something for everyone to listen to,” Magnif said.
To find out more check out rawmaterialrecords.com.